The off-price apparel category is experiencing an impressive recovery, with off-price visits regularly outperforming the wider apparel recovery rate. With the Back to School season coming up, Off-price’s strong summer could lead into an even stronger fall.
Off-Price Continues to Show Strength
With the exception of February, where lower visit numbers could be due to severe weather conditions across the country, visits to Ross Dress for Less, T.J. Maxx, and Burlington have been up every month this year when compared to 2019. And even though Marshall's only returned to visit growth in June, the store had been nearing a full foot-traffic recovery already in March while exhibiting a consistently and significantly smaller monthly visit gap than the sector as a whole.
It seems that customers who missed the treasure hunt experience at off-price store are now making up for lost time. All four brands have experienced a powerfully swift and impressive recovery since the retail reopening over the spring. While July visits to the apparel sector only grew an average of 3.8% when compared with July 2019, Ross Dress for Less, T.J. Maxx, and Marshalls saw a year-over-two year increase in monthly visits of 11.3%, 17.2%, and 12.1%, respectively. And Burlington saw the most impressive increase with visits up 12.3%, 13.5%, and 25.4% in May, June, and July 2021 when compared to the equivalent months in 2019.
Impressive Weekly Visits Growth Compared to 2019
And the rise in visits does not look to be temporary, at least partially because of an expected increase in store fleet, which made off-price apparel stand out in a recent landscape defined more by apparel store closures. Ross Dress for Less has announced 60 new stores by the end of 2021, and TJX Companies – which owns Marshalls and T.J. Maxx – plans to open 122 net new stores over 2021. Burlington, meanwhile, expects to have 75 new stores by the end of 2021.
Zooming into weekly visit growth over the last five weeks compared to 2019 emphasizes off-price’s increased strength. All four brands have been experiencing a remarkable growth in weekly visits, with visits for the first week of August up 12.6%, 17.8%, 11.6%, and 24.3% at Ross Dress For LEss, T.J. Maxx, Marshalls, and Burlington, respectively.
Customer Loyalty on the Rise
But the increase in visits is not just due to the opening of new stores. Over the last three full months, customer loyalty has gone up at all four brands. Between May and July, Ross Dress for Less, T.J. Maxx, and Marshalls each saw an increase of 5.4%, 10.0%, and 5.2% in return customers (customers returning to a brand at least once over the three months,) while Burlington saw an impressive 23.7% boost.
Off-price’s success could be due, in part, to the same factor that many felt could ruin the sector at the height of the pandemic – its reliance on foot traffic. While other apparel leaders have a more extensive approach to eCommerce, Off-price department leaders rely almost exclusively on in-store visits. In addition, they are uniquely positioned to drive value in a time where many other apparel retailers are seeing prices rise.
Will the off-price apparel category continue to outperform the sector as a whole? Will the Back to School season give the sector an even greater boost?
Visit Placer.ai to find out.