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Retail Is Coming Back Without Having To Make Sweeping Changes


The coronavirus pandemic has finally loosened its grip on retail, and the recovery looks a lot like a return to normalcy.

From the initial outbreak through the holiday season, it seemed as if the pandemic had accelerated pre-existing trends in retail, possibly spelling doom for long-struggling sectors. But even as online shopping has remained strong enough to drive profit explosions for the largest retailers, department stores and sit-down chain restaurants have seen meaningful growth in foot traffic in the past two months, data firm reports. The data comes on the heels of similar improvements from suburban shopping malls in April.

Dillard's and Kohl's have almost recovered to 2019 levels of foot traffic, and while Nordstrom and Macy's still lag behind their numbers from two years ago, they made stark improvements from February and March to May, reports. Though locations of Orangetheory Fitness still saw 14% less foot traffic in May of this year than in May 2019, Planet Fitness matched its May numbers from two years ago.

Although some pandemic-driven business initiatives, like outdoor pop-up events, look likely to become a permanent part of the retail landscape, retailers across the country are seeing returns to in-person experiences that were becoming more en vogue before the pandemic, like cafés and dining within stores and experiential sales strategies, Modern Retail reports

Financial firms like UBS have improved their outlooks on the stock prices for several retail brands, and shopping center real estate trusts like PREIT have seen increased revenues and lease activity, Seeking Alpha reports

Though potential pandemic pivots were a popular point of discussion as the coronavirus disrupted sales events and the holiday shopping season, more signs are emerging that the one thing major stakeholders in retail needed to do in order to recover is survive to this point — and not everyone did. But the same has not been true so far of small businesses in retail.

Hundreds of thousands of employees resigned from retail jobs in April, according to Department of Labor data reported by Modern Retail. Small retailers haven't been able to reinvest in their stores or hire enough employees to meet customers ready to return and haven't seen the same level of growth in foot traffic over the past couple of months as larger chains as a result.