Thanks for Visiting!

Register for free to get the full story.

Sign Up
Already have a Placer.ai account? Log In

Department Stores 2021 Recap: High-End Thriving, Mid-Range Recovering

by 
Shira Petrack
 on 
February 17, 2022
Department Stores 2021 Recap: High-End Thriving, Mid-Range Recovering

Like the malls they anchor, department stores were being eulogized long before the COVID pandemic hit American retail. But whereas many malls bounced back already in the summer of 2021, many department store brands continued to struggle to return to pre-pandemic foot traffic levels. Now, with two years of pandemic life behind us, we dove into foot traffic to leading high-end and mid-range department store chains to understand how the “new normal” looks for this critical retail sector.

High-End Department Stores Leading the Pack 

Visits to luxury stores have been strong in recent months, and the demand for quality goods is boosting visits to Saks Fifth Avenue, Nordstrom, Neiman Marcus, and Bloomingdale’s. 

Saks Fifth Avenue, whose store fleet has stayed relatively consistent throughout the pandemic, has also seen the largest increase in foot traffic over the past seven months, with January visits up 14.8% compared to January 2020. Nordstrom, which permanently closed over 10% of its full-line stores due to the impact of COVID, has seen Yo2Y growth in its visits-per-venue metrics every month since July ‘21, ending the year strong with a 2.9% Yo2Y growth in December visits-per-venue.

Neiman Marcus, which entered bankruptcy in May 2020 – from which it emerged in September of the same year – has also closed several locations, and re-focussed its strategy on catering to Neiman’s luxury-oriented core customer base. The result is an impressive jump in its visit-per-venue numbers, with holiday season Yo2Y visits-per-venue numbers of 12.4% and 18.1% for November and December, respectively.

Bloomingdale’s did see a slight drop in visits-per-venue compared to its overall visit numbers, likely due to its slight store fleet expansion through a new store the retailer opened just before the pandemic hit and the new Bloomie’s, small-format concept opened in August. But its overall visit numbers have been strong, with overall Yo2Y holiday visits up 3.5% and 3.0% in November and December, respectively.

Given their recent visit performance, luxury department stores are well positioned to thrive in 2022.

Right-Sizing Easing Recovery for Mid-Range Brands 

The visit recovery has been slightly more challenging for mid-range department store chains. Macy’s, Kohl’s, JCPenney, and Dillard’s have all seen their 2021 monthly visits continue to lag behind 2019 foot traffic levels, although the retailers who consolidated their store fleet have managed to soften the blow. 

In February 2020, before the COVID outbreak hit American retail, Macy’s announced its plans to close 125 stores over the following three years. So far, the strategy seems to be working, and the company’s visits-per-venue numbers are significantly stronger than its Yo2Y overall foot traffic metrics. The company is planning on implementing the remaining 60 planned closures in 2022, so expect its visits-per-venue numbers to climb even further as Macy’s continues to optimize its fleet. This optimization trend is especially noteworthy as it indicates that Macy’s rightsizing strategy is enabling the brand to better maximize the reach of each location.

Kohl’s is one of the few department store chains that has not closed a significant number of stores in recent years, and so its visits per venue trend track its overall Yo2Y visit numbers pretty closely. But the company has announced plans to expand its collaboration with Sephora, and as Kohl’s locations with Sephora shops-in-shop are consistently outperforming those without, adding Sephora shops to more Kohl’s locations may well drive up foot traffic numbers across the chain. 

Like Neiman Marcus, JCPenney entered bankruptcy in May 2020, and the company exited bankruptcy in December 2020 with significantly fewer stores and plans to permanently close around a third of the stores it operated pre-pandemic. Now, foot traffic data from the past seven months shows that the brand is close to optimizing its store fleet: December visits-per-venue were down just 5.5% Yo2Y.

Dillard’s has also permanently closed several stores – turning some of the shuttered locations into Dillard’s Clearance Centers – so its Yo2Y visits-per-venue metrics are stronger than its overall Yo2Y visit numbers, with December visits-per-venue down just 1.5% compared to December 2019. And since Dillard’s is the only mid-range department store analyzed that actually saw Yo2Y growth in overall monthly visits in 2021, with July and October Yo2Y visits up 2.4% and 2.9%, respectively, there is ample reason for optimism going into 2022.

While a COVID defined January did no brand in the sector any favors, the latest data does show that the picture for mid-range department stores is far rosier than it might have seemed.

Brick and Mortar Apparel Visits Recovering Slowly 

Before writing off department store brands that are slower to recover, some context is critical. The pandemic hit overall apparel visits hard, and recovery for the sector has been slow. 

Comparing nationwide monthly apparel visits in 2021 to nationwide apparel visits two years prior shows how closely the apparel recovery is correlated to the COVID situation. Apparel visits finally reached Yo2Y growth in July – but then the Delta wave and apparel visits came crashing down again in late August and September. Visits recovered in October, but the declining importance of Black Friday hurt November foot traffic while the Omicron surge kept visits low in December and January. 

The silver lining from the data is that apparel visits do seem to recover every time the COVID situation stabilizes. This means that there is serious potential for a full apparel recovery once this pandemic subsides – which means that the department store brands that are currently struggling may still make a comeback in 2022.

Want to stay up to date on the performance of leading retailers? 

Visit placer.ai/blog.

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 Placer.ai Free
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
Placer.ai Office Index: January 2023 Recap
Focusing On Fitness: Q4 and January Recap
Placer.ai Mall Index: January 2023 – Returning Mall Normalcy?
Location Intelligence Insights Into Concert Attendance
Winning Dining Strategies for 2023
In-N-Out Burger: What to Expect as the Brand Moves East
Location Intelligence Breakdown: Coffee Caps-Off 2022
Digitally Native Brands Lean Into Brick & Mortar
Washington, D.C. Population Changes & Migration Trends
A Location Intelligence Perspective on Macy’s Rightsizing
Amazon-Powered Shopping: The Future of Brick-and-Mortar Grocery?
Cold Weather, Hot Visits: Diving into Winter Resorts
Wawa and 7-Eleven: Leaning Into the “Slurpee Effect”
2022 and Beyond: Catching Up With McDonald’s & Chipotle
Let’s Have Some Fun! Going Out Is In
Placer.ai’s Q4 2022 Quarterly Index
Placer.ai Adds Industry Executives to Leadership Team To Drive Company's Next Phase of Growth
5 Emerging Retail Formats: 2023’s Brick-and-Mortar Evolution
Grocery Update: Zooming in on the Lone Star State
2022 Office Recap: The Year of the TGIF Work Week
What Lies Ahead for Brick-and-Mortar Luxury in 2023
Placer.ai Mall Indexes: December 2022 Recap
Looking Back on 2022’s Holiday Shopping Season
Post-Pandemic Migration Trends in New York
Top Retailers for 2023
The Live Sports Advertising Opportunity
Domestic Migration to the Mountain States: Small Shifts with Big Implications
New Year, New Food: 5 Dining Trends For 2023
Announcing Placer.ai’s COVID RECOVERY DASHBOARD
This is Why Shop-in-Shops Are Everywhere
Super Saturday 2022 Recap
The San Francisco Shift
Grocery Year-End Update: Publix in the Spotlight
Three Ways Retailers Can Think Small to Increase Store Impact
Offline Beauty Is on an Upswing
The Evolving Migration Patterns of New York’s Florida Snowbirds
Placer.ai Office Index: November 2022 Recap
How Viral Social Media Trends Can Drive Offline Engagement
Are You Ready for Some Football? Experiential Marketing Shows Promise
Mall and Shopping Center Trends For 2023
Retail Corridors and Indoor Malls: A Holiday Head-to-Head
Placer Bytes: Nike, lululemon, and GameStop Update
Placer.ai Mall Indexes: November 2022 Update
Black Friday 2022: Consumers Hear the Call
Digitally Native Brands: Taking Off, Offline
Discount and Dollar Stores Leading the Pack
Turkey Wednesday 2022
Retail’s Evolving Holiday Season
Placer Bytes: Starbucks and Department Stores Ahead of Black Friday
Ulta: A Force to be Reckoned With
College Towns Drive Dining Growth
Foot Traffic Trends Reveal Consumers Ready for Holiday Cheer
How Retailers Can Win Big By Going Small
How Are Consumers Feeling Ahead of Black Friday 2022?
Off-Price, Hibbett, and Dick’s Pre-Holiday Check-in
Ho, Ho, Wholesale: Costco, Sam’s Club, and BJ’s
October 2022’s Retail Rebound
Target and Walmart Ahead of the Holidays
Home Improvement: Leave it to the Pros
Despite Inflation, Holiday Season is Off to a Good Start
Placer.ai Office Index: October 2022 Recap
Placer.ai Mall Indexes- October 2022 Update
Americans Double Down on Fitness
The State of Grocery
CVS and Walgreens: The Wave Continues
Coffee Chains Brewing Up Visits
Placer.ai Spotlight: Pizza Players
What Drove COVID-Era Urban Migration Trends?
Kroger and Albertsons: A Merging of Strengths
Texas Roadhouse Innovations Dishing Up Success
Holidays on the Horizon: Mid-Range and Luxury Shopping
McDonald's and Chipotle's Post-Pandemic Success
Announcing Placer.ai’s Q3 2022 Quarterly Index
5 Hot Restaurant Brands for 2023
Target Finds a Winning Deals Day Formula
Five Trends to Watch for 2022’s Holiday Shopping Season
September 2022 Analysis: A Difficult Month and Time for Optimism
Inflation’s Retail Winners
Five Apparel Retailers to Watch Ahead of the Holidays
Placer.ai Spotlight: Wawa’s QSR Pivot
Placer.ai Mall Indexes: September 2022 Recap
Placer.ai Office Indexes: September 2022 Recap
The Impact of Population Growth on Commercial Real Estate 
Starbucks' New Makeover
There's Somethin' About Pumpkin
Expanding Offline Reach
Breakfast Restaurants are Rising in Popularity
The Power of Labor Day 2022
Tourism in Miami Heating Up
Citi Trends on the Rise
Reaching Rural Consumers Through Retail Media Network
Darden Restaurants Cooking Up Success
The Home Improvement Sector: A Sign of Consumer Confidence
QSR Is Having a Northeastern Growth Spurt
Domestic Migration’s Ripple Effects
A Look Back at Back To School 2022
Kroger Digital Tell-All
The Return of In-Person Networking
The Reinvention of the American Mall  
Placer.ai Office Building Indexes: August 2022 Recap