A record 12,200 stores closed in 2020, according to Fortune, as COVID added new fuel to the already raging retail apocalypse, which had been trending for years before people had to mask up to leave the house.
But that was only part of the story.
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The year of COVID also witnessed major expansions by some retailers. Many of the biggest chains in the country opened dozens, hundreds, or even more than a thousand new locations last year — and 2020 was no fluke. Many of the same chains that branched out last year have been expanding even further in the first half of 2021 — and it appears that they have no plans to slow down as the year chugs on.
GOBankingRates used a variety of sources to identify the retailers that are bucking the trends, defying conventional wisdom, and refusing to bow down either to Amazon or to the virus.
Check out which retailers are opening more stores right now.
Last updated: Jun. 4, 2021
In terms of financial performance, 2020 was a record year for Target and the big-box chain is using that momentum to expand its physical presence. Target opened 30 stores in 2020, all but one of which were small-format stores designed to help Target squeeze more locations into cities, densely populated suburbs, and even on college campuses. Target also plans to remodel more than 150 existing stores by this holiday season and remodel 200 more every year starting in 2022.
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Ulta Beauty saw sales drop by double digits in the fourth quarter thanks to the crunch that COVID put on cosmetics — pricey makeup is a tough sell when people are homebound and pinching pennies. Even so, Ulta is optimistic enough about life after the virus to relocate or remodel 21 existing stores while opening 40 news ones in 2021 alone.
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Burlington had a strong 2019 and held grand openings throughout 2020. Since the company’s IPO in 2013, the long-term target had always been 1,000 stores, but COVID forced some adjustments. The so-called Burlington 2.0 strategy calls for smaller stores, a move that allowed Burlington to double that target to 2,000.
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2020 was a record year for Tractor Supply in terms of both sales and earnings — and the rural lifestyle chain paid it forward in the form of a 30% quarterly dividend increase. The money it didn’t give back to shareholders will be useful in helping the company fulfill its mission to open 80 new Tractor Supply locations and 10 Petsense stores. It opened 19 and three, respectively, in the last quarter of 2020 alone.
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Macy’s was getting dragged down by the imploding in-mall business model long before the pandemic — countless reports cited widespread Macy’s closures as evidence of the brick-and-mortar retail death spiral.
Macy’s, which raised enough cash to avoid bankruptcy last June, is regrouping and shedding the carcass of the American mall. Its new business model calls for opening smaller-format stores away from declining malls, but it’s unclear right now how many or where.
Ollie’s Bargain Outlet
Ollie’s Bargain Outlet consistently hosts grand openings — more than half a dozen in May alone. The discount retail chain has recently added locations all over the country, including Texas, Maryland, Vermont, Oklahoma, Georgia, Kansas, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Louisiana, and beyond. Ollie’s is quickly approaching 400 total locations.
About a year ago at the end of May, discount grocery chain Lidl opened its 100th U.S. store in Suwanee, Ga. The last few years have witnessed strong growth in the U.S. from the Germany-based company, and COVID-19 isn’t slowing it down.
In August 2020, Lidl unveiled plans to expand its reach by 50% with the arrival of 50 new locations throughout the East Coast by the end of 2021. The move is expected to cost $500 million, create 2,000 new jobs and move Lidl toward the big leagues with the likes of Trader Joe’s and Aldi — at least out East.
Value grocery chain Aldi continues to expand at a rapid pace, with ambitious plans to open 100 stores by year’s end. The expansion will be concentrated in the Northeast, Florida, Arizona, and California, but it is a nationwide expansion. The company is also building its 26th regional headquarters, expanding its online and curbside offerings, and building a new distribution center.
Recent store openings: 2
So far in 2021, BJ’s opened locations No. 44 and No. 45 in New York and No. 220 and No. 221 nationwide. One is a 79,000-square-foot club in Long Island City in the New York City borough of Queens. The other is even bigger — 89,000 square feet — and it’s located about 60 miles North of Manhattan in the city of Newburgh.
BJ’s is in direct competition with Costco, the undisputed king of warehouse membership clubs — and Costco, of course, can’t let such a large BJ’s expansion go unchecked. B.J.’s opened two stores in New York in 2021, so Costco countered with three new U.S. openings, all of which are set to take place in July. One is in Murfreesboro, Tenn., one is in Little Rock, Ark., and one is in Moore, Okla. For good measure, Costco also announced the grand opening of a fourth location in Moriyama, Japan.
Like so many other retailers, Sephora survived largely on e-commerce during the pandemic, but it’s so confident in the coming retail rebound that it’s planning the largest-ever expansion in the brand’s 21-year history. The ambitious strategy includes 60 new freestanding locations and 200 others opening inside Kohl’s stores.
Value home decor retailer At Home opened three stores in early February to take its store count up to 222 locations in 40 states — and At Home is just getting started. It’s planning to open a dozen — or perhaps as many as 15 — new locations by the end of 2021. The average At Home store is 100,000 square feet and as part of its long-term plan, the company plans to eventually open 600 of them.
Value retailer Five Below opened 150 new stores in 2019 and 120 more in 2020. Now, it plans to open as many as 180 more locations in 2021. So far, it’s off to a good start with 60 new locations opened in the first fiscal quarter of 2021 alone. The expansion has given the chain a presence in Nex Mexico and Utah, which means it now has locations in 40 out of 50 states.
Discount retailers like Dollar Tree were among the big winners during COVID, and now the brand is branching out with a planned opening of 600 new locations in 2021. That will bring the total number of stores in the chain up past 16,000. The Fortune 200 company includes both Dollar Tree and Family Dollar. Many of the new openings follow the company’s Combination Store prototype, which is designed for small towns. The format puts both brands in one location and makes it possible to bring a store to towns and rural enclaves with fewer than 4,000 people, where it would otherwise be hard to justify a full store.
Dollar General rode the same wave of demand for cheap retail products as Dollar Tree rode to profit and expansion in 2020. Dollar Tree’s chief competitor, Dollar General opened 1,000 new stores in 2020, remodeled 1,670 others, and relocated 110 more. With annual cash flows growing by 73% over the year before, Dollar General has money in the bank to expand even further — and expand it is. In 2021, Dollar General is planning 2,900 real estate projects, including 1,050 store openings, 1,750 remodels, and 100 relocations.
Subscription retailer Fabletics is building on strong growth that wasn’t interrupted by COVID. In 2021, it plans to bring its total store count up to 74 by year’s end with the opening of 24 new locations. The expansion is coast to coast, with new stores slated for Colorado, Massachusetts, Texas, Virginia, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, and beyond. Aside from its sprawling physical expansion, Fabletics remains one of the fastest-growing names in e-commerce.
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This article originally appeared on GOBankingRates.com: 16 Retailers That Are Actually Opening More Stores Right Now