Although 2022 holiday sales fell a bit short of expectations and grew 5.3% year-over-year, it was a good year overall for U.S. retailers. Total store openings outpaced closings and annual retail sales increased 7% on top of very strong growth in 2021 despite inflationary pressures, rising interest rates and a lack of government stimulus after two years of generous pandemic-related support.
Store closings in 2022 were down more than 55% from 2021.
The labor market, arguably the biggest driver of consumer spending, was very strong in 2022 and continues to be very strong going into early 2023. In January, nonfarm employment grew by 517,000, up sharply from an upwardly revised 260,000 in December as businesses across sectors hired new employees; unemployment declined to 3.4%, the lowest level since May 1969.
Wages are growing — at a more moderate pace than in 2022 — and increased 4.4% year-over-year in January after an upwardly revised 4.8% increase in December. Consumers are saving far less than during the height of the pandemic, though there is still a considerable amount of “excess savings” in the system that should contribute to healthy spending.
Not surprisingly, consumers returned to many of their pre-pandemic shopping patterns throughout 2022, including a return to in-store shopping. This was apparent in many retailers’ financial results including Target, which reported a 3.2% increase in store comparable sales and a 0.3% increase in digital-channel comparable sales in its third quarter, ended October 29, 2022.
For all of 2022, major U.S.-headquartered retailers announced plans to open about 7,860 stores, down slightly from about 8,115 announced openings in 2021, and announced plans to close about 1,680 stores. That’s down more than 55% from roughly 3,945 announced closings in all of calendar 2021, according to analytical work by The Daily on Retail, an investor-oriented industry research platform.
Discount/dollar and off-price retailers announced the most store openings
As has been the case for some time, opening announcements were concentrated in the discount/dollar and off-price sectors, which have historically done well in good and bad economic times and have been less affected by online competition than other areas of retail.
Dollar General was the leader in store opening announcements. It said in December 2022 it would open about 1,050 new stores in its fiscal year 2023 on a base of more than 18,800 stores, and also set a goal to open 35 stores in Mexico by the end of 2023.
More than 40% of all announced new stores for 2022 were for discount/dollar and off-price retailers.
Five Below, which has expanded its price points above $5 with its Five Beyond initiative, said early in 2022 it would triple its store count to more than 3,500 by the end of fiscal 2030 and open 925-1,000 stores over the next four years on a base of more than 1,200 stores.
Family Dollar announced plans to open 400 new stores in its fiscal 2022 on a base of 8,000-plus stores, and Dollar Tree was planning to open 190 stores on a base of 8,000-plus stores.
In off-price retail, industry leader TJX announced plans to open 150 new stores in its fiscal 2022 across its concepts on a base of nearly 4,700 total stores and Burlington announced plans to open more than 115 net new stores on a base of about 840 stores. Ross Stores completed its 2022 store growth plans with the opening of 40 new stores in September-October, which took total openings for the year to 99 and the total store count to 2,019, including 1,696 Ross stores and 323 dd’s DISCOUNTS.
On a combined basis and including a few others not mentioned above, discount/dollar and off-price retailers announced plans to open about 3,230 stores, or more than 40% of all announced new stores for 2022.
Auto parts retailers are also growing store counts
Auto parts retailers have shown less economic sensitivity than other retailers and continue to focus more on the in-store experience and growing their store footprints than online growth.
Last year O’Reilly Automotive announced plans to open 360-370 net new stores, which implies more than 6% growth on a base of more than 5,780 stores. AutoZone said it would open about 200 stores on a base of 6,900-plus stores, and Advance Auto Parts announced plans to open 125-150 new stores on a base of about 5,000 total stores.
Digitally native retailers are opening stores
It’s important to note many retailers opening stores are digital natives. Gap’s Athleta brand announced plans to open 60 net new stores on a base of 227, and Warby Parker, which went public in 2021, was planning to open 40 new stores in 2022 on a base of about 160, which implies 25% growth.
Dallas-based “dollar store” for beauty products MISS A has the most aggressive store growth ambitions among the digital natives. It said early in 2022 it planned to grow to 200 stores over the next five years, up from 15 at the time of the announcement.
Other digital natives opening stores include Fabletics, which was planning to open 30 new stores on a base of more than 70 stores, and bed and bath brand Brooklinen, which said in April 2022 it planned to have 25 to 30 stores by 2024, including a tripling of the store count from two in 2022. Allbirds said it was planning to open 22 net new stores globally on a base of 35 stores.
Closing announcements stretched across sectors
Store closing announcements were down sharply in 2022. Among retailers announcing closings, Sally Beauty was the leader and in November announced plans to close about 350 (mostly) Sally Beauty Stores across the U.S. out of 4,790-plus total stores.
Retail and the economy
NRF's State of Retail & the Consumer 2023 event discussed the health of the consumer and the retail industry.
Sally Beauty was followed by Sears Hometown, which said it would close all of its roughly 200 stores, and Foot Locker, which was planning to close 190 of 2,850-plus stores. Foot Locker was also planning to open 100 new stores in its fiscal 2022, however, so the net planned reduction is 90 stores.
Other retailers closing large numbers of stores include Bed Bath & Beyond, which said in August 2022 it would close 150 of roughly 770 namesake stores. Skechers closed more than 100 stores last year, and Rite Aid said in April it planned to close 145 of its 2,400-plus stores, including 63 closings that were announced in late-2021.
Per The Daily on Retail’s methodology, openings and closings are specific numbers that were announced, not completed, and could extend over several years. Also, The Daily on Retail’s tally excludes openings and closings that may have occurred in 2022 but were announced in 2021 or prior.
Patrick McKeever covered retail for more than 20 years as a Wall Street analyst before launching The Daily on Retail in 2019.