Following a year of record store closures amid the coronavirus pandemic, some retailers are now hatching big plans to expand their brick-and-mortar footprints in the United States.
According to a recent study by Coresight Research, U.S. retailers have announced a collective 3,344 store openings for 2021, or about 39.5% more openings than announced at the same point in 2020. That number also eclipses the 2,649 store closures announced so far this year.
Comparatively, last year saw the permanent shutdowns of 8,953 retail outposts — nearly triple the 3,307 new locations tracked by the market research firm for the year.
With widespread distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine and a new round of fiscal stimulus, experts have painted an optimistic outlook for the year, with expectations of a rebound in consumer spending and the U.S. economy as a whole. Here, the retailers that appear to be upbeat on a return of foot traffic.
Dick’s Sporting Goods Inc.
Dick’s continues to expand at a time when other retailers are shrinking their physical store rosters. Last month, it opened five outposts — one namesake location in Concord, N.C., and four Warehouse Sale units in Friendswood, Texas; Oklahoma City; Deer Park, N.Y.; and Kissimmee, Fla. It also plans to launch six new namesake stores plus six specialty concept locations this year.
What’s more, the retailer has debuted its first experiential prototype store dubbed Dick’s House of Sport in Rochester, N.Y., which features an outdoor field to host sports events and promote product trials, as well as a rock climbing wall and health and wellness spaces. “Our stores are an enormous asset to us as part of our whole omnichannel ecosystem,” president and CEO Lauren Hobart said in the company’s fourth-quarter conference call two weeks ago. “We view our store growth and our e-commerce growth as very symbiotic and hand in hand, and so we will see us continuing to experiment with different types of store prototypes.”
Burlington Stores Inc.
In an announcement accompanying its fourth-quarter financial results early this month, Burlington revealed that it would expand its physical store count to 2,000, compared with the previous goal of growing to 1,000 locations, which was established in connection with the chain’s initial public offering back in 2013. (At the end of the fourth quarter, the retailer operated 761 units across 45 states and in Puerto Rico.)
“This new target takes account of the significant market share opportunity that we see ahead of us and of the improvements we are making in our business with Burlington 2.0, in particular the significant reduction in inventory levels and the smaller store footprint that this enables,” said CEO Michael O’Sullivan.
The TJX Companies Inc.
The TJ Maxx and Marshalls parent shared plans to add 122 new units to its brick-and-mortar portfolio in 2021, which would bring its total number of outposts at the end of the fiscal year to nearly 4,700 locations. According to the retail group, that would represent a store growth of about 3%. In the U.S. specifically, it intends to debut 30 TJ Maxx and Marshalls units, as well as 34 HomeGoods and 12 Sierra outposts.
“With the increase in-store closures by some other retailers, we are in an excellent position to open new stores in some of our target markets,” president and CEO Ernie Herrman said in the company’s fourth-quarter conference call last month. “Further, we see additional opportunities to relocate existing stores to more desirable locations and to seek out more favorable terms when leases expire.”
While it intends to shutter 100 Gap and Banana Republic locations as part of its overall fleet rationalization strategy, Gap Inc. expects to open about 30 through 40 Old Navy outposts and 20 through 30 Athleta stores. (Such moves, added the company, would put it at 75% of its targeted North America closures by the end of the 2021 fiscal year.) The two labels — Old Navy and Athleta — have seen greater consumer demand in recent years as an increasing number of shoppers seek value and comfort in discretionary fashion purchases.
“Some of the levers in our favor [this] year are really reaping the benefits of the store closures as well as some of the productivity initiatives we’ve already put in place and some of the impact of moving towards the Old Navy and Athleta higher operating margin brands,” EVP and CFO Katrina O’Connell said in the company’s fourth-quarter conference call early this month.
Dollar General Corp.
During its fourth-quarter conference call last week, CEO Todd Vasos explained that the company would “accelerate our pace of new store openings” for Popshelf, which features accessories, decor, cosmetics, household supplies, party goods and more — with roughly 95% of items priced at $5 or less. He added that the retailer plans to incorporate the concept into a number of its larger-format Dollar General locations this year.
In addition, the chain intends to introduce two new store formats that it had tested out last year: The first, which has a selling space of 8,500 square feet (compared to about 7,300 square feet in a traditional Dollar General store), will become its “base prototype for nearly all new stores” as it seeks to improve assortment in stores. The second is even larger, with approximately 9,500 square feet of selling space. Overall, the company has about 2,900 real estate projects in the works, with plans to open 1,050 new locations, remodel 1,750 outposts and relocate 100 units.
This story will continue to be updated.