Thanks for Visiting!

Register for free to get the full story.

Sign Up
Already have a account? Log In

The COVID Comebacks

Ethan Chernofsky
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 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 Free
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
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’s Q4 2022 Quarterly Index 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 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
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 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 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 Office Index: October 2022 Recap 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 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’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 Spotlight: Wawa’s QSR Pivot Mall Indexes: September 2022 Recap 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 Office Building Indexes: August 2022 Recap Mall Indexes - August 2022 Recap
Five Below’s Back to School Success
Plus-Size Fashion’s Staying Power
Placer Bytes: Best Buy & GameStop 
Petco Barking Up the Right Tree