The Retail Good News Roundup

You know it. We know it. By and large, things are not great for retail (particularly of the brick-and-mortar variety).

In the first four months of 2016 (and, in many cases, going further back than that), the industry has been inundated with bad news: Poor sales leading to Macy’s and Sears closing stores, Nordstrom getting downgraded and engaging in layoffs, Sports Authority and Aéropostale filing for bankruptcy … and many pundits fear that these examples are just the tip of the iceberg.

Indeed, it’s popular — dare we say, trendy, even — to postulate that retail as we know it is doomed.

There’s little argument to be made against the case that the rise of online (including mobile) commerce, set into motion years ago by the likes of Amazon, has and will continue to change the shape of the retail landscape. But that evolution is not necessarily a death sentence for players in the space, be they relatively new or old.

Taking a cue from the fact that we are well into spring now — and the notions of positivity and rebirth that the season entails — allow us to buck the majority trend in retail coverage by making the case that it’s not all bad news. On the contrary, 2016 has seen its fair share of retailers that are expanding rather than withdrawing, some of which we present forthwith in the “Retail Good News Roundup,” if you will.



“Quarterly losses, schmorterly losses” seems to be the position of H&M.

The fast-fashion retailer was not alone in coming into the year on a downward revenue trend, but unlike a lot of the brands in the same boat, H&M shows no indication of ceding the future of brick-and-mortar to eCommerce.

Instead, the Sweden-based firm has clearly expressed its intention to be just as aggressive in the expansion of its physical footprint as its online offerings, announcing last month that it plans to open 425 new stores (adding to its current count of 3,970) by November.

Describing his company as “very profitable,” H&M CEO Karl-Johan Persson views the physical and digital presences of the brand as complementary rather than seeing the need to favor the latter over the former. While some industry analysts disagree with that perspective, H&M remains dedicated in its goal towards the further integration of the two primary channels, with Persson stating that things are “heading in the right direction.”



Never underestimate the power of convenience.

While many retailers have spent the year so far reducing their ranks of employees, the convenience store chain Sheetz is going in very much the opposite direction, announcing yesterday (May 3) that it plans to hire an additional 8,000-plus employees at locations across six states.

As EPR Retail News reports, Sheetz credits its store personnel for the chain’s significant growth to date and, therefore, believes that bringing more people on board will only continue that trend — which speaks to why the company has invested more than $15 million this year to go towards employee wages.

“We are thrilled to roll out an extensive hiring initiative aimed at adding thousands more to our Sheetz family,” Stephanie Doliveira, VP of human resources at Sheetz, told the outlet. “At the heart of our hiring efforts is an unwavering commitment to stay ahead of the curve and to do what is right for our people.”

And if doing so can increase profits — as has been the case with Sheetz — that could stand as a pretty solid example for other retailers.


Five Below

With many (outside of the company itself) believing that even a fast-fashion stalwart like the aforementioned H&M has its work cut out for it in continuing to compete in the space, deep-discount retailers probably have no chance, right?

Five Below is proving otherwise.

Having opened 71 new stores last year, the teen-centric apparel retailer is on track to top that number in 2016, announcing yesterday (May 3) that it plans to open 85 additional locations before year’s end.

That kind of growth, given the cost necessary to implement it, might seem at odds for a retailer whose business model is centered on offering extremely low prices but doesn’t have the infrastructure of a value-focused department store chain, such as Walmart.

Five Below’s secret to success, though, is its very target consumer: teenagers (and even pre-teens) who want to shop for themselves.

Referencing the chain’s recent entry in Racine, Wisconsin, Joel Anderson, CEO of Five Below, stated in a press release: “We’re thrilled to introduce our brand to a new community of teens and kids who are looking for a fun and affordable place to shop. They’ll love all of our $1–$5 trend-right, high-quality products.”

Even if a retailer is making its name on $1–$5 goods, if the consumer group it caters to is large enough, those dollars can certainly add up.


…And more! (with apologies for the exclamation point)

Speaking of “putting the customer first,” that strategy has served the wireless retailer T-Mobile well in 2016.

Last month, Android Headlines shared research from Wave7 showing that the United States’ third-largest wireless carrier, which, in the past, has had something of a bumpy relationship with consumers, has made strong efforts to amend that issue by taking its retail future in its own hands, phasing out the practice of selling through third-party outlets as it expands its own branded store locations in eight states, with a focus on suburban and rural locations, where wireless customers have been historically hard to reach.

While Sports Authority’s bankruptcy, as well as Vestis Retail Group’s (which owns Sport Chalet, Eastern Mountain Sports and Bob’s Stores), have recently cast a pall on the outlook of sporting goods retail, it would appear that Cabela’s did not get the memo.

While others in the sporting goods vertical flounder, Cabela’s — bolstered by a multi-year corporate restructuring project that began in 2015, shares Retail Info Systems News — is building two substantial (70,000-square-foot) retail locations, one in Georgia and one in Missouri.

Fast-fashion, convenience, wireless and sporting goods, though … these are all specific categories in the retail space. As noted at the top of this story, the big names in the widely encompassing category of department stores are the ones in real trouble. Surely, there can’t be any instances of one of those companies experiencing an unexpected turnaround in 2016.

And yet, there is: JCPenney, once regarded in the industry as all but dead, kicked off the year with an impressive showing of earnings potential, a veritable resurrection that now finds industry analysts predicting that the venerable department store could become profitable again by 2017.

See? In the Retail Good News Roundup, there’s good news for just about everybody.


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