Thanks for Visiting!

Register for free to get the full story.

Sign Up
Already have a account? Log In

Department Store Recovery

Ethan Chernofsky
May 10, 2021
Department Store Recovery

Department stores faced a uniquely challenging environment in the last year with COVID limiting visits to malls, retail stores and more product brands looking to emphasize DTC channels.

And while signs of a recovery are popping up for the sector, there are still fundamental questions about the true power of the model from a long term perspective. So how is the department store sector faring now, and what could this mean moving forward?

A Clear Recovery

Looking at monthly visits in 2021 compared to 2020 and 2019, shows that the sector is in the midst of a significant recovery. Visits for all of the brands measured were up in March year over year, and while this was heavily driven by the comparison to an especially challenged 2020, all of the brands analyzed also saw the visit gap with 2019 shrink significantly when compared to February. Yet, the 2019 comparison in March is important as well, because it shows that many of these brands are still seeing significantly less visits than they were during ‘normal’ times.

The Recovery in Context

Analyzing weekly visits helps to further understand the recovery, identifying the challenges that come from making comparisons in this environment. While the visit gap shrunk significantly for many bands in mid March and early April, the gaps actually increased later in the month. And while the spike driven by pent-up demand likely dissipated, there are far more compelling reasons for the increasing gap. For example, Easter weekend drove a significant surge for the sector in 2019, and the misalignment of holidays dates combined with the unique nature of the recovery had an impact. Additionally, elements like the slower return in key states like California and New York, all contributed to the growing visit difference. 

This idea is only strengthened when looking at weekly visits week over week. Most of the brands analyzed saw strong weekly growth from late February through mid-March before seeing a balance of smaller increases and declines through mid-April. Were there a fundamental reason for the visit gap, the week over week change would be far more significant. Instead, the resulting picture is of a sector that bounced back to a new stage in the recovery process and is currently seeing steady visit rates. 

Moving Forward?

First, the recovery is underway. The wider department store sector is in the midst of a recovery and the return is both welcome and exciting. The initial visits spikes speak to the pent-up consumer demand and the unique brand equity these companies still carry with shoppers. 

Second, it’s unfair to color the entire sector with a single brush. Kohls is an especially well-positioned brand with a combination of new concepts, and outdoor orientation and a strong foundation contributing to a very bright outlook. On other hand, brands like Macy’s are far more impacted by continuing regulations in key states like California and New York.

Third, the recovery is going to unfold in stages. The department store sector is in the midst of ‘levelling up’ to a better place than it has been as a whole since the onset of the pandemic’s retail impact in the US. And while this is a major step forward, it isn’t a full recovery just yet. Regional differences, and ongoing concerns will likely continue to limit the full power of the recovery until at least the summer.

Finally, there is a long term challenge to be dealt with as well. While visits are definitely recovering, the sector was already facing questions about how to evolve and remain relevant even before COVID. While much of the ‘doom and gloom’ has been overblown, it is still important to monitor the brands willing to test new concepts and ideas, and give added credit for those pushes. 

The end result? The department store is on the rebound, but the magnitude of the recovery will be determined not only by a return to ‘normalcy’ but by brands willing to take the next step forward in their retail evolution. 

How will the recovery proceed? Visit to find out.

Get 3 brand & industry
breakdowns every week

Subscribe to the newsletter

Great! Prepare your inbox for data-driven insights...
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.

Get a Demo

Please enter your first name
Please enter your last name
Please provide a valid email
Please enter your email
Please enter company name

Thanks for reaching out!

One of our experts will be in touch soon

Try Free
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
Peeking Behind The Curtain: Movie Theaters in 2023 and Beyond
Diving Into Brick-and-Mortar Eyewear
Getting Into Gear: Exploring The Auto Part Industry
Recapping Valentine’s Day 2024 Foot Traffic Trends
Fitness: A Strong Start to 2024
Dutch Bros. Continues To Percolate Visits
Super Bowl 2024:’s Postgame Foot Traffic Analysis
CAVA & sweetgreen Are On the Rise
Hats Off For Off-Price
Who Is Shopping at Malls?
Drilling Down Into Home Improvement
Walmart, Target, Costco & Superstore Space 2023 Recap
Catching Up With Shake Shack and Wingstop
Something To Chew On: Demographic Shifts at Steakhouse Chains Office Index: Looking Back at 2023
Recapping RBI & Yum! Brands’ 2023 Foot Traffic Performance White Paper Recap – January 2024
Who Shops at Anthropologie and Urban Outfitters?
Three Taco Chains to Watch in 2024
Starbucks and Dunkin’: 2023 in Four Data Points
Who Visits CVS and Walgreens?
Fashionably Frugal: Apparel in 2023
Catching Up With Fast Food
The Grocery Sector in 2023: An End-of-Year Recap
3 Mall & Shopping Center Trends for 2024
Bakery Chains Rising To The Top and Esri Partner to Deliver Geospatial Analytics
Tampa Tourism Trends
Going For The Green: The Changing Dynamics Of Country Clubs
Christmas Day Dining Recap
Major Urban Shopping Districts – Holiday Season Recap Office Index: December 2023 Recap
Recapping the 2023 Holiday Shopping Season White Paper Recap – December 2023
7 Retail & Dining Segments to Watch in 2024
Diving Into Holiday Season Favorites
Super Saturday and Christmas Eve Eve: A Winning Combination
3 Budget Grocery Chains Finishing 2023 On a High Note
Making It In America: International Chicken Chains Bring The Heat
Domestic Tourism at a Glance: A Q3 2023 Roundup
Five Pizza Chains On The Rise
Jewelry Brands Taking Advantage of the DTC Opportunity
Secondhand News: Kids' Thrift Shops
Recapping 2023’s Dining M&As
MetLife Stadium Kicks Off Football Season Office Index: November 2023 Recap
Small Coffee Chains Brewing Big Success White Paper Recap – November 2023
Thanksgiving Travel 2023 Recap
Checking in With Nike and Lululemon
Black Friday 2023 Retail Recap
Starbucks’ 2023 Holiday Menu & Red Cup Day Performance
Turkey Wednesday 2023
Who Attended the 2023 Pickleball Championship? 
Three Surprising Holiday Shopping Trends
What’s in Store for Ulta Beauty This Holiday Season?
Best Buy and Department Stores: A Holiday Deep Dive
Discount & Dollar Stores: Strength Toward The End of the Year
The State of Off-Price Retail: Discounts Seal The Deal
Placer Mall Index Recap: October 2023 Office Index: October 2023 Recap
Retail Corridors Ahead of the 2023 Holiday Season
California, Here Gap Comes
Checking in With Home Improvement
Getting Into the Glasses Game: Warby Parker Takes Over
Fitness Positioned for a Strong 2023 Finish
White Paper Recap: October 2023
Coffee Giants Brewing Up Business
Popeyes and Burger King Lead the Way
Diving into Yum!
Looking Ahead to Black Friday 2023
Blockbusters Drive Movie Theater Comeback
Crocs and Boot Barn: Shoe-Ins for Success
McDonald’s and Chipotle's Winning Recipe
The State Of Steak: Checking in With Texas Roadhouse
Pleasant Pastimes: Pickleball Potential Proves Potent
Who’s Driving Downtown Manhattan’s Weekend Revival?
Diving into Downtown Manhattan Foot Traffic Trends
Rite Aid: Rightsizing Right
Major League Soccer: Its Die-Hard and Casual Fans
The Anchor Recap: September 2023 Office Index: September 2023 Recap
Placer Mall Index Recap: September 2023
September White Paper Recap
The Consumer Habits of College Students
JCPenney: Rightsizing and Revitalizing
Pent-Up Demand Ahead of October Sales Events
4 Strategies Retailers are Using to Drive Traffic to Their Venues
5 Key Regional Grocery Players Impressing in 2023
Upscale Kitchenware Trending Up
Costco Finds More Room for Growth
Four C-Store Chains Making an A-Grade
National Parks + Outdoor Summer Activities
Diving Into Darden: Summer 2023 Update
The Summer Event Effect
Messi: Massive in Miami
Looking Back on Back to School 2023
The Anchor Recap: August 2023 Office Index: August 2023 Recap Mall Index: August 2023 Recap