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Catching Up With Ulta Beauty & Gap Brands

by 
Bracha Arnold
 on 
May 28, 2024
Catching Up With Ulta Beauty & Gap Brands

Discretionary retail has faced its fair share of headwinds over the past few years, from pandemic-related restrictions to inflation. And while prices have stabilized, subdued consumer confidence continues to weigh on non-essential segments. But even in this challenging environment, some companies, like Ulta Beauty, are continuing to see visit growth, while others, like Gap Inc. and its portfolio of apparel brands, are making a comeback. 

With Q2 2024 well underway, we take a look at the foot traffic patterns for these companies to see how they are faring. 

Key Takeaways

  • Ulta Beauty continues to see year-over-year (YoY) visit growth, outpacing the wider Beauty and Wellness segment.
  • Gap and Old Navy are seeing their visit gaps narrow, with some weekly and monthly visit growth – showing that Gap Inc.’s brand revitalization efforts may be starting to bear fruit.   

Ulta: The Beauty Powerhouse Sees YoY Visit Growth

In 2020, Placer.ai predicted that Ulta Beauty would be an unstoppable force in beauty retail – and the chain has impressed ever since. Over the past several years, Ulta has been on a consistent upward visit trajectory, propelled by strong demand for affordable luxuries (the so-called “Lipstick Effect”), and consumer interest in self-care

And though the pace of Ulta’s tremendous YoY visit growth has moderated somewhat in recent months, the beauty giant continues to thrive – drawing even more visitors in early 2024 than during the equivalent period of last year. Between January and April 2024, YoY visits to the beauty retailer remained consistently elevated, outperforming the wider Beauty & Wellness space.

Gap Brands: A Retail Revival

The fashion segment has experienced rising prices and persistent inflation over the past few years, leading to a new era of discount and thrift shopping. And iconic apparel retailers like Gap Inc – operator of Gap, Old Navy, Athleta, and Banana Republic – have not been immune to the challenges facing the category. 

But through a combination of high-profile hirings and revitalized branding efforts, Gap Inc. has been readying itself for a comeback. In Q4 2023, the retailer announced stronger-than-expected results, driven primarily by Gap and Old Navy. And recent foot traffic to the company’s largest brands provides further evidence that its turnaround efforts may be starting to bear fruit. 

During the all-important November and December shopping season last year, Gap and Old Navy saw YoY visits hold steady or increase, outpacing the wider Apparel space. In January 2024, visits to the two chains declined in the wake of an Arctic blast that kept many shoppers at home. But in February, Gap enjoyed a 0.7% YoY visit bump, while Old Navy saw just a mild drop – less than that of the overall Apparel category. In March 2024, both Gap and Old Navy enjoyed strong YoY visit growth, far outperforming overall Apparel – likely driven by sales events held by each brand. And though April saw YoY visits decline once again, with the two chains falling behind Apparel, drilling down into weekly data offers a different perspective.

Both Gap and Old Navy started off April with lackluster YoY performance, perhaps due in part to the comparison to an early April 2023 that included Easter weekend. But towards the end of April and beginning of May, Gap and Old Navy’s’ visit gaps narrowed – with some weeks seeing positive YoY visit growth, and with the two chains once again either nearly on par with, or outperforming, overall Apparel. 

Gap Inc. itself is bullish about what the next year holds in store, with big names like Zak Posen joining the Gap family in hopes of propelling the company forward. Though it may be premature to declare an end to the troubles that have plagued the clothier in recent years, early 2024 foot traffic provides further evidence that the company is heading in the right direction.

Final Thoughts

Ulta continues to experience visit growth, highlighting Beauty’s enduring appeal. Meanwhile, Gap and Old Navy are witnessing narrowed visit gaps and some weekly visit growth. 

Is the Apparel segment making a comeback? Can the Beauty segment sustain its positive momentum indefinitely?

Visit Placer.ai to keep up to date with the latest retail developments. 

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