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NRF Drills Down on Home in Top 100 Retailers Report

The National Retail Federation digs deep into some of the trends behind its annual Top 100 Retailers List finding that home decor outpaced apparel for now, home improvement store reaped rewards during lockdowns, and that one-stop shopping drove sales at large national chains.

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Chart of top 10 retailers in 2021
The National Retail Federation’s 2021 Top 100 Retailers List

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The National Retail Federation’s annual Top 100 Retailers List ranks the nation’s top retailers and following its release earlier this month has released a series of in-depth reports exploring its findings.

In its 2021 Top 100 List, the NRF stated: “For a year that included so much upheaval in retail, the National Retail Federation’s Top 100 Retailers list remained relatively stable. Walmart continues at the top, where it has been comfortably ensconced. Amazon remains in second place.

“The Top 100 roster is based on sales rankings for 2020. While pandemic-related lockdowns negatively impacted some retailers, others were able to benefit: Grocers like Publix, Aldi and H-E-B all moved up in the rankings, as did The Home Depot and Target. Those taking a hit included retailers like TJX Companies and Macy’s.

“‘Companies that invested heavily in buy online, pick up in store in 2018 and 2019 were losing money on it then,’ says David Marcotte, senior vice president for Kantar. ‘In 2020, it all paid off. If you didn’t have that capability, you had to scramble to build it.’

“Retail investments in ecommerce have slowed since, but Marcotte says that’s because some companies already had invested heavily and can now pull back a bit. ‘Look at Walmart, which had growth of 40 percent online, and Best Buy — almost 50 percent of their sales last year were online. They never thought they’d say that.’”

“The last year or so has brought plenty of incredulity — even among economists. ‘Our economists refer to 2021 as the upside-down year,’ Marcotte says. ‘Everything you thought you knew, you don’t. It’s not 2020, where everything was confusing’.”

In addition to its main 2021 Top 100 Retailers List, the NRF drilled down on the data and explored several topics in detail:

1. Lockdown Life Propels Sales Increases for Home Décor Retailers

There’s no doubt that apparel was hard hit in 2020. While department stores bore the largest dips, pure play apparel retailers weren’t spared. Gap was down 13.7 percent; American Eagle dropped 10.8 percent and L Brands (which includes apparel retailers PINK and Victoria’s Secret) dropped 6.3 percent.

“Nobody needed clothes,” says David Marcotte, senior vice president at Kantar.

What they did need, though, was furniture. Whether it was to accommodate work- and school-from-home setups or just to be more comfortable during a Netflix binge, home goods had a “huge year,” Marcotte says. But that may be set to change as Americans head back to the office. 

Read the full NRF story here.

2. Consumers Looking to Renovate and Remodel Spur Success for Home Improvement Retailers

Travel took a beating in 2021, but retailers that sold camping equipment and outdoor goods saw impressive increases. Dick’s Sporting Goods, Academy Sports and Camping World all saw double-digit comparable store changes; Bass Pro Shops does not disclose its same-store sales.

While many looked to get out of the home with activities like camping, there was no denying that lockdowns kept us all at home — and sometimes that proved lacking. Whether it was to accommodate a new everything-from-home environment or just tiring of looking at bland wall colors, home improvement retailers reaped the rewards of customer desires to renovate, remodel and redo.

Read the full NRF story here.

3. One-stop Shopping and Increased Pet Adoptions Drive Sales Gains

Grocery was one of the clear stories for 2020, with significant increases among the top players. But look a little more deeply into this category, and both opportunities and perils await. Big box retailers like Costco Wholesale and BJ’s Wholesale Club both saw sizeable growth. They benefited from their ability to deliver one-stop shopping, says David Marcotte, senior vice president at Kantar. It was a year “when people didn’t want to go to a lot of stores.”

NRF's Top 100 Retailers ranks the industry’s largest companies according to sales.
He points to Target as an example of a company that’s “able to leverage improvements made at the start of 2020 with growth.”

The challenge ahead, he believes, is to focus on experience. “They have to become focused on merchandising and to invest in stores to make it better for a shopper.” That, he said, is challenging “in multiple ways.”

One concern is the short supply of building materials needed to improve stores — things like tile, flooring and graphics, he says, “all the things you might put into a store to make it look nicer.”

Read the full NRF story here.
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