Apparel sales sparked growth for retailers last year

Companies on the Hot 25 Retailers list benefited from the reopening of malls and aggressive pricing

The National Retail Federation’s annual Hot 25 Retailers list ranks the nation’s fastest-growing retail companies, based on increases in domestic sales between 2020 and 2021. Harbor Freight Tools is in the No. 1 spot, followed by Inditex, Burlington, Dillard’s and TJX Companies. This series takes a closer look at some retail categories represented in the list.

It might be easy to assume that, as the world has reopened, we have needed to get out of our sweatpants and loungewear. Coupled with the fact that almost half of us — 39 percent — gained weight during the pandemic, per Harvard researchers, that might have driven apparel higher.

2022 Hot 25 Retailers List

NRF's Hot 25 Retailers ranks the nation’s fastest-growing retail companies.

View the complete chart.

David Marcotte, senior vice president of Kantar, doesn’t see it that way. Kantar compiles the Hot 25 for the National Retail Federation.

“People going back to work is not the reason,” Marcotte says. “The renewing of events is not the reason.”

The reasons are much more decidedly retail-oriented: the reopening of malls and aggressive pricing, particularly for department stores. Macy’s (No. 11), Nordstrom (No. 14) and Hudson’s Bay (No. 17) all made the Hot 25. But they were eclipsed by Dillard’s, which came in at No. 4 with a 53.2 percent increase in sales.

Dillard’s was “able to get through the pandemic in relatively good shape. Their success is a reaction to loyalty programs,” Marcotte says.

All told, if apparel is allowed to include department stores and footwear, the sector dominated the Hot 25, holding down 15 of the 25 spots. It’s a far cry from the 2021 list, when Lululemon stood alone as the only apparel retailer to grow significantly.

“Just comparing the year over the year is the primary reason we see so many apparel retailers” on the list, Marcotte says.

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