The Kantar-NRF U.S. 2022 Hot 25 Retailers list — which identifies the brands that boosted their domestic sales by the highest percentages in 2021 compared to 2020 —exemplify three strong COVID-era trends: do-it-yourselfism, consumer preferences for more casual and value-priced apparel and increased alcohol consumption.
Topping the list is Harbor Freight Tools, which clocked 93.4% growth — a beneficiary of homebound consumers’ desire to upgrade and renovate their abodes. “Everybody looked around during the pandemic and said, ‘I hate my house,’” said David Marcotte, SVP at Kantar in a statement. “People are investing in landscaping, minor remodeling, fixing things.”
With a few exceptions, the remainder of the top 10, a group that grew by a minimum of 45%, were value-based apparel brands including Burlington (65.8%), TJX Companies (parent company of T.J. Maxx) and Ross Stores (both 51%) and H&M at 47.2%.
It’s likely Wine.com, which increased its 2021 sales by 50%, benefited from increased alcohol consumption by people dealing with the pandemic, but legal and regulatory changes point to the potential for longer-term growth for the entire category.
“Wine.com has been on these lists for the last few years as part of an incremental build,” said Marcotte. “It’s the changes in laws regarding where you can mail and receive wine. Part of that was due to the pandemic, but Canada has made a lot of changes to its laws regarding wine and spirits. The whole thinking about the spirits category has changed. The idea of mailing and shipping benefited from the pandemic, but given the legal changes, its growth might be sustainable.”
Comparisons to ‘Before Times’ Demonstrate Pandemic’s Ecommerce Surge
Many retailers are treating 2020 (and to some extent 2021) as COVID-dominated outliers. The dimensions of the pandemic-induced ecommerce surge become clear when comparing 2021 sales to 2019:
- Wine.com increased sales 222.7% in the two years since 2019;
- Online apparel retailer boohoo saw sales more than double over this period;
- Overstock is up 90.1%; and
- 1-800-Flowers.com is up 83.3%.
Other retailers showing sizeable increases over this period are in the home and hobbies categories, both of which got a major infusion of business during the worst of COVID-19.