Placer Bytes: Ulta & Big Lots

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In this Placer Bytes, we dive into one of our 2020 winners, and two brands with strong hopes for a strong holiday season.

Is Ulta Unstoppable?

Probably. 

Looking at monthly visits year over year, it’s critical to remember that the beauty brand kicked off 2020 with visits up 10.1% and 17.9% in January and February before the pandemic brought visits to a standstill. Yet, the recovery has been swift and impressive. Visits in August and October were down just 9.0% and 9.4% year over year, and while September was lower at 17.0% down, that does appear to be the outlier. 

And not only are visits rising, but the pace is actually picking up heading into the holidays. Visits the weeks beginning November 2nd and 9th were down just 8.2% each with the latter benefiting from a Veterans Day that drove a traffic surge. Visits on that day were up 40.8% year over year, a massive rise that gave the brands its best day for offline visits since March 7th, on a Wednesday. But the week of November 16th cut the gap even further bringing the brand to within 2.0% of 2019 levels.

But, that wasn’t the only Ulta news with the brand also announcing that it would be rolling out 100 smaller Ulta formats with Target locations. Beyond the joy of watching two of our picks for 2020 winners join forces, the move simply makes sense. Ulta gets access to a huge and relevant audience, and Target gets to continue its efforts to reach more upmarket. This type of force multiplier could make both brands even stronger in the coming year.

Big Lots

Another brand to watch if Big Lots. The value retailer is on a tear of late, with visits up year over year since May. August, September and October turned in year-over-year visit growth of 10.5%, 1.7%, and 8.4% respectively, and several key trends are aligning to potentially give this surge some more fuel.

Not only does Big Lots fit well within the wider trend towards mission-driven shopping, but they provide high value in a time of economic uncertainty. This combination should position the chain for an exceptional holiday season and kick-off to 2021. Additionally, the diversity of offerings could help them maximize the full holiday season including the pre-Christmas surge giving them ample opportunity to take advantage of the full spectrum of holiday retail benefits.

Can Ulta’s impressive run continue? Will Big Lots see a major holiday boost? Visit Placer.ai to find out.

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