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Hats Off For Off-Price

Bracha Arnold
February 15, 2024
Hats Off For Off-Price

How did off-price leaders T.J. Maxx, Marshalls (both owned by TJX Companies), Burlington, and Ross perform in last year? And how is 2024 shaping up for the category? We dove into the foot traffic data to find out. 

Continuing To Grow

Off-price apparel retailers typically employ a straightforward method: sell excess or off-season merchandise that would otherwise remain unsold at a discount, benefiting both shoppers and manufacturers. 

This retail model has consistently performed well, as evidenced by the consistent growth in visits to T.J. Maxx, Marshalls, Ross, and Burlington over the past few years. And despite the overall sluggishness experienced by much of the apparel retail category in 2023, visits to these stores continued to increase year-over-year (YoY) in every quarter analyzed.

January 2024 YoY visit growth slowed slightly – perhaps due to Q1 2023’s exceptionally strong performance. But despite the difficult comparison, foot traffic for most chains remained close to 2023 levels while YoY January visits to Ross increased 5.5%, highlighting the resilience of the off-price sector.  

HHI Varies By Brand

The demographic and psychographic makeup of a chain’s trade area – which shows the types of visitors who frequent the chain – can be determined by looking at the chain’s potential or captured market. A chain’s potential market is calculated by weighing the Census Block Groups (CBGs) feeding visits to the chain according to the size of the CBG, while the captured market weighs each CBG according to the relative number of visits to the chain originating from that CBG.  

Using these tools to analyze the median household income (HHI) in the trade areas of the four chains reveals a divergence between the two TJX-owned chains T.J. Maxx and Marshalls, on one side, and Ross Dress for Less and Burlington, on the other. The median HHI in T.J. Maxx and Marshalls’ potential market is higher than the potential median HHI for Ross and Burlington – and the two TJX brands’ captured market median HHI is even higher. Meanwhile, the median HHI in Ross and Burlington’s captured market is lower than the median HHI in their own potential markets. 

The variance in median HHI between the chains may have to do with differences in branding and product selection. Marshalls and T.J. Maxx tend to have the higher price points, with T.J. Maxx in particular expanding its designer offerings over the past few years through its Runway stores. Ross and Burlington, known for their no-frills approach to clothing shopping, have relatively lower price points – and may see more customers seeking bargains over high fashion. 

Families Drawn To Off-Price Retailers

While an analysis of trade area median HHI highlights differences between the chains’ visitor bases, a deeper exploration of Marshalls, Ross, and Burlington’s trade areas suggests that the retailers also share common ground – specifically, their popularity with middle-income families. For almost all brands, the captured market share of households categorized by the PersonaLive dataset as “Family Union” and “Cultural Connections” was larger than the potential market share. T.J. Maxx, which had a slightly lower share of “Cultural Connection” households in its captured market relative to its potential market, was the sole exception.

All four chains continue to add stores to their fleets – Ross opened 97 stores in fiscal 2023, and Burlington is looking to expand in over 60 former Bed Bath and Beyond locations. Focusing on trade areas with diverse families, then, may serve Marshalls, Ross, and Burlington. And T.J. Maxx, which has been enjoying a resurgence of interest from younger shoppers, might consider expanding into areas that attract young professionals.

Dressing To Impress

Off-price apparel retailers continue to succeed despite – or perhaps because of – a challenging economic climate. Will their success continue into 2024? 

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