Niche retailers REI and 7-Eleven rebounded last year

The in-store experience and a return to the commute helped these companies on the Hot 25 Retailers list

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.

The pandemic was kind to some niche players and not so kind to others. Outdoor retailer REI did well enough post-pandemic to land at No. 15 on the Hot 25, a compilation of the fastest-growing retailers based on year-over-year sales.

2022 Hot 25 Retailers List

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

“REI was a big winner as stores reopened,” says David Marcotte, senior vice president of Kantar, which compiles the Hot 25 for NRF. “While they have a very good website, people want to touch that product. They want to be in the store because they are an experiential retailer. They have a very different relationship with shoppers.”

Still, Marcotte was a bit surprised that REI didn’t come back sooner, given the heightened interest in camping and the outdoors that was stoked by the pandemic. It posted a 37.3 percent increase in sales in 2021 when compared with 2022.

7-Eleven was another niche player that bounced back onto the list in 2022. The convenience chain was dragged down by lack of travel during the pandemic — and perhaps more importantly by the lack of contractors and commuters.

As contractors in particular have returned to work, Marcotte has seen 7-Eleven grow. It landed at No. 23 on the list, with a 31.6 percent increase in sales.

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