Thanks for Visiting!

Register for free to get the full story.

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

The COVID Comebacks

by 
Ethan Chernofsky
 on 
June 22, 2021
The COVID Comebacks

The wider retail recovery is well underway, but a more nuanced perspective is necessary to properly appreciate the relative rebounds of specific brands. Some sectors saw significantly greater challenges, while others benefitted from the unique retail circumstances driven by the pandemic.

We dove into the data to uncover some of the more impressive retail rebounds.

Department Stores

The ‘death’ of the department store was an oft-reported trend before and during the pandemic. And while the sector has certainly experienced its fair share of challenges, the overarching narrative of doom and gloom seems to miss out on the lingering strength and potential of leading players. In May 2021, visits to brands like Kohl’s and Dillard’s were down just 8.3% and 3.5% respectively when comparing visits during the equivalent month in 2019. Even Macy’s and Nordstorm – two of the companies often associated with the negative feeling around the sector – saw visit gaps improve dramatically in May with visits down just 16.8% and 14.3% respectively. These marked the strongest months for the two brands by far since the onset of the pandemic’s retail impact.  

The coming months may be even brighter for the department store sector with a critical back to school season around the corner and continued reopenings taking place in key states like New York and California. Kohl’s appears to be particularly well positioned, but even the mall based department stores seem to be better positioned than expected. Critically, this doesn’t overcome foundational challenges within the approaches of some of these brands, and a continued evolution for the sector is still likely necessary. However, it does put the performance into context, showing that these department leaders still carry a lot of strength that can be leveraged to driving a fuller and longer-term turnaround.

Grocery Laggards

Grocery was one of the segments that saw a renewed sense of strength throughout the pandemic. Yet, not all brands were treated equally. Trader Joe’s was one of the hardest hit brands in the early months of the pandemic with visits plunging. H-E-B, one of the wider sector’s leaders, also saw weaknesses with visits down significantly. However, both brands are on the rise with visits in May 2021 up 7.1% for Trader Joe’s and up 2.2% for H-E-B when compared to the same month in 2019. The recovery speaks to the strong standing of these brands and their unique ability to weather the storm of COVID. Essentially, while visits declined in the short term, the strong relationship developed with customers over time was resilient enough to drive shoppers back as ‘normalcy’ returned. 

Costco, hardly a struggling brand, is also showing a unique level of strength after watching a fundamental disruption to visit patterns throughout the pandemic. While year over year visits had been down throughout much of the pandemic, the optimistic case was that visitors were simply accomplishing more with fewer visits. And this concept does appear to be holding true as a wider retail reopening has driven significant visit growth each month of 2021 when compared to the 2019 equivalent.

Weekly visits further validate the returning strength for Trader Joe’s and H-E-B. The weeks beginning May 24th and 31st saw visits up 4.6% and 11.0% for Trader Joe’s and up 2.5% and 8.3% for H-E-B. The potential of this trend to carry into June and deeper into the summer should drive tremendous excitement around the recoveries for both chains. 

Lifting Itself Back Up

Another segment that faced uniquely difficult challenges throughout the pandemic was offline fitness. Gym visits were obliterated as COVID restrictions, health concerns and disruptions to routines created massive obstacles for the sector. Yet, Planet Fitness and Orangetheory have both shown the ability to recover. Visits to Planet Fitness locations were up compared to 2019 in both March and May signifying the unique power and pull of the brand. Orangetheory has seen visit gaps drop dramatically, with visits down just 14.1% in May.

And like the sectors mentioned above, this could be just the beginning. The consistency of these brands alongside their strong geographic reach could push visits even higher as reopenings continue and routines return, especially for the many people whose former gyms closed due to the pandemic. 

Brands to Watch

Other brands enjoying a strong and marked recovery include Guitar Center, Olive Garden, and Panera. The latter two are particularly interesting as they are part of a wider restaurant recovery that could have a significant impact on the wider sector. The ability of restaurant brands with a heavy focus on sitdown dining speaks to a potential revival that goes far beyond COVID. Should these players prove capable of leveraging the recovery to drive growth, the impact could very well reinforce the ongoing positioning for sitdown chains. As QSR was clearly privileged during the pandemic, a shift towards more drive-thru and takeaway was widely discussed. While this could end up being a greater part of the overall mix, the power of a dining recovery could create a far more favorable equilibrium. 

How will the retail recovery continue and which brands will thrive most? 

Visit Placer.ai 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 Placer.ai Free
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
Ollie’s Bargain Outlet and Five Below: Q1 2024 Treasure Troves
CAVA Still Going Strong
Driving Success: Auto Parts Chains in 2024
Checking in With DICK’S Sporting Goods
Mother’s Day Shopping and Dining Trends
Placer.ai Mall Index: April 2024 Recap – Retail Resilience Heading into Spring
Dollar Stores Still Gaining Momentum
Off-Price Apparel Chains After Q1 2024: Demographics in the Balance
Walmart, Target, and Wholesale Clubs Continue to Thrive
Home Improvement and Decor Check In
Placer.ai Office Index: April 2024 Recap – Recovery Continues
Movie Theaters in Q1 2024: A Preview of Coming Attractions?
Let’s Get Physical: Fitness In 2024
Where Are Workers Returning to Office in 2024?
2024 Wins: Sweetgreen & First Watch on the Rise
A Full-Service Turnaround: Bloomin’, Dine, and Texas Roadhouse
Wendy’s and Denny’s: Breakfast and Late Night Dining Drives Success
Coffee Chains: Q1 2024 Update and What’s Changed Since COVID
Checking in with RBI and YUM!
Chipotle & McDonald's Serving Up Success
Wingstop & Shake Shack Continue Growing Their Reach 
Strong Start for Sprouts in 2024
Crocs’ Footwear Fairytale
Who Attends NCAA Final Four Events?
Eclipse Fever: How Did the (Retail and Hospitality) Stars Align?
Exploring Albertsons Companies’ Grocery Growth
Placer.ai Mall Index: March 2024 Recap – Malls Rise Again
Placer.ai Office Index: March 2024 Recap
Florida Spring Break Break-Up? Travelers Still Love Florida!
Provo-Orem and Ogden-Clearfield Emerging As Utah Hotspots 
Three Formulas for Experiential Retail in 2024
Aldi & Lidl Making The Cut
Texas Suburbs on the Rise
Exploring Luxury Hotel Brands’ Guest Segmentation
The St. Patrick’s Day Effect
How Can JOANN Make a Comeback?
Panera Bread Well Positioned for Possible IPO
Who Will Benefit From Family Dollar’s Downsizing?
Dave & Buster’s and Main Event Entertainment: Food and Fun for Everyone
Darden Brands: Location Analytics and Consumer Behavior
Nike and lululemon: a Strong 2023, Sprinting into 2024
Where Is Retail and Dining Foot Traffic Thriving in Early 2024?
Placer.ai White Paper Recap – February 2024
Three Retail & Dining Chains That May Surprise in 2024
Specialty Discount Chains Rock Retail Therapy
Placer.ai Mall Index: February 2024
Placer.ai Office Index: February 2024 Recap
Ulta Beauty Continues To Shine
First Watch Sails Into 2024
Hibbett Sports and DICK’S Sporting Goods: A Psychographic Analysis
Checking in With Discount & Dollar Stores
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: Placer.ai’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
Placer.ai Office Index: Looking Back at 2023
Recapping RBI & Yum! Brands’ 2023 Foot Traffic Performance
Placer.ai 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
Placer.ai 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
Placer.ai Office Index: December 2023 Recap
Recapping the 2023 Holiday Shopping Season
Placer.ai 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
Placer.ai Office Index: November 2023 Recap
Small Coffee Chains Brewing Big Success
Placer.ai White Paper Recap – November 2023
Thanksgiving Travel 2023 Recap