Retail

9 retailers that are avoiding the industry's shakeout and opening stores

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The coronavirus pandemic has upended the retail industry and pushed dozens of companies into bankruptcy. 

But there are still pockets of growth, with a number of retailers looking to open additional stores. 

Altogether, as of Friday, retailers have announced 7,707 store closures and 3,344 store openings so far this year, according to a tracking by Coresight Research. 

While much of the turmoil in the industry has stemmed from apparel chains and department store operators, the expansion finds itself in a number of other categories: beauty, home goods, discount and grocery chains. 

Here are 9 retailers opening more stores in 2020 and beyond. 

At Home

The new At Home store in Foothill Ranch, CA will have its official opening on Saturday, March 30, 2019. The 75,000 square foot store promotes itself as a home decor superstore.
Paul Bersebach | MediaNews Group | Orange County Register via Getty Images

Market capitalization: $966 million
Stock performance year-to-date: +173%

At Home Chief Executive Lee Bird said earlier this summer the company could grow from the 219 locations it has today to more than 600 shops nationwide, building on the momentum it has seen at its stores and online during the coronavirus pandemic. While shoppers have curtailed spending on apparel and other accessories, more are shopping for furniture and other items to spruce up their homes. Companies like Wayfair and Pottery Barn have benefited from the trend as well. 

Earlier this month, At Home said its fiscal second-quarter sales rose roughly 51% to $515.2 million, while it turned in its best quarter of same-store sales growth (42.3%) and profitability in its history. 

As the home goods chain Pier 1 Imports liquidates, At Home is also expecting it will gain some of that market share. Bird told analysts that about 90% of At Home's stores are within six miles of a Pier 1 store, and a third of its locations are within a mile of a Pier 1.

"I would tell you those customers have to find a place to shop for decor, and we're the place to go," he said. 

Five Below

Shoppers place purchases into vehicle outside a Five Below store in Bloomington, Illinois, on Wednesday, July 25, 2018.
Daniel Acker | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Market capitalization: $7 billion
Stock performance year-to-date: -1.5%

Five Below is planning to open 110 to 120 net new stores this year alone. CEO Joel Anderson said it has the potential to grow to more than 2,500 stores nationwide up from roughly 1,000 today. 

When the discount retailer reported its quarterly results last week, it said its revenue climbed slightly, up 2% to $426.1 million from $417.4 million a year earlier. But fiscal second-quarter same-store sales growth during the time its stores were reopened rose 6%.

The company, which competes with the likes of Dollar General and Dollar Tree, said people have been visiting its stores during the pandemic to stock up on hand sanitizers, wipes and masks, as well as kitchen and bath products, clothes and items for pets. Five Below has carved out somewhat of a niche audience by catering more to teens than some of its rivals in the discount sector. 

Anderson has said the new locations set to open will have sections in the back of them called Five Beyond, selling items that cost more than $5 apiece. They will also have self-checkout kiosks and expanded snack selections at the front, he said. "Just being value driven ... the timing couldn't be more right as the country went through this pandemic." 

BJ's Wholesale

Customer shops inside a BJ's Wholesale Club store in Falls Church, Virginia.
Andrew Harrer | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Market capitalization: $5.7 billion
Stock performance year-to-date: +81%

BJ's Wholesale is using the boost it's gotten from the pandemic to venture into uncharted markets with new stores. The company is aiming to open two clubs in New York before the fiscal year is over, followed by six new ones next year. 

"Our hope is that next year we'll be able to open significantly more than we have in the past," CEO Lee Delaney told analysts during an earnings call last month. "We are moving aggressively to make those numbers or even larger ones a reality." 

During its fiscal second quarter, BJ's said its digital sales soared more than 300%, with shoppers using its curbside pickup option in droves. The company, which currently operates 219 clubs and 148 BJ's Gas locations, said it has seen an "avalanche of new members" during the Covid-19 crisis — bringing its total base to more than 6 million. 

"We expect this landscape ... will increase our relevance to members and prospective members alike," Delaney said. "Almost regardless of the level of economic uncertainty, we should be well-positioned versus competitors given our low-price positioning and the fact that we have grown our membership." 

Lidl

Shoppers check with their groceries during the grand opening of a Lidl grocery store, June 15, 2017, in Virginia Beach, Va.
Steve Helber | AP

The German-based grocery chain Lidl is plotting opening 50 new stores by the end of 2021, rivaling the likes of Aldi, Trader Joe's and Walmart. 

The company, which currently has a little more than 100 locations in the U.S., said it will allocate about $500 million to open the new stores. It said it plans to expand the most in New Jersey and Maryland. 

Lidl entered the U.S. about two years ago, opening its first store in the Southeast. Its initial, aggressive growth plans were stalled. But its pace of expansion looks to be picking back up, as a number of regional grocery chains like Lucky's and Fairway have filed for bankruptcy in recent years and shut down. 

Burlington

Burlington Coat Factory store
John Greim | Getty Images

Market capitalization: $14 billion
Stock performance year-to-date: -7%

The off-price retailer Burlington is expecting to open 62 new stores in the fiscal year 2020. It plans to relocate or close 26 locations, resulting in 36 net new store openings, it said when it announced earnings last month. 

"We believe that the Covid-19 pandemic is likely to create an even stronger consumer need and desire for value, and it's also likely to increase the number and the pace of competitor store closures," CEO Michael O'Sullivan said during a call with analysts. "So, if both of those things turn out to happen, then the pandemic could actually increase the longer-term market share opportunity for off-price." 

For the second quarter ended Aug. 1, Burlington's sales fell 39% to $1.01 billion. It also swung to a loss during the quarter, as its inventories did not match up with consumer demand. But the retailer, which competes with TJ Maxx and Ross Stores, said the pace of sales at stores as they have reopened "significantly exceeded" internal expectations. 

Old Navy, Athleta

An employee rings up a customer's purchases at the Athleta store in New York.
Ron Antonelli | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Market capitalization: $6.5 billion
Stock performance year-to-date: -1%

Gap Inc. is planning to grow two of its brands while it scales back two others. 

The company said last month it is planning to shut 225 Gap and Banana Republic stores, many of which are in malls, this year. However, it is planning to roll out a number of new Old Navy and Athleta stores, it said, not disclosing an exact number for those planned openings. 

Sales during Gap's second quarter ended Aug. 1 fell about 18% to $3.28 billion, as robust online growth wasn't enough to make up for the losses from its stores being temporarily shut. 

Sales at its namesake Gap brand were down 28%. At Old Navy, which has been one of Gap's strongest performing brands of late, sales fell 5%. Banana Republic sales dropped 52%. Within Athleta — Gap's athletic apparel brand for women that competes with the likes of Lululemon and Nike — sales were up 6%, making Athleta the only division within Gap Inc. to see overall revenue increase. 

"Old Navy continues to believe that they are under-penetrated compared to their competitive set in the smaller markets where their competitors are but they are not," CFO Katrina O'Connell told analysts. "And Athleta, still at only [50%] brand awareness and under-penetrated in their store fleet, still has an opportunity to open some stores here and potentially elsewhere." 

Tractor Supply

Tractor Supply Co.

Market capitalization: $16.5 billion
Stock performance year-to-date: +52%

Tractor Supply, the largest rural lifestyle retailer in the U.S., is still growing as its business booms thanks to the pandemic and people escaping the cities for houses on more land. 

During its fiscal second quarter, it opened 18 new Tractor Supply stores, and is planning to open 75 to 80 new shops altogether this year. As of June 27, it had 1,881 stores. 

"We're seeing that as people have left the cities where we don't have stores, they moving into suburbia ... or they're moving out to the rural communities," CEO Hal Lawton said during an earnings call. "They're embracing the 'out here' lifestyle, and they're shopping Tractor Supply because we are that lifestyle." 

The retailer's net sales for the quarter ended June 27 surged 35% to $3.18 billion. Its net income jumped 54.5%. Same-store sales, which tracks revenue at locations open for at least 12 months, climbed 30.5%. Its e-commerce business also saw triple-digit sales gains. 

Ollie's Bargain Outlet

Source: Ollie's Bargain Outlet

Market capitalization: $6 billion
Stock performance year-to-date: +41%

Ollie's Bargain Outlet is still planning to open 50 to 55 stores per year, as its business sees incredible momentum during the Covid-19 crisis. 

The retailer just had its best period in its 38-year history, according to CEO John Swygert, ending the second quarter with 366 locations. Its total net sales for the period ended Aug. 1 surged 58.5% to $529.3 million. Its net income jumped roughly 295% to $99.4 million. 

As the bargain retailer looks to expand, however, Ollie's is not looking to grow at malls. 

"We have zero interest in being attached to a mall and having mall access into the stores," Swygert told analysts during a conference call last month. "Most malls are starting to die and they're changing them out. ... We want to do one [new store] per week." 

Ulta Beauty

Pedestrians pass in front of an Ulta Beauty store in New York.
Gabby Jones | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Market capitalization: $13.5 billion
Stock performance year-to-date: -5%

Ulta Beauty thinks it can grow to as many as 1,700 stores, as it plans to open at least 30 locations next year. It currently has 1,264 locations. 

"The role of physical retail in beauty remains crucial to the shopping experience," CEO Mary Dillon told analysts during a conference call last month. "And while we know that e-commerce will continue to grow, we also continue to believe we can ultimately operate between 1,500 to 1,700 stores in the U.S." 

With its stores temporarily shut during the pandemic, Ulta said its e-commerce sales soared more than 200% during the fiscal second quarter. Overall, its net sales fell 26.3% to $1.2 billion. 

"Given continued disruption from the pandemic ... and economic uncertainty, we expect sales will continue to be challenged for the rest of the year," Dillon cautioned. "Longer-term, we are confident that beauty will recover and thrive." 

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