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What retail apocalypse? These 10 brands are proving physical stores still matter in 2022

Raising Cane’s Chicken Fingers, Dutch Bros. Coffee, and Warby Parker are among the companies that are enjoying strong foot traffic, says Placer.ai.

What retail apocalypse? These 10 brands are proving physical stores still matter in 2022
[Source Images: Andrii Sedykh/iStock]

We could write essays about the beating that retail has suffered over the past decade (see: COVID-era bankruptcies, supply-chain throttling, the pre-pandemic mall-pocalypse), but not today! Right now, we’re here to focus on the positives—and lucky for us, there are plenty. For example, take this list of top 10 retail brands to watch in 2022, from Placer Labs, an analytics firm that tracks customer foot traffic for retailers, hospitality groups, and real estate companies:

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  • Raising Cane’s Chicken Fingers
  • Dutch Bros. Coffee
  • Gopuff
  • Blink Fitness
  • Warby Parker
  • Allbirds
  • Arhaus
  • pOpshelf
  • Burlington
  • Sephora inside Kohl’s

The list highlights innovative brands that are also currently growing their retail footprints. But that doesn’t necessarily mean just physical space: As a rundown of the list shows, brick-and-mortar expansion goes foot-in-hand with promising economics and rising business prominence.

Nearly half of the companies on the list IPO-ed just last year, to varying degrees of success: Dutch Bros. Coffee, Warby Parker, Allbirds, and Arhaus. Those are listed in order of earliest debut, which is also almost the same list in order of descending stock market performance. Dutch Bros., an Oregon-born, cult-favorite Starbucks rival, has gained an impressive 34% on the New York Stock Exchange since it rang the bell in September. (Since we’re focusing on the positives here, we’ll note only in passing that Warby Parker, Allbirds, and the artisan home-furnishings store Arhaus have lost 35%, 59%, and 33%, respectively, in their markets.)

Placer is particularly excited about Dutch Bros.’s status as the third-largest coffee chain in the country (behind Starbucks and Dunkin’)—its per-store sales numbers top those of both the bigger chains, and its foot traffic increased 50% despite the pandemic. It also commends Dutch Bros.’s move to open more company-owned locations rather than franchises, which advantages it from both capital and brand integrity standpoints. That’s the same tack taken by Raising Cane’s Chicken Fingers (also on the list), which is planning to grow its crop of stores by roughly 15% this year. Cane’s has already sped ahead of the curve by installing multi-lane drive-throughs at some locations, which is expected to become industry standard in the coming years.

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Two more of the companies are gearing up for IPOs in 2022, according to media reports: Gopuff and Blink Fitness (through its parent company, Equinox). Gopuff, a digital, on-demand snack-and-drink delivery startup, saw a sales boom during the pandemic shutdowns, and is expected to be one of the biggest flotations this year. Meanwhile Blink, the Equinox gym’s more humble sibling, will likely ride the wave of its parent’s rumored SPAC merger.

The list also includes several legacy companies that are reinventing themselves in various ways: Burlington, which is downsizing its signature bargain warehouses; Kohl’s, which is opening Sephora ministores; and Dollar General, which has created a new format called pOpshelf, targeting wealthy, suburban, millennial shoppers.

Given Placer’s focus on physical spaces, it’s natural that the list honors Warby Parker and Allbirds, a couple of once-proudly DTC companies that jumped to brick-and-mortar. (Even Gopuff launched retail stores featuring digital kiosks and instant pickup.) However, it’s also worth noting that there are many innovations happening in retail that don’t involve mapping more locations—like smart shopping carts, touchless cashiers, and livestreaming sales events.

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For Placer’s full list, click here.

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