Information by distribution channel

Retail Channel Monthly $ Update – September Final & October Advance

In May 2020, the Retail market began its recovery after hitting bottom in April. The road back has been long and complex and Consumer spending behavior continues to evolve. We have not beaten the virus yet so we will continue to track the ongoing recovery of the retail marketplace with data from two reports provided by the U.S. Census Bureau.

The Reports are the Monthly Retail Sales Report and the Advance Retail Sales Report. Both are derived from sales data gathered from retailers across the U.S. and are published monthly at the same time. The Advance Report has a smaller sample size so it can be published quickly – about 2 weeks after month end. The Monthly Final Report includes data from all respondents, so it takes longer to compile the data – about 6 weeks. Although the sample size for the Advance report is smaller, the results over the years have proven it to be statistically accurate with the final monthly reports. The biggest difference is that the full sample in the Final report allows us to “drill” a little deeper into the retail channels.

We will begin with the Final Retail Report for September and then move to the Advance Report for October. Remember, the retail impact of the pandemic began in March 2020, peaked in April, then recovery started in May. We will compare 2021 to both 2020 and 2019 to document the progress that the retail market has made towards a full recovery.

Both reports include the following:

  • Total Retail, Restaurants, Auto, Gas Stations and Relevant Retail (removing Restaurants, Auto and Gas)
  • Individual Channel Data – This will be more detailed in the “Final” reports and we fill focus on Pet Relevant Channels

The information will be presented in detailed charts to facilitate visual comparison between groups/channels of:

  • Current Month change – % & $ vs previous month
  • Current Month change – % & $ vs same month in 2020 and 2019
  • Current YTD change – % & $ vs 2020 and 2019
  • Monthly and Year To Date $ will also be shown for each group/channel

First, the September Final. Retail hit bottom in April 2020 but began recovery, hitting record $ in December. $ fell in January & February but set a new $ record in March. In April $ fell but rebounded in May to another record high. Sales have slowly declined through September. Here are the major retail groups. (All $ are Actual, Not Seasonally Adjusted)

The final total is $1.7B more than the Advance report projected a month ago. All groups but Relevant Retail were up slightly. The specifics were: Relevant Retail: -$0.3B; Gas Stations: +$1.0B; Auto: +$0.8B: Restaurants: +$0.3B. Sales vs August were down in all groups. As you recall, Total Retail $ales broke $600B for the 1st time in December. Although September $ were slightly below December, they were still the 8th highest of all time. Auto continues to have the strongest recovery with an annual YTD growth rate since 2019 of +11.8%. A spending dip in September is the “norm” in U.S. Retail. It is more important that for the 4th consecutive month, all groups were positive in all other measurements.

Now, let’s see how some Key Pet Relevant channels were doing in September.

  • Overall – 10 of 11 channels were down vs August but all were up vs September 2020 and September 2019. In YTD $, all were up vs 2020 and 10 vs 2019. September was the 9th biggest month in history for Relevant Retail.
  • Building Material Stores – Their amazing lift may finally be slowing. The surge came as a result of pandemic spending patterns developed in 2020. Consumers began focusing on their homes. Their Spring lift has slowed in 2021 but Building and Farm stores are still going strong. Sporting Goods stores have a similar spending pattern. Sales took off in May 2020, hit a record peak in December and continued strong into 2021, peaking in March. $ have slowed with a big drop in September, but YTD they are +47.7% vs 2019, an Annual Growth Rate of 21.5%!
  • Food & Drug – Supermarkets were +$77.7B in 2020. $ are down vs Aug. but YTD are on par with the 2020 binge. They are up 19.5% vs Sept. 2019 and 14.9% vs YTD 2019. Drug Stores were +$17B (+5.7%) for 2020. They had a record March. Sales have been stable since then, but all other measurements are positive and YTD $ are +7.6%.
  • General Merchandise Stores – $ in all channels fell in Jan & Feb then spiked in March. Monthly sales by channel have been slightly up or down since then but GM has been strong, +15% YTD. $ Stores & Clubs/SuperCtrs are leading the way with a combined annual growth rate of +8.8%. These channels promote value. Their success reinforces its importance to consumers. Disc. Dept. Strs $ fell 11.5%, but that’s much better than -19% in 2019.
  • Office, Gift & Souvenir Stores– $ fell from August but were +22.3% vs September 2020. The pandemic hit them hard. They are still down YTD vs 2019. Recovery is still a long way off, but their situation is improving.
  • Internet/Mail Order – Even their $ were down vs August but the pandemic continues to foster this channel’s growth. In September of 2019, their YTD growth was +14.1%. Now, their avg growth rate is +19.6% – up 39.0%
  • A/O Miscellaneous – This is a group of small to midsized specialty retailers – chains and independents. It includes Florists, Art Stores and Pet Stores (22>24% of total $). Pet Stores were usually essential, but most stores were not. In May 2020 they began their recovery. Their 2020 total sales were up +11.6%. September was their 3rd biggest month, and they had the only increase from August. YTD $ are +27.4% vs 2020 and +40.5% vs 2019.

Relevant Retail began recovery in May and set a $ record in December. $ fell in Jan & Feb, turned up again in March and began a monthly up/down rollercoaster. September $ are down but all but 1 channel are ahead of all 2020 & 2019 $. The key drivers are the Internet, SuperCtrs/Clubs/$ Stores and Hdwe/Farm. Now, the Advance numbers for October.

2020 was a memorable year for both its traumas and triumphs. In April & May we experienced the 2 biggest retail spending drops in history, but the problems actually began in March. Retail sales began to recover in June and in October, YTD Total Retail turned positive for the 1st time since February. In December, Total Retail broke the $600B barrier – a historic first. Sales fell from their December peak in both January and February but still set monthly sales records. Then they took off again in March, setting a new monthly sales record of $633B. April sales were down slightly but they took off again in May to set yet another spending record, $643.1B. June>Sept $ fell but then came back in October with the 3rd biggest $ month in history. All major groups were up from September and were positive in all other measurements for the 5th straight month. Some other areas of the economy are still suffering, some spending behavior has changed, and inflation has become a bigger factor in increases. However, consumers continue to spend “big bucks”, especially in Relevant Retail, and the overall Retail marketplace continues its strong recovery.

Total Retail – In March, Total Retail was $633.1B, a new record. In April, $ales dipped to $625.5B but were still $218.3B more than April 2020 – a record increase, more than double the size of last year’s record drop. In May, sales set another new record, $643.1B. June>Sept sales dipped slightly but stayed above $600B. October brought a resurgence with monthly sales of $634.6B, the 3rd biggest month in history. Moreover, the current YTD average annual sales growth rate since 2019 is 9.3%, the highest ever in records going back to 1992. INFLATION NOTE: Retail $ were +14.7% vs October 2020. Inflation was +6.2% so up to 42% of the lift came just from higher prices. The “Real” increase was +8.5%. In October 2019 (pre-pandemic) Retail $ were +3.7% over 2018. Inflation was 1.8%, 48% of the lift. This produced a “Real” increase of +1.9%. Long term, strong inflation can slow spending but right now, Retail is outperforming pre-COVID 2019.

Restaurants – This group has no negative measurements vs 2020 or 2019 for 5 straight months. February 2020 YTD sales were up 8.1% vs 2019. The Pandemic changed that. Restaurants started to close or cease in person dining in March and sales fell -$33.3B (-52.5%) compared to March 2019. Sales bottomed out in April at $30.1B, the lowest April sales since 2003. Sales started to slowly increase in May but never reached a level higher than 88% compared to the previous year. 2021 started off slowly. Through February, YTD sales were down -16.7% from pre-pandemic 2020 and -10.0% from 2019. In March sales took off and grew steadily from April through July. Sales dipped slightly in August/September but came back strong in October. YTD their $ are +30.4% vs 2020 and +5.0% vs 2019. Their recovery is getting stronger.

Auto (Motor Vehicle & Parts Dealers) – Staying home causes your car to be less of a focus in your life. Sales began to fall in March and hit bottom in April. Auto Dealers began combating this “stay at home” attitude with fantastic deals and a lot of advertising. It worked. They finished 2020 up 1% vs 2019 and have returned to a strong positive pattern in 2021. The “attitude” grew amazingly positive in March and has slowed only slightly from April>October as sales exceeded $123B in all 8 months – the 8 biggest months in history. To show the effectiveness of their campaign, just look at the data. This group has exceeded $110B in monthly sales only 17 times in history. 14 of those occurred after the onset of the pandemic.  YTD Avg Annual Growth Since 2019 = +11.6% – the best performance of any big group.

Gas Stations – Gas Station $ales have been a mixed bag. If you drive less, you visit the gas station less often. Sales turned down in March 2020 and reached their low point in April. They moved up but generally stayed about 15% below 2019 levels for the rest of 2020. In February they were still behind 2020 in monthly and YTD $ but ahead of 2019 in both measurements. In March, sales skyrocketed and continued to grow to to a record $53.5B in July. They fell in Aug/Sept but turned up in October. They have been positive in all measurements vs 2019 & 2020 since March. Their comeback continues but inflation comes to the forefront in this channel. Gas prices can be pretty volatile. They dipped in the first 2 months of the pandemic but then returned to more normal levels for the balance of 2020. They began strongly inflating in 2021. In fact, October 2021 prices were 49.6% above 2020. That means that the 45.3% year over year $ lift in October was actually a decrease in the amount of gas sold. YTD Annual Growth Rate Since 2019 = +6.0%

Relevant Retail – Less Auto, Gas and Restaurants – This is what we consider the “core” of U.S. retail and has traditionally accounted for about 60% of Total Retail Spending. In looking at the individual channels in this group, we have seen a variety of results due to many factors, like non-essential closures, binge buying, online shopping and a consumer focus on “home”. However, overall, April 2020 was the only month in which spending in this group was down vs 2019. Monthly $ales exceeded $400B for the first time ever in December. They finished 2020 up $260B, +7.1%. Their performance was the only reason that Total Retail was able to finish 2020 with positive numbers, +0.5%. Sales fell in January and February 2021 but set monthly records. In March they turned sharply up and then began an up/down $ roller coaster ride. In October they reached the 2nd highest amount on record. We should also note that while December 2020 is still #1, March>October are 8 of the 10 highest $ months of all time. Relevant Retail has exceeded $361B in monthly sales 10 times in history. 9 of those have occurred since the onset of the pandemic. It is also very important that the Relevant Retail group has posted positive numbers versus last year and YTD for every month since April 2020 and their average YTD growth rate since 2019 is +10.4%. The recovery has become widespread as all channels have been positive in all measurements vs both 2020 and 2019 for 3 consecutive months. However, the primary drivers throughout the pandemic were and continue to be Nonstore, Grocery, SuperCenters/Clubs/$ Stores plus an exceptionally long 2020 “spring lift” from Hardware/Farm and Sporting Goods.

Now let’s look at what is happening in the individual retail channels to see where the $ are coming from. October $ were up 5.0% from September and an increase occurred in all but one channel. Remember, the groups in the chart are less defined than in the Final Monthly reports and we will look across the whole market, not just pet relevant outlets.

Sales in 12 of 13 channels were up vs September but all were up vs October 2020, vs October 2019 and YTD vs 2020 and 2019. (Relevant Retail YTD Avg Annual Growth Rate since 2019 = +10.4%)

After hitting bottom in April 2020, Relevant Retail has now beaten the previous year’s $ for 18 consecutive months. The group set an all-time record of $407B in December and finished 2020 +$260B vs 2019. 2021 started strong, with record sales in every month. March > Oct. were 8 of the 10 biggest of all time. Essential channels are still the primary drivers:

  • Nonstore Retailers – The biggest driver. Online shopping continues to grow in # of households and in $.
  • Food & Beverage – Grocery– Restaurant $ are improving but consumers continue to eat & drink more at home.
  • Bldg Materials/Garden/Farm– Their “Spring” lift may be ending but consumers are still focused on their homes.
  • SuperCtrs/Club/Value/$ Strs – They kept the GM channel strongly positive. Value is still a big consumer priority.

Regarding the Individual Large Channels (Includes YTD Avg Annual Growth Rate since 2019)

General Merchandise Stores – Sales increased for all channels in October and all other numbers were also positive. Even Department Stores $ are growing increasingly positive. After dipping to +7.5% in February, the growth rate by Club/SuperCtr/$ stores held at about 8.8% and then moved up in October. These stores are still the key to this channel.

  • YTD Avg Annual Growth: All GM = +7.9%; Dept Stores = +1.9%; Club/SuprCtr/$ = +9.1%

Food and Beverage, plus Health & Personal Care Stores – Sales in Grocery were down in March>May from 2020 – No surprise, as these were 2020 binge months. In June>Oct they beat 2020 $. The Health, Personal Care group finished 2020 at +1.8% but 2021 has been better. October was up 1.6% from September but YTD they are +10% vs both 2020 & 2019.

  • YTD Avg Annual Growth: Grocery = +7.3%; Health/Drug Stores = +5.2%

Clothing and Accessories; Electronic & Appliances; Home Furnishings – March > Oct have been spectacular for all these channels. The increase in Clothing vs October 2020 was less than usual but was still +22.7%. Only Furniture was down vs September, but all groups remained positive in all measurements vs 2020 or 2019 for the 8th consecutive month.

  • YTD Avg Annual Growth: Clothing = +5.4%; Electronic/Appliance = +3.7%; Furniture = +10.0%

Building Material, Farm & Garden & Hardware – Their “Spring” lift which began in 2020 has slowed but they have greatly benefited from consumers focusing on their home needs. They finished 2020 +53B (+13.8%). Sales took off in March, set a record in April, but has since slowed and stabilized. They are still +13.6% YTD. Avg Annual Growth = +13.5%

Sporting Goods, Hobby and Book Stores – Book & Hobby stores are open but Sporting Goods stores have driven the lift in this group. Consumers turned their attention to personal recreation and sales in Sporting Goods outlets took off. The group ended 2020 +5.5% vs 2019. The growth accelerated in 2021. Sales grew 1% vs September, but it was still good enough for the 10th consecutive monthly record. October YTD they are +31.0% vs 2020. Avg Annual Growth = +17.1%

All Miscellaneous Stores – Pet Stores were deemed essential but most other stores were not, so closures hit this group particularly hard. Sales hit bottom at -$3.8B in April then began to rebound. They finished with a strong December and ended 2020 -$1.0B, -0.7%. In March 2021 sales took off and reached the $14+B level in May and they have stayed there. Sales grew 8.0% to $15.7B in October, which set a new all time $ record and broke the $15B barrier. YTD sales are now +28.1% vs 2020 +27.1% vs 2019. Their recovery has become very real. YTD Avg Annual Growth = +12.7% (4th Best)

NonStore Retailers – 90% of the volume of this group comes from Internet/Mail Order/TV. The pandemic accelerated the movement to online retail. In February 2020 NonStore $ were +8.6% YTD. In December monthly sales exceeded $100B for the 1st time. They ended 2020 at +21.4%, +$162.9B. This was 63% of the total $ increase for Relevant Retail Channels. Their 2020 performance far exceeded their 12.9% increase in 2019 and every month in 2021 has produced record $. October was +6.1% vs September and +7.4% vs 2020. YTD $ are +14.2%. YTD Avg Annual Growth = +17.6%

Note: Almost without exception, online sales by brick ‘n mortar retailers are recorded with their regular store sales.

Recap – 2020 was quite a year. April & May had the 2 biggest year over year sales decreases in history while December sales broke $600B for the first time. 2021 may become even more memorable. March>October are 8 of the 9 biggest $ales months in history with the 8 largest year over year monthly sales increases ever. The total increase was +$945B, which is over 5 times the -$174B decrease from March>May 2020 which caused so much concern. At yearend 2020, Restaurants and Gas Stations were still struggling but Auto had largely recovered. Relevant retail had segments that also struggled but they still led the way for Total Spending to finish the year +0.5% vs 2019. 2021 has been even better. In June > October all major groups are positive vs both 2020 and 2019. The recovery has also become real for virtually all channels and monthly sales continue to set records. In fact, the current annual growth rates of +9.3% for Total retail and +10.4% for Relevant Retail are the best in history. Retail has recovered and continues to grow but we’ll keep checking.

Retail Channel Monthly $ Update – August Final & September Advance

In May 2020, the Retail market began its recovery after hitting bottom in April. The road back has been long and complex and Consumer spending behavior continues to evolve. We have not beaten the virus yet so we will continue to track the ongoing recovery of the retail marketplace with data from two reports provided by the U.S. Census Bureau.

The Reports are the Monthly Retail Sales Report and the Advance Retail Sales Report. Both are derived from sales data gathered from retailers across the U.S. and are published monthly at the same time. The Advance Report has a smaller sample size so it can be published quickly – about 2 weeks after month end. The Monthly Final Report includes data from all respondents, so it takes longer to compile the data – about 6 weeks. Although the sample size for the Advance report is smaller, the results over the years have proven it to be statistically accurate with the final monthly reports. The biggest difference is that the full sample in the Final report allows us to “drill” a little deeper into the retail channels.

We will begin with the Final Retail Report for August and then move to the Advance Report for September. Remember, the retail impact of the pandemic began in March 2020, peaked in April, then recovery started in May. We will compare 2021 to both 2020 and 2019 to document the progress that the retail market has made towards a full recovery.

Both reports include the following:

  • Total Retail, Restaurants, Auto, Gas Stations and Relevant Retail (removing Restaurants, Auto and Gas)
  • Individual Channel Data – This will be more detailed in the “Final” reports and we fill focus on Pet Relevant Channels

The information will be presented in detailed charts to facilitate visual comparison between groups/channels of:

  • Current Month change – % & $ vs previous month
  • Current Month change – % & $ vs same month in 2020 and 2019
  • Current YTD change – % & $ vs 2020 and 2019
  • Monthly and Year To Date $ will also be shown for each group/channel

First, the August Final. Retail hit bottom in April 2020 but began recovery, hitting record $ in December. $ fell in January & February but set a new all time $ record in March. In April $ fell but they rebounded in May to another record high. Sales have slowly declined through August. Here are the major retail groups. (All $ are Actual, Not Seasonally Adjusted)

The final total is $2.0B more than the Advance report projected a month ago. All groups were up slightly. The specifics were: Relevant Retail: +$0.7B; Gas Stations: +$0.6B; Auto: +$0.4B: Restaurants: +$0.3B. Sales vs July were down in all but Relevant Retail. Total Retail $ were the 8th highest month of all time. Total $ales broke $600B for the 1st time in December and has now done it 8 times. Auto still has the strongest recovery and is in fact prospering – annual YTD growth rate since 2019 is +11.9%. There were spending dips vs the previous month but for the third consecutive month, all groups were positive in all other measurements.

Now, let’s see how some Key Pet Relevant channels were doing in August.

  • Overall– 5 of 11 channels were down vs July but all were up vs August 2020 and 10 vs August 2019. In YTD $, all were up vs 2020 and 10 vs 2019. August was the 4th biggest month in history for Relevant Retail.
  • Building Material Stores – Their amazing lift may finally be slowing. The surge came as a result of pandemic spending patterns developed in 2020. Consumers began focusing on their homes. Their Spring lift has slowed in 2021 but Building and Farm stores are still going strong. Sporting Goods stores have a similar spending pattern. Sales took off in May 2020, hit a record peak in December and continued strong into 2021, peaking in March. After slowing in July, the $ increased in August. YTD they are +47.4% vs 2019, an Annual Growth Rate of 21.4%!
  • Food & Drug – Supermarkets were +$77.7B in 2020. $ are down vs July but YTD are on par with the 2020 binge. They are up 14% vs August 2019 and 14.3% vs YTD 2019. Drug Stores were +$17B (+5.7%) for 2020. They had a record March. Sales have been stable since then, but all other measurements are positive and YTD $ are +7.6%.
  • General Merchandise Stores – $ in all channels fell in Jan & Feb then spiked in March. Monthly sales by channel have been slightly up or down since then but GM has been strong, +14% YTD. $ Stores & Clubs/SuperCtrs are leading the way with a combined growth rate of +8.5%. These channels promote value. Their success reinforces its importance to consumers. Also, Discount Dept Stores are again back in the game.
  • Office, Gift & Souvenir Stores– $ increased slightly from July and were +20.5% vs August 2020. The pandemic hit them hard. They are still down vs 2019 – monthly and YTD. Recovery is a long way off, but things are improving.
  • Internet/Mail Order – Their $ were up vs July as the pandemic continues to foster this channel’s growth. In August of 2019, their YTD growth was +13.9%. Now, their avg growth rate is +19.6% – a 41.0% increase.
  • A/O Miscellaneous – This is a group of small to midsized specialty retailers – chains and independents. It includes Florists, Art Stores and Pet Stores (22>24% of total $). Pet Stores were usually essential, but most stores were not. In May 2020 they began their recovery. Their 2020 total sales were up +11.6%. Their August $ were down slightly from July but still #4 of all time. YTD sales are +27.5% vs 2020 and +39.3% vs 2019. Very strong!

Relevant Retail began recovery in May and reached a record level in December. $ fell in Jan & Feb, turned up again in March and began a monthly up/down rollercoaster. August $ are up and all channels but 1 are ahead of 2019 & 2020. The key drivers are the Internet, SuperCtrs/Clubs/$ Stores and Hdwe/Farm. Now, the Advance numbers for September.

2020 was a memorable year for both its traumas and triumphs. In April & May we experienced the 2 biggest retail spending drops in history, but the problems actually began in March. Retail sales began to recover in June and in October, YTD Total Retail turned positive for the 1st time since February. In December, Total Retail broke the $600B barrier – a historic first. Sales fell from their December peak in both January and February but still set monthly sales records. Then they took off again in March, setting a new monthly sales record of $633B. April sales were down slightly but they took off again in May to set yet another spending record, $643.1B. June>Sept $ fell but September was still the 8th biggest $ month in history. All major groups were down from August, but were positive in all other measurements for the fourth straight month. Some other areas of the economy are still suffering, some spending behavior has changed, and inflation has become a bigger factor in some increases. However, consumers continue to spend “big bucks”, especially in Relevant Retail, and the overall Retail marketplace continues its strong recovery.

Total Retail – In March, Total Retail hit $633.1B, a record for the most spending in any month in any year. In April, $ales dipped to $625.5B but were still $218.3B more than April 2020 – a record increase that was more than double the size of last year’s record drop. In May, sales set another new record, $643.1B. June>Sept sales dipped slightly and September was the 3rd smallest month this year, which is normal. However, at $606.8B, it was still the 8th biggest month in history. Moreover, the current YTD average annual sales growth rate since 2019 is 9.2%, the highest ever in records going back to 1992. Total Retail has not just recovered. It is stronger than ever.

Restaurants – This group has no negative measurements vs 2020 or 2019 for 4 straight months. Last February YTD sales were up 8.1% vs 2019. The Pandemic changed that. Restaurants started to close or cease in person dining in March and sales fell -$33.3B (-52.5%) compared to March 2019. Sales bottomed out in April at $30.1B, the lowest April sales since 2003. Sales started to slowly increase in May but never reached a level higher than 88% compared to the previous year. 2021 started off slowly. Through February, YTD sales were down -16.7% from pre-pandemic 2020 and -10.0% from 2019. In March sales took off and grew steadily from April Through July. Sales dipped slightly in August/September but were still strong vs 2019 & 2020. YTD their $ are plus 30.5% vs 2020 and +4.1% vs 2019. Their recovery is getting stronger.

Auto (Motor Vehicle & Parts Dealers) – Staying home causes your car to be less of a focus in your life. Sales began to fall in March and hit bottom in April. Auto Dealers began combating this “stay at home” attitude with fantastic deals and a lot of advertising. It worked. They finished 2020 up 1% vs 2019 and have returned to a strong positive pattern in 2021. The “attitude” grew amazingly positive in March and slowed only slightly in April>September as sales exceeded $122B in all 7 months – the 7 biggest months in history. To show how well consumers responded to their campaign you just need to look at the data. This group has exceeded $110B in monthly sales only 16 times in history. 13 of those occurred after the onset of the pandemic.  YTD Avg Annual Growth Since 2019 = +11.8% – the best performance of any big group.

Gas Stations – Gas Station $ales have been a mixed bag. If you drive less, you visit the gas station less often. Sales turned down in March 2020 and reached their low point in April. They moved up but generally stayed about 15% below 2019 levels for the rest of 2020. In February they were still behind 2020 in monthly and YTD $ but ahead of 2019 in both measurements. In March, sales skyrocketed and continued to grow to to a record $53.5B in July. They fell in Aug/Sept but are still +38% from 2020. They have been positive in all measurements vs 2019 & 2020 since March. Their comeback continues but there is another factor that must be considered – inflation. Gas prices can be pretty volatile. They dipped in the first 2 months of the pandemic but then returned to more normal levels for the balance of 2020. They began strongly inflating in 2021. In fact, September 2021 prices were 42.1% above 2020. That means that the 38.3% year over year $ lift in September was actually a decrease in the amount of gas sold. YTD Annual Growth Rate Since 2019 = +5.2%

Relevant Retail – Less Auto, Gas and Restaurants – This is what we consider the “core” of U.S. retail and has traditionally accounted for about 60% of Total Retail Spending. When you look at the individual channels in this group, you see a variety of results due to many factors – non-essential closures, binge buying, online shopping and a consumer focus on “home”. However, overall, April 2020 was the only month in which spending in this group was down vs 2019. Monthly $ales exceeded $400B for the first time ever in December ($407B). They finished 2020 up $260B, +7.1%. Their performance was the only reason that Total Retail was able to finish 2020 with positive numbers, +0.5%. Sales fell in January and February but set monthly records. In March they turned sharply up and then down in April. They bounced back in May then fell in June & July. In August sales rose again but fell in September. However, we should note that while December 2020 is still #1, March > September are 7 of the 9 highest $ months of all time. The Relevant Retail Market has exceeded $361B in monthly sales 9 tImes in history. 7 of those have occurred since the onset of the pandemic. It is also very important that the Relevant Retail group has posted positive numbers versus last year and YTD for every month since April 2020 and their average YTD growth rate since 2019 now stands at +10.4%. The recovery has become widespread as all channels have been positive in all measurements vs both 2020 and 2019 for 2 consecutive months. However, the primary drivers throughout the pandemic were and continue to be Nonstore, Grocery, SuperCenters/Clubs/$ Stores plus an exceptionally long 2020 “spring lift” from Hardware/Farm and Sporting Goods.

Now let’s look at what is happening in the individual retail channels to see where the $ are coming from. September $ were down 3.6% from August and the drop was widespread. However, a dip in September $ is normal and at -3.6% it was less than half of the -8% drop in 2019. The groups in the chart are less defined than in the Final Monthly reports and we will look across the whole market, not just pet relevant outlets.

Sales in 12 of 13 channels were down vs August but all were up vs September 2020, vs September 2019 and YTD vs 2020 and 2019. (Relevant Retail YTD Avg Annual Growth Rate since 2019 = +10.4%)

After hitting bottom in April 2020, Relevant Retail has now beaten the previous year’s $ for 17 consecutive months. The group set an all-time record of $407B in December and finished 2020 +$260B vs 2019. 2021 started strong, with record sales in every month. March > Sept. were 7 of the 9 biggest of all time. Essential channels are still the primary drivers:

  • Nonstore Retailers – The biggest driver. Online shopping continues to grow in # of households and in $.
  • Food & Beverage – Grocery– Restaurant $ are improving but consumers continue to eat & drink more at home.
  • Bldg Materials/Garden/Farm– Their “Spring” lift may be ending but consumers are still focused on their homes.
  • SuperCtrs/Club/Value/$ Strs – They kept the GM channel strongly positive. Value is still a big consumer priority.

Regarding the Individual Large Channels (Includes YTD Avg Annual Growth Rate since 2019)

General Merchandise Stores – Sales fell for all channels in September, but all other numbers were positive. Even Department Stores $ are growing increasingly positive. After dipping to +7.5% in February, the growth rate by Club/SuperCtr/$ stores has remained near the current 8.8%. These stores are still the key to this channel.

  • YTD Avg Annual Growth: All GM = +7.4%; Dept Stores = +1.2%; Club/SuprCtr/$ = +8.8%

Food and Beverage, plus Health & Personal Care Stores – Sales in Grocery were down in March>May from 2020 – No surprise, as these were 2020 binge months. In June>Sept they beat 2020 $. The Health, Personal Care group finished 2020 at +1.8% but 2021 has been better. September was down from August but YTD they are +10% vs 2020 and 2019.

  • YTD Avg Annual Growth: Grocery = +7.2%; Health/Drug Stores = +5.2%

Clothing and Accessories; Electronic & Appliances; Home Furnishings – March > Sept have been spectacular for all these channels. The increase in Clothing vs September 2020 was less than usual but was still +22.5%. Only Furniture was up vs August, but all remained positive in all measurements vs 2020 or 2019 for the 7th consecutive month.

  • YTD Avg Annual Growth: Clothing = +5.1%; Electronic/Appliance = +3.4%; Furniture = +10.3%

Building Material, Farm & Garden & Hardware – Their “Spring” lift which began in 2020 may be slowing. They have greatly benefited from consumers focusing on their home needs. They finished 2020 +53B (+13.8%). Sales took off in March, set a record in April then trended down May > Sept. They are still +14.4% YTD. Avg Annual Growth = +13.8%

Sporting Goods, Hobby and Book Stores – Book & Hobby stores are open but Sporting Goods stores have driven the lift in this group. Consumers turned their attention to personal recreation and sales in Sporting Goods outlets took off. The group ended 2020 +5.5% vs 2019. The growth accelerated in 2021. Even though $ fell 10% in September, it was still good enough for the 9th consecutive monthly record. September YTD they are +32.9% vs 2020. Avg Annual Growth = +17.1%

All Miscellaneous Stores – Pet Stores were deemed essential but most other stores were not, so closures hit this group particularly hard. Sales hit bottom at -$3.8B in April then began to rebound. They finished with a strong December and ended 2020 -$1.0B, -0.7%. In March 2021 sales took off and reached the $14+B level in May and they have stayed there. Sales fell -2.9% in September, but their YTD sales are now 27.8% above 2020 and 26.0% more than 2019. Their recovery has become very real. YTD Avg Annual Growth = +12.3% (4th Best)

NonStore Retailers – 90% of the volume of this group comes from Internet/Mail Order/TV. The pandemic accelerated the movement to online retail. In February 2020 NonStore $ were +8.6% YTD. In December monthly sales exceeded $100B for the 1st time. They ended 2020 at +21.4%, +$162.9B. This was 63% of the total $ increase for Relevant Retail Channels. Their 2020 performance far exceeded their 12.9% increase in 2019 and every month in 2021 has produced record $. September was -2.5% vs August but +10.6% vs 2020. YTD $ are +15.2%. YTD Avg Annual Growth = +17.9%

Note: Almost without exception, online sales by brick ‘n mortar retailers are recorded with their regular store sales.

Recap – 2020 was quite a year. April & May had the 2 biggest year over year sales decreases in history while December sales broke $600B for the first time. 2021 may become even more memorable. March>September are 7 of the 8 biggest $ales months in history with the 7 largest year over year monthly sales increases ever. The total increase was +$861B, which is 5 times the -$174B decrease from March>May 2020 which caused so much concern. At yearend 2020, Restaurants and Gas Stations were still struggling but Auto had largely recovered. Relevant retail had segments that also struggled but they still led the way for Total Spending to finish the year +0.5% vs 2019. 2021 has been even better. In June > September all major groups are positive vs both 2020 and 2019. The recovery has also become real for virtually all channels and monthly sales continue to set records. In fact, the current annual growth rates of +9.2% for Total retail and +10.4% for Relevant Retail are the highest in history. Retail has recovered but we’ll keep checking.

Retail Channel Monthly $ Update – July Final & August Advance

In May 2020, the Retail market began its recovery after hitting bottom in April. The road back has been long and complex and Consumer spending behavior continues to evolve. Now, the virus is resurging so we will continue to track the impact on the recovery of the retail marketplace with data from two reports provided by the U.S. Census Bureau.

The Reports are the Monthly Retail Sales Report and the Advance Retail Sales Report. Both are derived from sales data gathered from retailers across the U.S. and are published monthly at the same time. The Advance Report has a smaller sample size so it can be published quickly – about 2 weeks after month end. The Monthly Final Report includes data from all respondents, so it takes longer to compile the data – about 6 weeks. Although the sample size for the Advance report is smaller, the results over the years have proven it to be statistically accurate with the final monthly reports. The biggest difference is that the full sample in the Final report allows us to “drill” a little deeper into the retail channels.

We will begin with the Final Retail Report for July and then move to the Advance Retail Report for August. Remember, the retail impact of the pandemic began in March 2020, peaked in April, then recovery started in May. We will compare 2021 to both 2020 and 2019 to document the progress that the retail market has made towards a full recovery.

Both reports include the following:

  • Total Retail, Restaurants, Auto, Gas Stations and Relevant Retail (removing Restaurants, Auto and Gas)
  • Individual Channel Data – This will be more detailed in the “Final” reports and we fill focus on Pet Relevant Channels

The information will be presented in detailed charts to facilitate visual comparison between groups/channels of:

  • Current Month change – % & $ vs previous month
  • Current Month change – % & $ vs same month in 2020 and 2019
  • Current YTD change – % & $ vs 2020 and 2019
  • Monthly and Year To Date $ will also be shown for each group/channel

First, the July Final. Retail hit bottom in April 2020 but began recovery, hitting record $ in December. $ fell in January & February but they took off in March, setting a new all time $ record. In April $ fell but they rebounded in May to another record high. June & July saw more dips. Here are the major retail groups. (All Data is Actual, Not Seasonally Adjusted)

The final total is $3.3B less than the Advance report projected a month ago. All groups were down slightly. The specifics were: Relevant Retail: -$2.1B; Gas Stations: -$0.2B; Restaurants: -$0.4B; Auto: -$0.5B. Sales vs June were down in all but Gas Stations and Restaurants. Total Retail $ were the 3rd highest month of all time. Total $ales broke $600B for the 1st time in December and has now done it 7 times. Auto still has the strongest recovery and is in fact prospering – annual YTD growth rate since 2019 is +12.8%. Except for the spending dips vs June, for the second consecutive month all groups, including Restaurants, were positive in all other measurements.

Now, let’s see how some Key Pet Relevant channels were doing in July.

  • Overall– 7 of 11 channels were down vs June but all were up vs July 2020 and 10 vs July 2019. In YTD $, all were up vs 2020 and 10 vs 2019. July was the 6th biggest month in history for Relevant Retail.
  • Building Material Stores – Their amazing lift may finally be slowing. The surge came as a result of pandemic spending patterns developed in 2020. Consumers began focusing on their homes. Their Spring lift has slowed in 2021 but Building and Farm stores are still going strong. Sporting Goods stores have a similar spending pattern. Sales took off in May 2020, hit a record peak in December and continued strong into 2021, peaking in March. July $ fell slightly from June. However, YTD they are +49.6% vs 2019. That’s an Annual Growth Rate of 22.3%!
  • Food & Drug – Supermarkets were +$77.7B in 2020. $ are up vs June but YTD are on par with the 2020 binge. They are still up 15.8% vs July 2019 and 14% vs YTD 2019. Drug Stores were +$17B (+5.7%) for 2020. They had a record March. Sales have fallen since then. However, all other measurements are positive and YTD $ are +7.2%.
  • General Merchandise Stores – $ in all channels fell in Jan & Feb then spiked in March. In April, sales in all but $ stores declined but they bounced back in May. In June sales dipped for again for all. In July $ Stores dipped again but along with Clubs/SuperCtrs they are leading the way with a combined growth rate of +8.6%. These channels promote value. Their success reinforces its importance to consumers. Disc. Dept Strs are also back in the game.
  • Office, Gift & Souvenir Stores– $ increased slightly from June and were +25% vs July 2020. The pandemic hit them hard. They are still down vs 2019 – monthly and YTD. Recovery is a long way off, but things are improving.
  • Internet/Mail Order – Their $ fell slightly in July but the pandemic continues to foster this channel’s growth. In July of 2019, their YTD growth was +14.0%. Now, their avg growth rate is +19.6% – a 40.0% increase.
  • A/O Miscellaneous – This is a group of small to midsized specialty retailers – chains and independents. It includes Florists, Art Stores and Pet Stores (22>24% of total $). Pet Stores were usually essential, but most stores were not. In May 2020 they began their recovery. Their 2020 total sales were up +11.6%. Their July $ were down slightly from June but still #3 of all time. YTD sales are +28.2% vs 2020 and +39.5% vs 2019. Very strong!

Relevant Retail began recovery in May and reached a record level in December. $ fell in Jan & Feb, turned up again in March and began a monthly up/down rollercoaster. July $ are down but virtually all channels are showing growth. The key drivers are the Internet, SuperCtrs/Clubs/$ Stores and Hdwe/Farm. Now, the Advance numbers for August.

2020 was a memorable year for both its traumas and triumphs. In April & May we experienced the 2 biggest retail spending drops in history, but the problems actually began in March. Retail sales began to recover in June and in October, YTD Total Retail turned positive for the 1st time since February. In December, Total Retail broke the $600B barrier – a historic first. Sales fell from their December peak in both January and February but still set monthly sales records. Then they took off again in March, setting a new monthly sales record of $633B. April sales were down slightly but they took off again in May to set yet another spending record, $643.1B. June>August $ fell but August was still the 5th biggest $ month in history. Auto, Gas Stations and Restaurants were down from July, but all the major groups were positive in all other measurements for the third straight month. Some other areas of the economy are still suffering, some spending behavior has changed, and inflation has become a factor in some increases. However, consumers continue to spend “big bucks”, especially in Relevant Retail, and the overall Retail marketplace continues its strong recovery.

Total Retail – In March, Total Retail hit $633.1B, a record for the most spending in any month in any year. In April, $ales dipped to $625.5B but were still $218.3B more than April 2020 – a record increase that was more than double the size of last year’s record drop. In May, sales set another new record, $643.1B. June>August sales dipped slightly but August was $629.1B, the 5th biggest month in history. Moreover, the current YTD average annual sales growth rate since 2019 is 9.0%, the highest ever in records going back to 1992. Total Retail has not just recovered. It is stronger than ever.

Restaurants – This group has no negative measurements vs 2020 or 2019 for 3 straight months. Last February YTD sales were up 8.1% vs 2019. The Pandemic changed that. Restaurants started to close or cease in person dining in March and sales fell -$33.3B (-52.5%) compared to March 2019. Sales bottomed out in April at $30.1, the lowest April sales since 2003. Sales started to slowly increase in May but never reached a level higher than 88% compared to the previous year. 2021 started off slowly. Through February, YTD sales were down -16.7% from pre-pandemic 2020 and -10.0% from 2019. In March sales took off and grew steadily from April Through July. Sales dipped slightly in August but were still strong vs 2019 & 2020. YTD their $ are plus 30.6% vs 2020 and +3.1% vs 2019. Their recovery is getting stronger.

Auto (Motor Vehicle & Parts Dealers)   – Staying home causes your car to be less of a focus in your life. Sales began to fall in March and hit bottom in April. Auto Dealers began combating this “stay at home” attitude with fantastic deals and a lot of advertising. It worked. They finished 2020 up 1% vs 2019 and have returned to a strong positive pattern in 2021. The “attitude” grew amazingly positive in March and slowed only slightly in April>August as sales exceeded $127B in all 6 months – the 6 biggest months in history. To show how well consumers responded to their campaign you just need to look at the data. This group has exceeded $110B in monthly sales only 15 times in history. 12 of those occurred after the onset of the pandemic.  YTD Avg Annual Growth Since 2019 = +11.8% – the best performance of any big group.

Gas Stations – Gas Station $ales have been a mixed bag. If you drive less, you visit the gas station less often. Sales turned down in March 2020 and reached their low point in April. They moved up but generally stayed about 15% below 2019 levels for the rest of 2020. In February they were still behind 2020 in monthly and YTD $ but ahead of 2019 in both measurements. In March, sales skyrocketed and continued to grow in April > July to a record $53.5B. They fell in August but are still +36% from 2020. They have been positive in all measurements vs 2019 & 2020 since March. Their comeback continues but there is another factor that must be considered – inflation. Gas prices can be pretty volatile. They dipped in the first 2 months of the pandemic but then returned to more normal levels for the balance of 2020. They began strongly inflating in 2021. In fact, the August 2021 prices were 42.7% above 2020. That means that the 36.2% year over year $ lift in August was actually a decrease in the amount of gas sold. YTD Annual Avg Growth Rate Since 2019 = +4.5%

Relevant Retail – Less Auto, Gas and Restaurants – This is what we consider the “core” of U.S. retail and has traditionally accounted for about 60% of Total Retail Spending. When you look at the individual channels in this group, you see a variety of results due to many factors – non-essential closures, binge buying, online shopping and a consumer focus on “home”. However, overall, April 2020 was the only month in which spending in this group was down vs 2019. Monthly $ales exceeded $400B for the first time ever in December ($407B). They finished 2020 up $260B, +7.1%. Their performance was the only reason that Total Retail was able to finish 2020 with positive numbers, +0.5%. Sales fell in January and February but set monthly records. In March they turned sharply up and then down in April. They bounced back in May then fell in June & July. In August sales rose again and it was the 5th largest month on record. We should also note that that while December 2020 is still #1, March > August are six of the eight highest $ months of all time. The Relevant Retail Market has exceeded $366B in monthly sales 8 tImes in history. 7 of those have occurred since the onset of the pandemic. It is also very important that the Relevant Retail group has posted positive numbers versus last year and YTD for every month since April 2020 and their average YTD growth rate since 2019 now stands at +10.1%. In August Department Stores “got on board” so all channels are now positive in all measurements vs both 2020 and 2019. However, the primary drivers throughout the pandemic were and continue to be Nonstore, Grocery, SuperCenters/Clubs/$ Stores plus an exceptionally long 2020 “spring lift” from Hardware/Farm and Sporting Goods.

Now let’s look at what is happening in the individual retail channels to see where the $ are coming from. August $ were up slightly from July but none of the increases were “off the charts”. However, it was still the 5th largest month in history for Relevant Retail outlets. The groups are less defined than in the Final Monthly reports and we will look across the whole market, not just pet relevant outlets.

Sales in only 4 of 13 channels were down vs July but all were up vs August 2020, vs August 2019 and YTD vs 2020 and 2019. (Relevant Retail YTD Avg Annual Growth Rate since 2019 = +10.1%)

After hitting bottom in April 2020, Relevant Retail has now beaten the previous year’s $ for 16 consecutive months. The group set an all-time record of $407B in December and finished 2020 +$260B vs 2019. 2021 started strong, with record sales in every month. March > August were 6 of the 8 biggest of all time. Essential channels are still the primary drivers:

  • Nonstore Retailers – The biggest driver. Online shopping continues to grow in # of households and in $.
  • Food & Beverage – Grocery– Restaurant $ are improving but consumers continue to eat & drink more at home.
  • Bldg Materials/Garden/Farm– Their “Spring” lift may be ending but consumers are still focused on their homes.
  • SuperCtrs/Club/Value/$ Strs – They kept the GM channel strongly positive. Value is still a big consumer priority.

Regarding the Individual Large Channels (Includes YTD Avg Annual Growth Rate since 2019)

General Merchandise Stores – Sales rose in August and all other numbers are positive. Even Department Stores $ are now finally all positive. After dipping to +7.5% in February, the growth rate by Club/SuperCtr/$ stores has remained near the current 8.5%. These stores are still the key to this channel.

  • YTD Avg Annual Growth: All GM = +7.1%; Dept Stores = +0.4%; Club/SuprCtr/$ = +8.5%

Food and Beverage, plus Health & Personal Care Stores – Sales in Grocery were down in March>May from 2020 – No surprise, as these were 2020 binge months. In June>August they beat 2020 $. The Health, Personal Care group finished 2020 at +1.8%. 2021 has started even better. August was up +0.4% and YTD they are +10.1% vs 2020 and 2019.

  • YTD Avg Annual Growth: Grocery = +6.8%; Health/Drug Stores = +4.9%

Clothing and Accessories; Electronic & Appliances; Home Furnishings – March > August have been spectacular for all these channels. The increase in Clothing vs August 2020 was not “off the chart” but was still +36.6%. All of these groups were up vs July and they remained positive in all measurements vs 2020 or 2019 for the 6th consecutive month.

  • YTD Avg Annual Growth: Clothing = +4.7%; Electronic/Appliance = +3.5%; Furniture = +10.3%

Building Material, Farm & Garden & Hardware – Their Spring lift began on time in 2020 but may be finally slowing. They have greatly benefited from consumers focusing on their home needs. They finished 2020 +53B (+13.8%). Sales took off in March, set a record in April then trended down May > August. They are still +15.4% YTD. Avg Annual Growth = +13.6%

Sporting Goods, Hobby and Book Stores – Book & Hobby stores are open but Sporting Goods stores have driven the lift in this group. Consumers turned their attention to personal recreation and sales in Sporting Goods outlets took off. The group ended 2020 +5.5% vs 2019. The growth accelerated in 2021. January > August set monthly records and August was the 2nd biggest month in history. August YTD they are +36.1% vs 2020. Avg Annual Growth = +17.0%

All Miscellaneous Stores – Pet Stores were deemed essential but most other stores were not, so closures hit this group particularly hard. Sales hit bottom at -$3.8B in April then began to rebound. They finished with a strong December and ended 2020 -$1.0B, -0.7%. In March sales took off and reached the $14+B level in May and they have stayed there. Sales fell -2.0% in August but their YTD sales are now 28.4% above 2020 and 25.0% more than 2019. Their recovery has become very real. YTD Avg Annual Growth = +11.8% (4th Best)

NonStore Retailers – 90% of the volume of this group comes from Internet/Mail Order/TV. The pandemic accelerated the movement to online retail. In February 2020 NonStore $ were +8.6% YTD. In December monthly sales exceeded $100B for the 1st time. They ended 2020 at +21.4%, +$162.9B. This was 63% of the total $ increase for Relevant Retail Channels. Their 2020 performance far exceeded their 12.9% increase in 2019 and every month in 2021 has produced record $. August was +5.9% vs July and +10.6% vs 2020. Their YTD $ are +15.7%. YTD Avg Annual Growth = +17.8%

Note: Almost without exception, online sales by brick ‘n mortar retailers are recorded with their regular store sales.

Recap – 2020 was quite a year. April & May had the 2 biggest year over year sales decreases in history while December sales broke $600B for the first time. 2021 may become even more memorable. March>August became the 6 biggest $ales months in history with the 6 largest year over year monthly sales increases ever. The total increase was +$783B, which totally dwarfs the -$174B decrease from March>May 2020 which caused so much concern. At yearend 2020, Restaurants and Gas Stations were still struggling but Auto had largely recovered. Relevant retail had segments that also struggled but overall, they led the way for Total Spending to finish the year +0.5% vs 2019. 2021 has grown even more positive. In June > August all major groups are positive vs both 2020 and 2019. The details show that the recovery in Relevant retail has become real for virtually all channels and monthly sales continue to set records. Retail has recovered and so far the resurgence of COVID has not negatively impacted Retail. We’ll keep checking.

 

2020 Top 100 U.S. Retailers – Sales: $2.4 Trillion, Up 8.5% – 152,931 Stores with Pet Products……plus the Internet!

The U.S. Retail market reached $6.22 Trillion in 2020 from all channels – Auto Dealers, Supermarkets, Restaurants, Online retailers and even Pet Stores. Due to the pandemic, this year’s increase of $30B (+0.5%) was far below last year’s increase of $216B (+3.6%). The Total Retail Market was massively negatively impacted by COVID related closures and restrictions and only eked out a positive number because of increased spending in the Relevant Retail Segment. (Data courtesy of the Census Bureau’s monthly retail trade report.)

In this report we will focus on the top 100 Retailers in the U.S. Market. The base data on the Top 100 comes from Kantar Research and was published by the National Retail Federation (NRF). The criteria for inclusion was changed for 2020 as Restaurants were removed from the list. Along with 15 restaurants, 3 other retailers from 2019 didn’t make the 2020 list. In order to make more valid comparisons between 2020 and 2019, I used the data to create a revised “Restaurant Free” 2019 list. The Top 100 are the retail elite and account for 39% of the total market. The vast majority also stock and sell a lot of Pet Products. Let’s get started. The report does contain a lot of data, but we’ll break it up into smaller pieces to make it more digestible.

We’ll begin with an overview:

  • The total Retail Market only grew $30B in 2020 (+0.5%) It was $216B (+3.6%) in 2019, +4.9% in 2018 and +4.3% in 2017. You can clearly see the impact of the pandemic on the Total Retail Marketplace.
    • The Top 100 grew $190B (+8.5%) – almost double last year’s +4.5% and radically better than the total market.
    • The Top 100 generates $2.4 Trillion in revenue, 39.1% of the total U.S. retail market – 8% more than 2019.
  • Let’s make the data a bit more relevant. If you remove the revenue from Auto, Restaurant and Gas Stations, the “targeted” retail market for the Pet Industry is $4.0 Trillion – 64.6% of the total market. By the way, the gain in share is due to the loss of revenue in Restaurants and Gas Stations.
    • If we also remove Restaurant & Gas Station $ from the Top 100, the remaining $2.4T is 38.8% of the total market.
    • … and 60.1% of the $4.0 Trillion “target” market.

The Top 100 generally outperforms the overall market. In 2020 the difference in performance was significant. The big lift was driven by the Top 100 targeted retail group, less gas stations. Remember, the Top 100 is really a contest. Companies drop out and new ones are added. This can be the result of mergers, acquisitions or simply surging or slumping sales. In 2020 in addition to 15 restaurants being removed, 3 companies dropped out due to a big drop in sales:

  • Ascena Retail Group
  • Saks/Lord & Taylor
  • Nieman Marcus

These companies are Apparel or Department Stores. Companies in both these groups generally fell in rank in 2020.

18 Companies were added to the top 100. Grocery – Supermarkets (9) and Convenience (2) led the way, along with:

  • Pet Store
  • Musical Instrument Store
  • Electronics Store
  • Auto Parts Store
  • Apparel Stores (2)
  • Alcoholic Beverage Store

Now let’s start “drilling down” into the specifics of the 2020 Top 100. First, let’s take Gas Stations out of the mix. Here’s a summary of Regular and Online Retailers versus Gas Stations.

For Gas Stations, you can see that their share of stores (5.5%) is significantly higher than their share of sales (0.6%). The impact of the pandemic on Gas Stations is very apparent as even these 3 biggest chains lost ground in $ and stores.

The impact on regular retailers was more complex. Their sales were up $191B (8.6%) while store count fell -0.2%.

  • 71 Retailers gained +$244.7B (+12.5%) in sales and +0.8%in stores.
  • 26 Retailers lost -$54.1B (-20.4%) in sales and -4.7% in stores.

Now that we have an overview of the Top 100, let’s take a look at the “targeted” retailer segment. There are 97 total companies. How many are buying and selling Pet Products? This will reinforce how Pets have become an integral part of the American Household and how fierce that the competition for the Pet Parents’ $ has become.

  • Of 97 companies, 81 are selling some Pet Products in stores and/or online – up from 69 in the 2019 list w/restaurants
    • Their Total Retail Sales of all products is $2.30 Trillion which is…
      • 95.4% of the total business for Regular & Online Retailers in the Top 100
      • 37.0% of the Total Retail market and 57.3% of Relevant Retail – from 81 Companies who sell Pet Products.
    • 69 Cos., with $2.16T sales sell pet products off the retail shelf in 152,931 stores – 600 more than they had in 2019.
      • As you can see by the growth in both sales and store count, “in store” is still the best way to sell pet.
    • Online only is another story and the story gets complicated.
      • Amazon includes Whole Foods, which has stores so the Amazon $ are in the “Pet in Store” numbers.
      • Retailers who only sell pet online are losing market share and closing stores. However, internet only retailers, like Wayfair are showing strong growth.
    • Obviously, not selling pet products is not the best way to go as this group was down in sales and especially in stores.

Pet products are an integral part of the strongest retailers and are widespread across the entire U.S. marketplace. Of the Top 100, 152,900 stores carry at least some pet items at retail. There are thousands of additional “pet” outlets including 15,000 Grocery Stores, 9,000 Pet Stores, 16,000 Vet Clinics, 5,000 Pet Services businesses and more. Pet Products are on the shelf in over 200,000 U.S. brick ‘n mortar stores… plus the internet.

Before we analyze the whole list in greater detail let’s take a quick look at the Top 10 retailers in the U.S.

  • They did $1.43 Trillion in Sales
    • 58.9% of Top 100 $ales
    • 23.0% of Total U.S. Retail $
  • 2 up, 3 down in rank; (Group is unchanged since 2015)
  • Sales are up for all. Amazon leads the way…again.
  • Store count is down 360, (-1.0%)

In the next section we will look at the detailed list of the top 100. We’ll sort it by retail channel with subtotals in key columns. We’ll then break it into smaller sections for comments.

I have not done a lot of highlighting however:

  • Pet Columns ’20 & ‘19 – a “1” with an orange highlight indicates that products are only sold online
  • Rank Columns – “Red” 2019 column is my revised 2019 list w/o restaurants. “Yellow” 2019 is the original 2019 rank with restaurants. 2020 changes in rank from the “Red” 2019 list are highlighted as follows:
    • Up 4-5 spots = Lt Blue; Up 6 or more = Green
    • Down 4-5 Spots = Yellow; Down 6 or more = Pink

Let’s get started. Remember online sales are included in the sales of all companies

Observations

  • After a number of acquisitions over several years, Drug is still in turmoil. Now we are seeing a growing number of closures of unproductive stores. However, sales are still growing. They are still “essential” outlets.
  • The decline of the Traditional Department store segment was accelerated by the pandemic. Sales were down -29.9% and stores -8.7%. Although all carry a few pet items, often online, this channel has never fully embraced Pet Products.
    • Sears demise is just getting closer.
    • Saks sold Lord & Taylor in November 2019 and fell off the list as did Neiman Marcus.
  • Much of the growth in the Convenience Store Chains in the Top 100 in recent years has come through acquisitions. There were no major acquisitions, but 2 chains were added to the revised list. Overall, $ and stores are +1.0%.
  • Military Exchanges/Commissaries have added locations in recent years, which fueled the growth in sales. In 2017 they began reducing the number of Army/AF Exchanges. By 2019 this policy had spread to all military groups. In 2020 the number of stores stabilized but sales were up for all outlets and 3.0% overall.
  • Alcoholic Beverage stores make their first appearance in the Top 100 – probably due to more at home dining.
  • Auto Parts Stores accelerated their $ growth from 5.5% to 8.4% and added a new chain, Advance Auto. All chains but Advance also increased their stores for a net gain of 250 (+1.5%)
  • In Apparel, Ascena dropped out, but Lululemon and American Eagle were added. These stores were nonessential, so sales and rank fell for virtually all and $ were -15.8% for the channel. Store count was mixed but down -1.6% overall.

Observations

  • Electronics/Entertainment was up 17.6% in sales but down -6.4% in stores which reflects the pandemic influence.
    • Amazon growth accelerated in the pandemic from 20.9% in 2019 to 33.7%. With the acquisition of Whole Foods in 2017 they also have a small but growing brick ‘n mortar presence in the market.
    • Only Verizon and Gamestop declined in $ and lost significant rank. Dell Technologies was added to the group.
  • Signet Jewelry’s sales were down -12.5%. Their decline began in 2017 but was radically increased by COVID.
  • Mass Merchants have 3 of the 7 largest volume retailers in America – Wal-Mart, Costco and Target. In recent years, Wal-mart & Costco have driven the growth in this channel. In 2020, the lift was strong across the board, +10.4%.
    • Wal-Mart had a 8.7% increase in sales which is triple last year’s 2.6%. Their SuperCenter business was essential, so store sales increased, and their online sales took off. However, “regular” Discount Department Stores are losing market share. This impacts both Wal-Mart and Target so many outlets are adding more fresh groceries.
    • Target posted a 4th consecutive sales increase in 2020, +19.8%, the largest in the string and for the entire group.
    • Costco had another +9.3% increase. New store growth slowed but the $ are increasing, both in store and online.
    • BJ’s sales were up +17.0%, the 3rd consecutive increase after a string of annual declines from 2013 to 2017.
    • Meijer had +10.6% growth in sales and increased their store count by 3.2% in 2020.
  • Consumers’ thoughts turned to their homes in the pandemic. This was very apparent as Home Improvement & Hardware companies increased sales by +20.2%. The big guys, Lowe’s, Home Depot & Ace led the way but only True Value had decreased sales or store count.
  • Like 2018 & 2019, all Home Goods Companies but Bed Bath & Beyond increased sales. They also drove down store count. Sales were up 10.1%, but it was again driven by Wayfair, +$4.1B (+54.6%) who now ranks #35, up 19 from 2019.
  • Tractor Supply $ skyrocketed, +26.8%, triple their average rate of +8.3% since 2013. They also increased stores +4.1%.
  • Hobby & Crafts stores $ were down -4.8%, due to Hobby Lobby and down -0.3% in stores due to Michael’s.

Observations

  • Supermarkets – $483B in Sales; 24 Companies; With 23 Selling Pet Products in 17,000 stores. This is a very important group for the Pet Industry. With the highest frequency of consumer visits of any channel, the competition is fierce. The mergers and acquisitions have slowed. All companies but Southeastern showed increased sales, most in double digit %. Southeastern Grocers filed for bankruptcy in 2018. Store closures and reduced sales continue.
    • Overall sales were up $46.4B (+10.6%) while store count fell slightly, -0.1%
  • Small Format Value Stores: These stores offer both value and convenience – great consumer appeal in a pandemic.
    • All companies increased sales and store count. Overall $ales were up $8.7B (+15.5%) and stores were +4.0%.
    • Dollar General continues to lead the way in growth, Sales +21.6%, Stores +6.0%.
    • Dollar Tree growth in sales and stores more than doubled 2019 but still lags behind Dollar General.
    • Big Lots had small growth in stores but a 16.4% increase in sales, for 2 consecutive years of increases.
  • Pet Stores, as essential retailers showed strong growth in 2020. Sales were up $1.8B (+10.8%) and the number of stores grew by 3.8
    • After the acquisition of Chewy in 2017, PetSmart’s sales registered a huge increase. In 2020 Chewy undoubtedly produced a substantial amount of the $ growth as consumers increased online shopping.
    • Petco qualified for the Top 100 for the first time in 2016. They hung on in 2017 but didn’t make the cut in 2018 & 2019. In the 2020 restaurant free list and with a pandemic surge in sales, they came back strong at #75. It is also important to note that they had a 5.6% increase in stores.
  • Office Supply Stores – This channel continues its decline as Consumers accelerated their move to online ordering.
  • Sporting Goods – This group also benefited in the pandemic as consumers turned their attention to personal recreation. 2 companies closed a few stores and 1 had no change but all increased sales with overall growth of $2.3B (+9.3%). By the way, the largest company, Dick’s Sporting Goods opened enough stores to push the group to +0.1%.

Gas Stations and the Totals

Gas Station Observations

Although gas stations aren’t relevant in terms of Pet Products Sales, they are relevant in our daily lives.

  • Falling gas prices in 2019 flattened the revenue growth of the total Gas Station Channel. The Top 100 Gas Station sales and stores were both up that year only because Speedway acquired Andeavor Brands with their 3200+ outlets.
  • 2020 brought the pandemic and gas usage plummeted. The big chains outperformed the overall channel, but all closed some outlets and had decreased sales.
  • In 2021 recovery began, prices inflated and 7 Eleven bought Speedway. We’ll see the impact on the Top 100 in 2021.

Wrapping it up!

The Top 100 became the Top 100 by producing big sales numbers and their performance, except for 2018, has usually exceeded the overall market. In 2019 things returned to “normal”, +4.5% for the Top 100 vs +3.6% for Total Retail. Normal went away in 2020 with the onset of the pandemic. Restaurants and Gas Stations were hit hard by closures and consumers’ stay at home attitude. The impact on regular retailers varied widely. Essential outlets like Grocery, Supercenters/Clubs and $ Stores prospered. Retail channels like Hardware, Farm and Sporting Goods stores also benefited as consumers focused their attention on “home”. Of course, sales from internet retailers exploded and we can’t forget Pet Stores. Consumers spent more time with their pets and adopted more. This drove up product sales. The non-essential stores were a different story entirely. Department Stores, Office Supply, Apparel and Jewelry stores were hit hard. All but Apparel had been trending down for years, but the pandemic accelerated their slide.

The pandemic also caused a change in methodology for choosing the Top 100 as restaurants are now excluded from the list. Using available data, I took it upon myself to generate a revised “restaurant free” 2019 Top 100 to allow more valid comparisons between the two. This “relevant retail” Top 100 grew $191B (+8.6%) in 2020 and has been a major factor in the ongoing recovery of the U.S. Retail Marketplace.

Pet Products are an important part of the success of the Top 100. 81 companies on the list sell Pet Products in 152,931 stores and/or online. Let’s look closer at the 69 companies that stock pet products in their stores. This group generated $2.16T in total sales. How much was from pet? Let’s “Do the math”. If we take out the $18B done by PetSmart & Petco, and the remaining companies generated only 1.7% of their sales from Pet, we’re looking at $36.4B in Pet Products sales from only 67 “non-pet” sources! (Note: The 1.7% share for Pet is a low-end estimate based on data from the Economic Census.) The APPA reported $64B in Pet Products sales for 2020. That means 67 mass market retailers accounted for 56.8% of all the Pet Products sold in the U.S. in 2020. Add back Petco & PetSmart/Chewy and the Top 100 did 81.8%.

Pet Products are widespread in the retail marketplace but the $ are concentrated. Regardless of your position in the Pet Industry, monitoring the Top 100 group is important. This group reflects the triumphs, tribulations and ongoing evolution in the retail market – the growing influence of the internet and the importance of Value. The COVID-19 crisis caused turmoil in 2020. 2021 has started strong. We’ll see what changes it brings to the retail market and the Top 100.

Retail Channel Monthly $ Update – June Final & July Advance

In May 2020, the Retail market began its recovery after hitting bottom in April. The road back has been long and complex and Consumer spending behavior continues to evolve. Now, the virus is resurging so we will continue to track the impact on the recovery of the retail marketplace with data from two reports provided by the U.S. Census Bureau.

The Reports are the Monthly Retail Sales Report and the Advance Retail Sales Report. Both are derived from sales data gathered from retailers across the U.S. and are published monthly at the same time. The Advance Report has a smaller sample size so it can be published quickly – about 2 weeks after month end. The Monthly Final Report includes data from all respondents, so it takes longer to compile the data – about 6 weeks. Although the sample size for the Advance report is smaller, the results over the years have proven it to be statistically accurate with the final monthly reports. The biggest difference is that the full sample in the Final report allows us to “drill” a little deeper into the retail channels.

We will begin with the Final Retail Report for June and then move to the Advance Retail Report for July. Remember, the retail impact of the pandemic began in March 2020, peaked in April, then recovery started in May. We will compare 2021 to both 2020 and 2019 to document the progress that the retail market has made towards a full recovery.

Both reports include the following:

  • Total Retail, Restaurants, Auto, Gas Stations and Relevant Retail (removing Restaurants, Auto and Gas)
  • Individual Channel Data – This will be more detailed in the “Final” reports and we fill focus on Pet Relevant Channels

The information will be presented in detailed charts to facilitate visual comparison between groups/channels of:

  • Current Month change – % & $ vs previous month
  • Current Month change – % & $ vs same month in 2020 and 2019
  • Current YTD change – % & $ vs 2020 and 2019
  • Monthly and Year To Date $ will also be shown for each group/channel

First, the June Final. Retail hit bottom in April 2020 but began recovery, hitting record $ in December. $ fell in January & February but they took off in March, setting a new all time $ record. In April $ fell but they rebounded in May to another record high. Now, in June another $ dip. Here are the major retail groups. (All Data is Actual, Not Seasonally Adjusted)

The final total is $3.5B more than the Advance report projected a month ago. All groups but Auto were up slightly. The specifics were: Relevant Retail: +$2.3B; Gas Stations: $1.4B; Restaurants: +$0.1B; Auto: -$0.3B. Sales vs May were down in all but Gas Stations and Total Retail $ were the 2nd highest month of all time. Total $ales broke $600B for the 1st time in December and has now done it 5 times. Auto still has the strongest recovery and is in fact prospering – annual YTD growth rate since 2019 is +13.1%. Except for the spending dips vs May, for the first time since the recovery began, all groups, including Restaurants, were positive in all other measurements.

Now, let’s see how some Key Pet Relevant channels were doing in June.

  • Overall– 6 of 11 channels were down vs May but all were up vs May 2020 and 10 vs May 2019. In YTD $, 10 were up vs 2020 and 10 vs 2019. 9 were up vs both. June was the 5th biggest month in history for Relevant Retail.
  • Building Material Stores – Their amazing lift continues. The ongoing surge came as a result of pandemic spending patterns developed in 2020. Consumers began focusing on their homes. Their Spring lift has slowed but Building and Farm stores are still going strong. Sporting Goods stores have a similar spending pattern. Sales took off in May 2020, hit a record peak in December and continued strong into 2021, peaking in March. April & May $ fell slightly but rebounded in June. YTD they are +51% vs 2019. That’s an Annual Growth Rate of 22.9%!
  • Food & Drug – Supermarkets were +$77.7B in 2020. $ are down vs May but YTD are on par with the 2020 binge. They are still up 15% vs June 2019 and 14% vs YTD 2019. Drug Stores were +$17B (+5.7%) for 2020. Their $ rose in June after monthly declines from a record March. Now all measurements are positive and YTD $ are +7.4%.
  • General Merchandise Stores – $ in all channels fell in Jan & Feb then spiked in March. In April, sales in all but $ stores declined but they bounced back in May. In June, sales dipped for all but they are going strong. $ Stores and Clubs/SuperCtrs are leading the way with a combined annual growth rate of +8.4%. These channels promote value. Their success vs both 2020 and 2019 reinforces its importance in Consumer spending decisions.
  • Office, Gift & Souvenir Stores– $ increased slightly from May and were +41.6% vs June 2020. The pandemic hit them hard. They are still down vs 2019 – monthly and YTD. Recovery is a long way off, but things are improving.
  • Internet/Mail Order – Their $ increased slightly in June as the pandemic continues to foster this channel’s growth. In June of 2019, their YTD growth was +13.3%. Now, their avg growth rate is +20.6% – a 54.6% increase.
  • A/O Miscellaneous – This is a group of small to midsized specialty retailers – chains and independents. It includes Florists, Art Stores and Pet Stores (22>24% of total $). Pet Stores were usually essential, but most stores were not. In May 2020 they began their recovery. Their 2020 total sales were up +11.6%. Their June $ were up slightly from May and another all-time record. YTD sales are +30.5% vs 2020 and +39.3% vs 2019. Very strong!

Relevant Retail began recovery in May and reached a record level in December. $ fell in Jan & Feb, turned up again in March and began a monthly up/down rollercoaster. June $ are down but virtually all channels are showing growth. The key drivers are the Internet, SuperCtrs/Clubs/$ Stores and Hdwe/Farm. Now, here are the Advance numbers for July.

2020 was a memorable year for both its traumas and triumphs. In April & May we experienced the 2 biggest retail spending drops in history, but the problems actually began in March. Retail sales began to recover in June and in October, YTD Total Retail turned positive for the 1st time since February. In December, Total Retail broke the $600B barrier – a historic first. Sales fell from their December peak in both January and February but still set monthly sales records. Then they took off again in March, setting a new monthly sales record of $633B. April sales were down slightly but they took off again in May to set yet another spending record, $641.5B. June $ fell but the rollercoaster ride continued as July $ bounced back to become the 2nd biggest $ month in history. Auto and Relevant Retail, the leaders of the recovery, were down from June but all the major groups were positive in all other measurements for the second straight month. Some other areas of the economy are still suffering, some spending behavior has changed, and inflation has become a factor in some increases. However, consumers continue to spend “big bucks” and the overall Retail marketplace has strongly recovered.

Total Retail – In March, Total Retail hit $633.1B, a record for the most spending in any month in any year. In April, $ales dipped to $625.5B but were still $218.3B more than April 2020 – a record increase that was more than double the size of last year’s record drop. In May, sales set another new record, $641.5B. In June sales dipped slightly but rebounded in July to $637.0B, the 2nd biggest month in history. Moreover, the current YTD average annual sales growth rate since 2019 is 9.2%, the highest ever in records going back to 1992. Total Retail has not just recovered. It is stronger than ever.

Restaurants – This group has no negative measurements vs 2020 or 2019 for 2 straight months. Last February YTD sales were up 8.1% vs 2019. The Pandemic changed that. Restaurants started to close or cease in person dining in March and sales fell -$33.3B (-52.5%) compared to March 2019. Sales bottomed out in April at $30.1, the lowest April sales since 2003. Sales started to slowly increase in May but never reached a level higher than 88% compared to the previous year. 2021 started off slowly. Through February, YTD sales were down -16.7% from pre-pandemic 2020 and -10.0% from 2019. In March sales took off and grew steadily in April and May. Sales dipped slightly in June but were still strong vs 2019 & 2020. In July the $ turned up. YTD their $ are plus 30.5% vs 2020 and +2.4% vs 2019. Their recovery is getting stronger.

Auto (Motor Vehicle & Parts Dealers)   – Staying home causes your car to be less of a focus in your life. Sales began to fall in March and hit bottom in April. Auto Dealers began combating this “stay at home” attitude with fantastic deals and a lot of advertising. It worked. They finished 2020 up 1% vs 2019 and have returned to a strong positive pattern in 2021. The “attitude” grew amazingly positive in March and slowed only slightly in April>July as sales exceeded $134B in all 5 months, by far the 5 biggest months in history. To show how well consumers responded to their campaign you just need to look at the data. This group has exceeded $110B in monthly sales only 13 times in history. 11 of those occurred after the onset of the pandemic.  YTD Avg Annual Growth Since 2019 = +12.8% – the best performance of any big group.

Gas Stations – Gas Station $ales have been a mixed bag. If you drive less, you visit the gas station less often. Sales turned down in March 2020 and reached their low point in April. They moved up but generally stayed about 15% below 2019 levels for the rest of 2020. In February they were still behind 2020 in monthly and YTD $ but ahead of 2019 in both measurements. In March, sales skyrocketed and continued to grow in April > July to a record $53.7B, 38.1% above July 2020. They have been positive in all measurements vs both 2019 and 2020 since March. Their comeback continues but there is another factor that must be considered – inflation. Gas prices can be pretty volatile. They dipped in the first 2 months of the pandemic but then returned to more normal levels for the balance of 2020. They began strongly inflating in 2021. In fact, the July 2021 prices were 41.8% above July 2020. That means that the 38.1% year over year $ lift in July was actually a decrease in the amount of gas sold. YTD Annual Avg Growth Rate Since 2019 = +4.2%

Relevant Retail – Less Auto, Gas and Restaurants – This is what we consider the “core” of U.S. retail and has traditionally accounted for about 60% of Total Retail Spending. When you look at the individual channels in this group, you see a variety of results due to many factors – non-essential closures, binge buying, online shopping and a consumer focus on “home”. However, overall, April 2020 was the only month in which spending in this group was down vs 2019. Monthly $ales exceeded $400B for the first time ever in December ($407B). They finished 2020 up $260B, +7.1%. Their performance was the only reason that Total Retail was able to finish 2020 with positive numbers, +0.5%. Sales fell in January and February but set monthly records. In March they turned sharply up and then down in April. They bounced back in May then fell in June. July was down slightly from June, -$1.5B (-0.4%) but was still the biggest July ever and the 6th largest month on record. We should also note that that while December 2020 is still #1, March > July are five of the seven highest $ months of all time. The Relevant Retail Market has exceeded $366B in monthly sales 7 tImes in history. 6 of those have occurred since the onset of the pandemic. It is also very important that the Relevant Retail group has posted positive numbers versus last year and YTD for every month since April 2020 and their average YTD growth rate since 2019 now stands at +10.3%. Through July all but Department Stores continue to be positive in all measurements vs both 2020 and 2019. However, the primary drivers throughout the pandemic were and continue to be Nonstore, Grocery, SuperCenters/Clubs/$ Stores plus never ending “spring lift” from Hardware/Farm and Sporting Goods.

Now let’s look at what is happening in the individual retail channels to see where the $ are coming from. July $ were down slightly from June and none of the increases were “off the charts”. However, it was still the 6th largest month in history for Relevant Retail outlets. The groups are less defined than in the Final Monthly reports and we will look across the whole market, not just pet relevant outlets.

Sales in only 4 of 13 channels were down vs June but all were up vs July 2020, vs July 2019 and YTD vs 2020. Only 1 was down YTD vs 2019 and they were only -0.1%. (Relevant Retail YTD Avg Annual Growth Rate since 2019 = +10.3%)

After hitting bottom in April 2020, Relevant Retail has now beaten the previous year’s $ for 15 consecutive months. The group set an all-time record of $407B in December and finished 2020 +$260B vs 2019. 2021 started strong, with record sales in every month. March > July were 5 of the 7 biggest of all time. Essential channels are still the primary drivers:

  • Nonstore Retailers – The biggest driver. Online shopping continues to grow in # of households and in $.
  • Food & Beverage – Grocery– Restaurant $ are improving but consumers continue to eat & drink more at home.
  • Bldg Materials/Garden/Farm– Their “Spring” lift continues unabated as consumers focus on their home.
  • SuperCtrs/Club/Value/$ Strs – They keep the GM channel positive. Value is still a major consumer priority.

Regarding the Individual Large Channels (Includes YTD Avg Annual Growth Rate since 2019)

General Merchandise Stores – Sales rose in July and all other numbers are positive. YTD Department Stores $ remain up vs 2020 but are down -0.1% vs 2019. Their problems began before the Pandemic. After dipping to +7.5% in February, the growth rate by Club/SuperCtr/$ stores has remained near the current 8.6%. These stores are still the key to this channel.

  • YTD Avg Annual Growth: All GM = +7.1%; Dept Stores = -0.07%; Club/SuprCtr/$ = +8.6%

Food and Beverage, plus Health & Personal Care Stores – Sales in Grocery were down in March>May from 2020 – No surprise, as these were 2020 binge months. In June/July they beat 2020 $. The Health, Personal Care group finished 2020 at +1.8%. 2021 has started even better. Although July was down -1.0%, YTD they are +10.2% vs 2020 and +9.9% vs 2019.

  • YTD Avg Annual Growth: Grocery = +6.9%; Health/Drug Stores = +4.9%

Clothing and Accessories; Electronic & Appliances; Home Furnishings – March > July have been spectacular for all these channels. The increase in Clothing vs July 2020 was not “off the chart” but was still +45.8%. All of these groups were up vs June and they remained positive in all measurements vs 2020 or 2019 for the 5th consecutive month.

  • YTD Avg Annual Growth: Clothing = +4.8%; Electronic/Appliance = +3.6%; Furniture = +10.2%

Building Material, Farm & Garden & Hardware – Their Spring lift began on time in 2020 and has never stopped. They have greatly benefited from consumers focusing on their home needs. They finished 2020 +53B (+13.8%). Sales took off in March, set a record in April then trended down May > July. They are still +16.4% YTD. Avg Annual Growth = +14.1%

Sporting Goods, Hobby and Book Stores – Book & Hobby stores are open but Sporting Goods stores have driven the lift in this group. Consumers turned their attention to personal recreation and sales in Sporting Goods outlets took off. The group ended 2020 +5.5% vs 2019. The growth accelerated in 2021. January > July set monthly records and March had the most $ of any non-December month in history. July YTD they are +39.0% vs 2020. Avg Annual Growth = +17.5%

All Miscellaneous Stores – Pet Stores were deemed essential but most other stores were not, so closures hit this group particularly hard. Sales hit bottom at -$3.8B in April then began to rebound. They finished with a strong December and ended 2020 -$1.0B, -0.7%. In March sales took off and the channel set a new all-time monthly record of $14.39B in May. However, they beat that record in June with $14.41B and now July with $14.65B. Their YTD sales are now 36.2% above 2020 and 26.0% more than 2019. Their recovery has become very real. YTD Avg Annual Growth = +12.2% (4th Best)

NonStore Retailers – 90% of the volume of this group comes from Internet/Mail Order/TV. The pandemic accelerated the movement to online retail. In February 2020 NonStore $ were +8.6% YTD. In December monthly sales exceeded $100B for the 1st time. They ended 2020 at +21.4%, +$162.9B. This was 63% of the total $ increase for Relevant Retail Channels. Their 2020 performance far exceeded their 12.9% increase in 2019 and every month in 2021 has produced record $. July was -3.7% vs June but still +3.7% vs 2020. Their YTD $ are +16.9%. YTD Avg Annual Growth = +18.0%

Note: Almost without exception, online sales by brick ‘n mortar retailers are recorded with their regular store sales.

Recap – 2020 was quite a year. April & May had the 2 biggest year over year sales decreases in history while December sales broke $600B for the first time. 2021 may become even more memorable. March>July became the 5 biggest $ales months in history with the 5 largest year over year monthly sales increases ever. The total increase was +$701B, which totally dwarfs the -$174B decrease from March>May 2020 which caused so much concern. At yearend 2020, Restaurants, Auto and Gas Stations were still struggling but Auto had largely recovered. Relevant retail had segments that also struggled but overall, they led the way for Total Spending to finish the year +0.5% vs 2019. 2021 has grown even more positive. In June and now July, all major groups, including Restaurants are positive vs both 2020 and 2019. The details show that the recovery in Relevant retail has become real for virtually all channels and monthly sales continue to set records. Retail has recovered so the question is, “Will the resurgence of COVID negatively impact Retail?”

PET STORES – A 30 YEAR HISTORY from 1987 to 2017

Pet Products are sold seemingly everywhere today – 160,000 retail outlets of all kinds – clothing stores, supermarkets, gas stations, the internet. That number climbs to over 200,000 when you add in the services outlets. However, when you think of the beginning of this colossal industry, you must think of the independent pet store as the seed that became the mighty oak. We will take a look back to 1987 to see where this channel was and how it has evolved through the years.

The data in this report is courtesy of the U.S. Census Bureau. Their Economic Census is done every 5 years in years ending in “2” and “7”. The early years have only basic information but since 1997, more detailed information is readily available. In 2017 they did change some classifications which will make a few comparisons no longer possible.

Let’s get started. Here is a detailed chart on some key measurements and a graph of their growth from 1987 > 2017.

The little chart has a wealth of information, and the graph shows the spectacular overall results. First, the number of stores almost doubled but the key factor was that the sales per store is 7.4 times greater. The number of stores increased but superstores and chains became the dominant type. This is evident by the fact that the number of employees per store is 2.3 times more in 2017 than it was in 1987. Add this to the attitudinal conversion of pet owners to pet parents, with an ever increasing personification of their pets and you get 13.5 times more $.

Now let’s drill deeper. Sales increased +$16.99B (+1249%). How much of the increase was real or just due to petflation?

The annual growth rate in “full” $ was 9.0% from 1987 to 2017. Pet Food and Supply prices went up 77.5% during this time. This is an annual inflation rate of 1.9% which is better than the overall 2.6% CPI rate during this period. This made the “real” growth rate 7.0%. That’s damn good and means that 77.3% of Pet Store $ growth has been real. However, this doesn’t tell the whole story. On the chart you see that real growth flattened from 2007 to 2012. This was largely due to the fact that Pet Food and Supply prices increased an incredible 17.0%. (8.2% per year) from 2007 to 2009. Coming at the onset of the recession, this drove consumers to look for value. The result was that consumers moved strongly to other channels. Pet Stores’ share of total pet products sales fell from 39.0% in 2007 to 33.1% in 2012 and Total General Merchandise took over the top spot in Pet Products sales. All the Food and Supply prices have fallen or at least flattened out since 2009. Total Pet Products inflation from 2009 to 2017 was 1.1%, an annual rate of 0.13% – almost nothing. As a result, “real” sales for Pet Stores returned to a more normal path.

Now, let’s take a look at the progress of the key contributing factors over the years in 5 year segments.

  • 1987 to 1992 – The Number of Pet Stores grew significantly – from 5475 to 7150 (+30.8%). The number of employees per store is about the same. Superstores and chains were just getting started so these were mostly traditional sized stores. The amount of sales per store increases 50% as American’s love for pets truly begins to show. The result – sales basically double in 5 years.
  • 1992 to 1997 – The rise of Superstores. Note the 37.1% increase in employees per store. They are being built and they generate significantly more volume per store – +76.6%. The result – sales more than double in 5 years. In 1997 Pet Stores pushed Supermarkets out of the top spot in Pet Products sales, with 40% of all $.
  • 1997 to 2002 – Superstores continue to rise but at a cost to the independents. The net result is 692 fewer outlets (-8.3%). The Sales per store increases 50.8% which reflects the higher percentage of larger format stores. The total channel sales growth rate slows markedly from the previous 10 years, but sales were still up +38.2%.
  • 2002 to 2007 – The channel bounces back with a 15.2% increase in stores – most of which are chains and superstores. The per store sales goes up another 30.5%, reflecting this change. The result – sales grow 50.3%. They continue to hold their ground in the overall marketplace, with 39% of all Pet Products Sales.
  • 2007 to 2012 – Huge price increases…plus a major recession. There is no growth in the number of stores, but an even higher percentage are superstores. The overall channel sales growth – +29.9% – exactly mirrors the per store growth. Also consider:
    • The overall pet food and supplies category (in all channels) grew 50% from 2007 to 2012.
    • Actual Pet Store Sales from 2007-2012 was only up 6.6% – (Factoring in the huge price increases)
    • The result – Pet Store Sales grew but had a big loss in pet products market share – down to 33.1%
  • 2012 to 2017 – Inflation essentially ends, and more outlets are opened, +13.5%. Per store sales were also up slightly, +9.8%. This produced an overall sales increase of +24.7%. Products were +27.7% which resulted in a minimal gain in market share to 33.3%. This is small, but significant because Pet Stores and $ stores were the only brick ‘n mortar outlets to gain pet products market share in a major consumer movement to the internet.

Through the years, pet Stores have grown larger in size but paused their growth in numbers from 2007 to 2012, largely due to the great recession. During this recession period, their growth in revenue slowed to +29% and did not kept pace with the overall market in the Pet Food and Supplies category, so they lost some market share. However, they bounced back in the 2012 to 2017 period, with more stores and a total sales increase of 24.7% (Products $ were +27.7%). Although this was the smallest $ percentage increase in history it was very significant. The Pet Products marketplace is incredibly competitive, and a new major player is now in the game – the internet. Pet Stores, with their vast array of pet products and services and $ stores, with their value and convenience were the only 2 brick ‘n mortar retail channels to gain share in Pet Products in what was a tsunami like movement of consumers to internet shopping. It shows that Pet Stores have not lost their appeal and that they are both resilient and adaptable in changing circumstances.

Now, let’s look deeper into the retail sales numbers for Pet Stores for trends in specific Product segments. There is sales data from the U.S. Economic Census back to 1987. From 1997 on the data gets reasonably detailed. As I said the Census Bureau changed their product classification system in 2017. This will keep us from doing some comparisons to earlier years. However, I have built a chart which is inclusive of both systems to maximize our ability to compare specific data.

The chart contains all available data. The 2017 numbers are highlighted to indicate the % change from 2012.

  • Green = 10%> Increase
  • Blue = <10% Increase
  • Pink = Any Decrease

Here are the details which are followed by specific category observations for each 5 year period.

Observations 1992 to 1997

  1. Data was limited in 1992 but we saw strong growth in store count as superstores and other chains rapidly expanded.
  2. Sales in Pets and Pet Products more than doubled, +103.9% as Pet Stores became the #1 “go to” channel for Pet Products. Over 95% of Pet Stores’ total sales came from Pets and Pet Products in both 1992 and 1997.
  3. There was a hint of growing diversity as Pet Services $ grew by 260% and A/O revenue more than doubled. Pet Book sales also doubled as they reached what would be their all-time high in $.

Observations 1997 to 2002

  1. The store count fell 8% due to the loss of many independent stores. Total revenue increased 38% but the $ per store increased 50%, which reflects the dominance of the larger stores.
  2. Pets and Pet Products $ales increased +36.2%, which was slightly less than total revenue so their share of Total Pet Store $ dipped to 93.8%. This came from a combination of factors.
  3. The number of stores carrying live pets (nonfish) fell -11.8% but sales increased +32.5%. Obviously, the sales were becoming more concentrated. Fish and aquarium supplies was a different story. The numbers are bundled but Total Aquarium (Fish & Products) fell -28.5% in store count and -12.7% in $. This Category became markedly less popular.
  4. Pet Services continued strong growth, with a 53% increase in store count and a 267% increase in sales. A/O revenue increased +19.6%. Books were available in 40.2% more stores but began their long revenue slide -24.9% in $.
  5. Non Aquarium Pet Supplies increased sales $1.0B, +48.8% to $3.1B, which allowed them to slightly widen their razor thin lead over Pet Food as the #1 category in Pet Stores.
  6. Pet Food sales increased sales by $0.9B, +42.9% to $2.9B. We should note that in 1997 and 2002 Pet Food was carried in 2% fewer stores than Pet Supplies. However, there is no doubt that Food is the primary driver in most pet store consumer visits. It is the most “needed” category for Pet Parents. That’s why it’s put at the back of the store.
  7. Pet Store offerings became a little more diverse. However, 78.7% of Pet Stores’ total revenue in 2002 and 89.5% of the increase from 1997 came from Pet Food and Non-Aquatic Pet Supplies. They are the key categories.

Observations 2002 to 2007

  1. Total revenue increased to $11.4B. (+50.3%) as store count grew 15.2%, primarily due to chains.
  2. The sale of pets (non-fish) increased both in number of stores (+8.1%) and sales volume (+17.1%).
  3. In 2007 Pet Foods became the largest segment. Sales were $4.6B, +$1.7B (+59.6%). This was due to the initial move to premium which began in 2004 and the 2007 melamine recall which began the “buy Made in the USA” trend.
  4. Pet Supplies share of $ is much higher in Pet Stores than in the overall market. Sales hit $4.2B, +$1.1B (+37.3%) but the growth rate was below the overall market. This segment is very vulnerable to migration to other channels.
  5. Between 2002 and 2007, Aquarium products came back strong, with spectacular growth in the number of outlets – +25.8% and volume, +$405M (+59.3%). Sales reached a billion dollars for the first time – $1.09B to be exact.
  6. A/O products $ grew +25.6% but Pet Books continued their slide, -21.1%. Their drops pretty much mirror the overall book market as more and more consumers turn to other sources and to electronic formats.
  7. The Service Segment provided by Pet Stores reached $734M, up $427M (+139%) in revenue – Now 6.4% of Total $.

Observations 2007 to 2012

  1. Total revenue hit $14.7B, a $3.3B increase (+29%). However, the store count remained stagnant at just under 8800.
  2. Pets, Food and Supplies sales increased $2.9B to $13.3B. However, this 27.6% increase was considerably below the 50% increase in the overall Pet Products market, which resulted in a large drop in market share for Pet Stores.
  3. Pets (nonfish) were sold in 3% fewer outlets…but the drop in sales was very significant… -34%.
  4. Pet Foods remained the largest segment with strong growth, +44.8%. This $2.1B gain accounted for 63% of the increase in the total $ for the channel. This is probably a reflection of the strength of “premium” pet food sales. Notably, the number of stores stocking pet food exceeded the number stocking supplies for the first time…ever.
  5. Pet Supply Sales increased $0.9B (22.5%). This is less than half of the increase of the overall market and reflects the consumer migration to other channels. Prices deflated after 2009 and more categories became commoditized.
  6. Fish and Aquarium Products had no growth in the number of outlets and only 5% growth in sales. Considering the overall inflation rate during the period (+4.4%), “real” sales were essentially flat.
  7. A/O products growth slowed to +8.5%. Book sales continued to fall and in 2012 were less than half of 2002.
  8. Services were offered in 25% more Pet Stores and sales grew +$0.4B (+54.5%) to reach $1.1B, which was 7.7% of total revenue. Services is a great opportunity to gain business which can’t migrate to the Mass Market channels.
  9. Pets, Services and Channel Differentiated Premium Pet Foods and Products are keys to maintaining the consumer traffic and sales in the Pet Store Channel. The U.S. consumer is looking for value. The generally higher prices on supplies and “regular” food in these stores have encouraged the migration to other channels.

Observations 2012 to 2017

  1. Total Revenue increased $3.6B, +24.7% to reach $18.4B. The store count grew +13.5% to 9984 – almost hit 10,000.
  2. Pets and Pet Products $ was $17.1B, a $3.7B (+27.7%). This was strong enough for Pet Stores to be only 1 of 2 retail channels to actually gain share (only 0.2%) in Pet Products $ against the strong consumer movement to the internet.
  3. Live pets/fish $ grew +$0.23B, +32.9% to $0.9B but the % of stores stocking any live animals fell to a record low 58%.
  4. Pet Food $ales soared to $9.8B, up +$3.1B (+45.5%) and for the first time, in 2017 accounted for more than half of total Pet store revenue – 53.3%. The number of stores stocking pet food was 14.8% more than the number stocking supplies. Pet Food provided 83.8% of the lift in Pet Products $ and 86.1% of the increase in total pet store revenue. Pet Food and more specifically super premium pet food was the primary reason that Pet Stores held their ground and even gained a little share in the overall Pet Products marketplace.
  5. Pet Supplies also increased sales, +$0.3B (+6.3%) but it was far less than food and their share of total Pet Store revenue fell to a record low 39.8%. The number of stores stocking Pet Supplies fell 5% and only 74.1% of Pet Stores stocked Pet Supplies – a record low.
  6. Aquarium Products, excluding live fish, showed some positivity. The number of stores stocking Aquarium Products increased +4.1% and sales increased +$0.1B, +11.2% to a total of $0.9B.
  7. All other products and services has always been a very small part of pet stores revenue but sales have always increased…until 2017 when they fell -16% and their share of total $ fell to 0.9%.
  8. The number of Pet Stores carrying books actually increased by 1% but sales plummeted to $3.3M, which is -89% below the sales from 20 years ago in 1997.
  9. The number of Pet Stores offering Pet Services actually fell -7.2% from 2012 and sales decreased -$30M (-2.7%) to $1.103B. This is a bit of a surprise but it came as a result of competition. Pet Services outlets grew in number, giving Pet Parents more options and better prices. This segment had not yet drawn a significant amount of new users. According to the US BLS Consumer Expenditure Survey, this changed in 2018 and spending skyrocketed. I’m sure that Pet Stores got their share. This segment is an important allure for Pet Parents who want one stop pet shopping.
  10. Pet Stores strongly increased sales from 2012 to 2017 and even gained a small amount of share in the total Pet Product marketplace where the internet cut into virtually every other channel’s business. This was primarily due to the consumer demand for Super Premium Pet Foods, where Pet Stores were the “go to” source.

Wrapping it up

Pet Stores pioneered the pet industry but they also led the way in trends that have spurred the spectacular growth of the industry since 1987. The rise of superstores and chains provided unprecedented space for Pet Supplies. This was important for existing manufacturers but it was especially important for new companies. There was finally retail space for a “flood” of new products. According to the US BLS Consumer Expenditure Survey, in 1987 Pets Supplies accounted for 13.9% of Total Pet Spending. Then came Pet Superstores and chains. By 1996 the Pet Supplies share of Total pet $ was 23.5%. It has remained near this level ever since. Although larger Pet Stores showed the way, this spurred a radical expansion of pet product distribution across the whole retail marketplace. Another key industry trend was the move to premium Pet Food. Pet Stores led the way again. They had the room for new premium foods, which became increasingly desired by Pet Parents. This trend began in about 2004. The 2007 Melamine recall accelerated the movement as consumers moved successively to made in the USA, then to all ingredients from the USA, next to all natural and now to super premium. Plus, you can add the latest big movement – pet health supplements, often in treat form.

Take a look at the following graph to better “see” the business impact of these trends on Pet Stores.

In 1997, Pets and Supplies $ dominated the channel with 58.2% of the total revenue. Food started to gain ground between 2002 and 2007 when premiumization began. They moved to the top in 2012 when overall Pet Stores lost considerable market share to other channels. Then Super Premium Foods took off and Pet Stores were the “go to” outlet. In 2017, the share of sales for Pet Food had essentially flipped from 2007. The A/O business has always been small but is now becoming insignificant. The Services Segment is small, around 6% of total revenue since 2007, but it is not insignificant. Offering Pet Services makes Pet Stores more of a one stop shopping experience for Pet Parents and is a big positive point of differentiation. This differentiation and the “one stop shopping” that it provides for Pet Parents was a key factor that allowed Pet Stores to hold their market share against the internet wave that began from 2012 to 2017.

There’s more to the story!

Larger format pet stores bundled into chains – big and small was obviously a great idea but more than that, the timing was perfect – for society, for consumer attitude and for the retail marketplace. To take a closer look at this timing, we have to go back over 75 years to the passing of the G.I. Bill in 1944. This rewarded Veterans for their service by providing education and job training benefits to help advance their after service careers. It also offered low interest home mortgages which was a major reason that the homeownership rate for the U.S. rose from 40% in 1940 to 60% in 1960. Also, more space was needed for this expansion which resulted in the creation of the suburbs, a new concept which offered the convenience of urban living with more space for households.

The soldiers returning from World War II also helped create another movement – more children. U.S. birthrates soared from 1946 to 1964, creating the largest generation – the Baby Boomers. Many of them grew up in this new suburban environment – which offered more space in a home that was owned and controlled by their parents. Pets began to be added to the household mix – sometimes in a big way. I am a Boomer. By the time that I was in 3rd grade (1956), my older brother and I had 2 dogs, 2 cats, a canary, a parakeet, a hamster and…a raccoon. In those days dogs and cats were “outdoor” animals. They didn’t come into the house but we let them take refuge in the basement during inclement weather. As we moved into our early teens, we no longer required a babysitter. While our parents worked, we roamed the neighborhood, especially in the summer. Our dogs were our constant companions. In the summer, we spent more time with them than we did with our parents. They became siblings to us so it is no surprise that when we grew up, we bought suburban homes, started families and added Pet “children” to our household.

So the changes in society and consumer attitudes were underway. However, we still needed major changes in the retail marketplace. When Boomers were growing up, Department Stores “ruled”. This channel has never embraced pet products. This indicated that they weren’t in tune with consumers and was an early sign that they would fade. In the 60’s discount stores came into being. First came general merchandise, Wal-Mart, K-Mart, Target. They grew and ultimately progressed to SuperCenters and Clubs in the 90’s. Consumers became used to large stores with a huge product selection. In the late 80’s and 90’s this concept trickled down as large format specialty stores came to the forefront – Toys R Us, Office Depot, Circuit City, Barnes & Noble, etc. Consumers were ready for Pet Super Stores.

There is one more key element – money. Income has been and continues to be the driving force in increased pet spending. Let’s go back to the key players. In 1991 the oldest Baby Boomers were turning 45. 45>54 is the highest income age group so in the 90’s, the biggest generation was entering their peak earning years. Pet Parents finally had outlets that not only filled their pets’ wants and needs but introduced new ones and… they had the money to buy it all.

The creation and development of larger format pet stores and chains was literally a positive example of the “perfect storm”. It was a great idea, all the elements were in place and the timing was perfect. Pet stores continue to evolve as the does the market. The store size has dialed back a little to make shopping a little more convenient. The channel is also not just huge chains. Small chains and local independents are also strong. The successful outlets are adapting to a virtual world, offering features like BOPIS. However, one thing will remain unchanged and that guarantees their continued success. Pets are very personal. Boomers were the first pet parents but they passed this mantle on to their children and it has now become the norm across the U.S. In fact the relationship has become even stronger as we increasingly personify our pets. This has led to substantial growth in categories like apparel but probably had its greatest impact on categories related to health. It fueled the spectacular and ever growing movement to higher quality, super premium foods and now medical supplements. Pet Parents want and need the opportunity for personal interaction when shopping for their pets, especially when considering any new product. This can only happen in Pet Stores.

Retail Channel Monthly $ Update – May Final & June Advance

In May 2020  the Retail market began its recovery after hitting bottom in April. The road back has been long and complex and Consumer spending behavior continues to evolve. In this report we will track the changes, migration between channels and the retail recovery with data from two reports provided by the U.S. Census Bureau.

The Reports are the Monthly Retail Sales Report and the Advance Retail Sales Report. Both are derived from sales data gathered from retailers across the U.S. and are published monthly at the same time. The Advance Report has a smaller sample size so it can be published quickly – about 2 weeks after month end. The Monthly Final Report includes data from all respondents, so it takes longer to compile the data – about 6 weeks. Although the sample size for the Advance report is smaller, the results over the years have proven it to be statistically accurate with the final monthly reports. The biggest difference is that the full sample in the Final report allows us to “drill” a little deeper into the retail channels.

We will begin with the Final Retail Report for May and then move to the Advance Retail Report for June. Remember, the retail impact of the pandemic began in March 2020, peaked in April, then recovery started in May. We will compare 2021 to both 2020 and 2019 to document the progress that the retail market has made towards a full recovery.

Both reports include the following:

  • Total Retail, Restaurants, Auto, Gas Stations and Relevant Retail (removing Restaurants, Auto and Gas)
  • Individual Channel Data – This will be more detailed in the “Final” reports and we fill focus on Pet Relevant Channels

The information will be presented in detailed charts to facilitate visual comparison between groups/channels of:

  • Current Month change – % & $ vs previous month
  • Current Month change – % & $ vs same month in 2020 and 2019
  • Current YTD change – % & $ vs 2020 and 2019
  • Monthly and Year To Date $ will also be shown for each group/channel

First, the May Final. Retail hit bottom in April 2020 but began recovery, hitting record $ in December. In January & February $ fell but they skyrocketed in March, setting a new all time $ record. In April $ fell a bit but they rebounded in May to yet another record high. Here are the major retail groups. (All Data is Actual, Not Seasonally Adjusted)

The final total is $2.9B less than the Advance report projected a month ago. All groups but Restaurants were down slightly. The specifics were: Relevant Retail: -$2.2B Auto: -$1.1B; Restaurants: +$1.2B; Gas Stations: -$0.8B. Sales vs April were up in all but Auto and Total Retail $ set a new all-time record. Total $ales broke $600B for the 1st time in December and has now done it 4 times. Auto has the strongest recovery and is in fact prospering – annual YTD growth rate since 2019 is +12.9%. Except for the spending dip by Auto vs April, all but Restaurants were positive in all other measurements. Restaurants are still slightly negative vs 2019 but the Retail recovery is strong.

Now, let’s see how some Key Pet Relevant channels were doing in May.

  • Overall– 7 of 11 channels were down vs April but 10 were up vs May 2020 and 10 vs May 2019. In YTD $, 10 were up vs 2020 and 10 vs 2019. 9 were up vs both. May was the 3rd biggest month in history for Relevant Retail.
  • Building Material Stores – Their amazing lift continues. The ongoing surge came as a result of pandemic spending patterns developed in 2020. Consumers began focusing on their homes. Now we’re into the 2021 Spring lift for both Building and Farm stores . Sporting Goods stores are not in this group but have a similar spending pattern. Sales took off in May, hit a record peak in December and continued strong into 2021, peaking in March. May $ fell slightly again but are +30.6% vs 2020 and +49.5% vs 2019. YTD they are still +53% vs 2019.
  • Food & Drug – Supermarkets were +$77.7B in 2020. $ are down vs April and YTD 2020 due to last year’s binge buying. They are still up 14% vs May 2019 and YTD 2019. Drug Stores ended up +$17B (+5.7%) for 2020. Their $ fell in April and May after a setting a record in March. All other measurements are positive and YTD $ are +7.2%.
  • General Merchandise Stores – $ in all channels fell in Jan & Feb then spiked in March. In April, sales in all but $ stores declined but they bounced back in May. Discount Store were having problems before the pandemic, but they have strongly recovered, +8.5% YTD vs 2019. Clubs/SuperCtrs and $ Stores remain strong. These channels promote value. Their success vs both 2020 and 2019 reinforces its importance in Consumer spending decisions.
  • Office, Gift & Souvenir Stores– $ increased slightly from April and were +79% vs May 2020. The pandemic hit them hard. They are still down vs 2019 – monthly and YTD. Recovery is a long way off, but things are improving.
  • Internet/Mail Order – Although $ dropped again in May the pandemic continues to foster this channel’s growth. In May of 2019, their YTD growth rate was +13.0%. In May 2021, it is +20.4% – a 56.4% increase.
  • A/O Miscellaneous – This is a group of small to midsized specialty retailers – chains and independents. It includes Florists, Art Stores and Pet Stores (22>24% of total $). Pet Stores were usually essential, but most stores were not. In May 2020 they began their recovery. Their 2020 total sales were up +11.6%. Their May $ hit $10B for the 1st time to set a new all-time record. YTD sales are +32.7% vs 2020 and +38.6% vs 2019. Very strong!

The Relevant Retail Segment began recovery in May, reached a record level in December, then $ fell in Jan & Feb. Sales turned up again in March, fell slightly in April then bounced back in May. Almost all channels are showing growth. The key drivers are the Internet, SuperCtrs/Clubs/$ Stores and Hdwe/Farm.

Now, here are the Advance numbers for June.

2020 was a memorable year for both its traumas and triumphs. In April & May we experienced the 2 biggest retail spending drops in history, but the problems actually began in March. Retail sales began to recover in June and in October, YTD Total Retail turned positive for the 1st time since February. In December, Total Retail broke the $600B barrier – a historic first. Sales fell from their December peak in both January and February but still set monthly sales records. Then they took off again in March, setting a new monthly sales record of $633B. April sales were down slightly but they took off again in May to set yet another spending record, $641.5B. June brought another slight dip in this rollercoaster ride but was still the 3rd biggest $ month in history. All but Gas Stations were down vs May, but all the major groups were positive in all other measurements. The big news is that for the 1st time YTD Restaurant $ were positive versus 2019 – just barely, +0.1%. Some other areas of the economy are still suffering, some spending behavior has changed and inflation has become a factor in some increases. However, consumers are back spending money and the overall Retail marketplace has strongly recovered.

Total Retail – In March, Total Retail hit $633.1B, a record for the most spending in any month in any year. In April, $ales dipped to $625.5B but were still $218.3B more than April 2020 – a record increase, which was more than double the size of last year’s record drop. In May, sales set another new record, $641.5B. In June sales dipped slightly to $631.1B, but it was still the 3rd biggest month in history. Moreover, the current YTD average annual sales growth rate since 2019 is 9.0%, the strongest ever in records going back to 1992. Total Retail has not just recovered. It is stronger than ever.

Restaurants – This group finally has no negative measurements vs 2020 or 2019. Last February YTD sales were up 8.1% vs 2019. The Pandemic changed that. Restaurants started to close or cease in person dining in March and sales fell -$33.3B (-52.5%) compared to March 2019. Sales bottomed out in April at $30.1, the lowest April sales since 2003. Sales started to slowly increase in May but never reached a level higher than 88% compared to the previous year. 2021 started off slowly. Through February, YTD sales were down -16.7% from pre-pandemic 2020 and -10.0% from 2019. In March sales took off and grew steadily in April and May. Sales dipped slightly in June but were still strong vs 2019 & 2020. YTD their $ are ahead of 2020 and exceeded 2019 by 0.5B (+0.1%). Their recovery is gaining strength.

Auto (Motor Vehicle & Parts Dealers)   – Staying home causes your car to be less of a focus in your life. Sales began to fall in March and hit bottom in April. Auto Dealers began combating this “stay at home” attitude with fantastic deals and a lot of advertising. It worked. They finished 2020 up 1% vs 2019 and have returned to a strong positive pattern in 2021. The “attitude” grew amazingly positive in March and slowed only slightly in April>June as sales exceeded $137B in all 4 months, by far the 4 biggest months in history. To show how well consumers responded to their campaign you just need to look at the data. This group has exceeded $110B in monthly sales only 12 times in history. 10 of those occurred after the onset of the pandemic.  YTD Avg Annual Growth Since 2019 = +13.2% – the best performance of any big group.

Gas Stations – Gas Station $ales have been a mixed bag. If you drive less, you visit the gas station less often. Sales turned down in March 2020 and reached their low point in April. They moved up but generally stayed about 15% below 2019 levels for the rest of 2020. In February they were still behind 2020 in monthly and YTD $ but ahead of 2019 in both measurements. In March, sales skyrocketed. They increased slightly in April, May and June and were 37.4% above June 2020. They have been positive in all measurements vs both 2019 and 2020 since March. Their comeback continues but there is another factor that must be considered – inflation. Gas prices can be pretty volatile. They dipped in the first 2 months of the pandemic but then returned to more normal levels for the balance of 2020. They began strongly inflating in 2021. In fact, the June 2021 prices were 45% above June 2020. That means that the 37.4% year over year $ lift in June was actually a decrease in the amount of gas sold. YTD Annual Avg Growth Rate Since 2019 = +3.1%

Relevant Retail – Less Auto, Gas and Restaurants – This is what we consider the “core” of U.S. retail and has traditionally accounted for about 60% of Total Retail Spending. When you look at the individual channels in this group, you see a variety of results due to many factors – non-essential closures, binge buying, online shopping and a consumer focus on “home”. However, overall, April 2020 was the only month in which spending in this group was down vs 2019. Monthly $ales exceeded $400B for the first time ever in December ($407B). They finished 2020 up $260B, +7.1%. Their performance was the only reason that Total Retail was able to finish 2020 with positive numbers, +0.5%. Sales fell in January and February but set monthly records. In March they turned sharply up again, then dipped slightly in April but May brought the 3rd highest $ of all time. June saw another slight $ decline but they are still up $40.8B, +12.3% vs June 2020 and  +$298.8B, +16.5% YTD. We should note that that while December 2020 is still #1, March ($374.7B), April ($366.8B), May ($376.7B) and June ($371.5B) of 2021 are four of the six highest monthly totals of all time. It is also important that the Relevant Retail group has posted positive numbers versus last year and YTD for every month since April 2020 and their average YTD growth rate since 2019 now stands at +10.2%. Through June all but one channel have now turned positive in all measurements vs both 2020 and 2019. However, the primary drivers throughout the pandemic were and continue to be Nonstore, Grocery, SuperCenters/Clubs/$ Stores plus a seemingly never ending “spring lift” from Hardware/Farm and Sporting Goods.

Now let’s look at what is happening in the individual retail channels to see where the $ are coming from. June $ were down slightly from May and none of the increases were “off the charts”. However, it was still the 5th largest month in history for Relevant Retail outlets. The groups are less defined than in the Final Monthly reports and we will look across the whole market, not just pet relevant outlets.

Sales in 7 of 13 channels were down vs May but all were up vs June 2020, vs June 2019 and YTD vs 2020. Only 1 was down YTD vs 2019. (Relevant Retail YTD Avg Annual Growth Rate since 2019 = +10.2%)

After hitting bottom in April 2020, Relevant Retail has now beaten the previous year’s $ for 14 consecutive months. The group set an all-time record of $407B in December and finished 2020 +$260B vs 2019. 2021 started strong, with record sales in every month. March > June were 4 of the 6 biggest of all time. Essential channels are still the primary drivers:

  • Nonstore Retailers – The biggest driver. Online shopping continues to grow in # of households and in $.
  • Food & Beverage – Grocery– Restaurant $ are improving but consumers continue to eat & drink more at home.
  • Bldg Materials/Garden/Farm– Their “Spring” lift continues unabated as consumers focus on their home.
  • SuperCtrs/Club/Value/$ Strs – They keep the GM channel positive. Value is still a major consumer priority.

Regarding the Individual Large Channels (Includes YTD Avg Annual Growth Rate since 2019)

General Merchandise Stores – Sales fell in June but all other numbers are positive. YTD Department Stores $ remain up vs 2020 but down vs 2019. They were having problems before the Pandemic. After dipping to +7.5% in February, the growth rate by Club/SuperCtr/$ stores has remained near the current 8.4%. These stores are still the key to this channel.

  • YTD Avg Annual Growth: All GM = +6.8%; Dept Stores = -0.9%; Club/SuprCtr/$ = +8.4%

Food and Beverage, plus Health & Personal Care Stores – Sales in Grocery were down in March>May from 2020 – No surprise, as these were 2020 binge months. In June they beat 2020 $. The Health, Personal Care group finished 2020 at +1.8%. 2021 has started even better. With strong March > June sales, YTD they are +10.7% vs 2020 and +9.5% vs 2019.

  • YTD Avg Annual Growth: Grocery = +6.7%; Health/Drug Stores = +4.6%

Clothing and Accessories; Electronic & Appliances; Home Furnishings – March > June have been spectacular for all these channels. The increase in Clothing Stores vs June 2020 was not “off the chart” but was still +49.4%. Although all of these groups were down vs May they remain positive in all measurements vs 2020 or 2019 for the 4th consecutive month.

  • YTD Avg Annual Growth: Clothing = +3.6%; Electronic/Appliance = +2.5%; Furniture = +10.1%

Building Material, Farm & Garden & Hardware – Their Spring lift began on time in 2020 and has never stopped. They have greatly benefited from consumers focusing on their home needs. They finished 2020 +53B (+13.8%). Sales took off in March, set a record in April then dipped slightly in May & June. They are +18.3% YTD. Avg Annual Growth = +14.6%

Sporting Goods, Hobby and Book Stores – Book & Hobby stores are open but Sporting Goods stores have driven the lift in this group. Consumers turned their attention to personal recreation and sales in Sporting Goods outlets took off. The group ended 2020 +5.5% vs 2019. The growth accelerated in 2021. January > June set monthly records and March had the most $ of any non-December month in history. June YTD they are +44.6% vs 2020. Avg Annual Growth = +17.5%

All Miscellaneous Stores – Pet Stores were deemed essential but most other stores were not, so closures hit this group particularly hard. Sales hit bottom at -$3.8B in April then began to rebound. They finished with a strong December and ended 2020 down $1.0B, -0.7%. In March sales took off and the channel set a new all-time monthly record of $14.39B in May. However, they beat that record in June with $14.41B. Their YTD sales are now 31.9% above 2020 and 25.1% more than 2019. Their recovery has become very real. YTD Avg Annual Growth = +11.9%

NonStore Retailers – 90% of the volume of this group comes from Internet/Mail Order/TV. The pandemic accelerated the movement to online retail. In February 2020 NonStore $ were +8.6% YTD. In December monthly sales exceeded $100B for the 1st time. They ended 2020 at +21.4%, +$162.9B. This was 63% of the total $ increase for Relevant Retail Channels. Their 2020 performance far exceeded their 12.9% increase in 2019 and every month in 2021 has produced record $. June was +2.0% vs May and +12.0% vs 2020. Their YTD $ are +19.1%. YTD Avg Annual Growth = +18.5%

Note: Almost without exception, online sales by brick ‘n mortar retailers are recorded with their regular store sales.

Recap – 2020 was quite a year. April & May had the 2 biggest year over year sales decreases in history while December sales broke $600B for the first time. 2021 may become even more memorable. March>June became the 4 biggest Retail $ales months in history with the 4 largest year over year monthly sales increases ever. The total increase was +$608B, almost quadruple (3.87 times) the -$157B decrease from March>June 2020. At yearend 2020, Restaurants, Auto and Gas Stations were still struggling but Auto had largely recovered. Relevant retail had segments that also struggled but overall, they led the way for Total Spending to finish the year +0.5% vs 2019. 2021 has grown even more positive. The Auto Segment is setting sales records. Gas Stations, with help from inflation, is all positive vs 2020 and 2019 and thanks to a great June, so are Restaurants. The details show that the recovery in Relevant retail has become real for virtually all channels and monthly sales continue to set records. Retail has recovered but one question remains, “How high can the $ go?”

 

 

Retail Channel Monthly $ Update – April Final & May Advance

In May 2020  the Retail market began its recovery after hitting bottom in April. The road back has been long and complex and Consumer spending behavior continues to evolve. In this report we will track the changes, migration between channels and the retail recovery with data from two reports provided by the U.S. Census Bureau.

The Reports are the Monthly Retail Sales Report and the Advance Retail Sales Report. Both are derived from sales data gathered from retailers across the U.S. and are published monthly at the same time. The Advance Report has a smaller sample size so it can be published quickly – about 2 weeks after month end. The Monthly Final Report includes data from all respondents, so it takes longer to compile the data – about 6 weeks. Although the sample size for the Advance report is smaller, the results over the years have proven it to be statistically accurate with the final monthly reports. The biggest difference is that the full sample in the Final report allows us to “drill” a little deeper into the retail channels.

We will begin with the Final Retail Report for April and then move to the Advance Retail Report for May. Remember, the retail impact of the pandemic began in March 2020, peaked in April, then recovery started in May. We will compare 2021 to both 2020 and 2019 to document the progress that the retail market has made towards a full recovery.

Both reports include the following:

  • Total Retail, Restaurants, Auto, Gas Stations and Relevant Retail (removing Restaurants, Auto and Gas)
  • Individual Channel Data – This will be more detailed in the “Final” reports and we fill focus on Pet Relevant Channels

The information will be presented in detailed charts to facilitate visual comparison between groups/channels of:

  • Current Month change – % & $ vs previous month
  • Current Month change – % & $ vs same month in 2020 and 2019
  • Current YTD change – % & $ vs 2020 and 2019
  • Monthly and Year To Date $ will also be shown for each group/channel

First, the April Final. Retail hit bottom in April but began recovery, hitting record $ in December. In January & February $ fell but were still records for those months. Sales skyrocketed in March, setting a new all time $ record. In April $ fell a bit but it were still the 2nd best in history. Here are the major retail groups. (All Data is Actual, Not Seasonally Adjusted)

The final total is $9.1B more than the Advance report projected a month ago. Led by Relevant Retail, all groups were up. The specifics were: Relevant Retail: +$5.8B Auto: +$1.9B; Restaurants: +$1.2B; Gas Stations: +$0.2B. Sales vs March were mixed but Total Retail $ were still the 2nd highest of all time. Total $ales broke $600B for the 1st time in December and has now done it 3 times. Auto has the strongest recovery and is in fact prospering – annual YTD growth rate since 2019 is +12.8%. Except for the spending dips by 2 groups vs March, all but Restaurants were positive in all other measurements. Restaurants are still slightly negative vs 2019 but the Retail recovery is strong.

Now, let’s see how some Key Pet Relevant channels were doing in April.

  • Overall– 8 of 11 channels were down vs March but 9 of 11 were up vs April 2020 and 10 vs April 2019. In YTD $, 10 were up vs 2020 and 10 vs 2019. 9 were up vs both. April was down vs March, but still strong.
  • Building Material Stores – Their amazing lift continues. The ongoing surge came as a result of pandemic spending patterns developed in 2020. Consumers began focusing on their homes. Now we’re moving into the 2021 Spring lift, with Farm Stores again leading the way. Sporting Goods stores are not in this group but have a similar spending pattern. Sales took off in May, hit a record peak in December and continued strong into 2021, peaking in March. April $ fell slightly but are +124% vs 2020 and +58% vs 2019. YTD they are even +53% vs 2019.
  • Food & Drug – Supermarkets were +$77.7B in 2020. $ are down vs March and YTD 2020 due to last year’s binge buying. They are still up over 13% vs April 2019 and YTD 2019. Drug Stores ended up +$17B (+5.7%) for 2020. Their $ fell in April after a setting a record in March. All other measurements are positive and YTD $ are +5.8%.
  • General Merchandise Stores – $ in all channels fell in Jan & Feb then spiked in March. In April, sales in all but $ stores declined. Discount Store were having problems even before the pandemic, but now even they seem to have largely recovered, +8.7% YTD vs 2019. Clubs/SuperCtrs and $ Stores remain strong. These channels promote value. Their success vs both 2020 and 2019 reinforces its importance in Consumer spending decisions.
  • Office, Gift & Souvenir Stores– $ declined slightly from March but were +159% vs April 2020. The pandemic hit them hard. They are still down vs 2019 – monthly and YTD. Recovery is a long way off, but things are improving.
  • Internet/Mail Order – Although $ dropped in April the pandemic continues to accelerate this channel’s growth. In April of 2020, their YTD growth rate was +17.1%. In April 2021, it is +25.4% – a 48.5% increase.
  • A/O Miscellaneous – This is a group of small to midsized specialty retailers – chains and independents. It includes Florists, Art Stores and Pet Stores (22>24% of total $). Pet Stores were usually essential, but most stores were not. In May 2020 they began their recovery. Their 2020 total sales were up +11.6%. Although April $ were down from March, YTD sales are +31.4% vs 2020 and +46.9% vs 2019. This rivals the Internet. It’s looking good!

The Relevant Retail Segment began recovery in May, reached a record level in December, then $ fell in Jan & Feb. March sales set a record for the month, then the $ fell slightly in April. Almost all channels are showing growth. Currently the key drivers are the Internet, SuperCtrs/Clubs/$ Stores and Hdwe/Farm. Now, here are the Advance numbers for May.

2020 will always be a memorable year for both its traumas and triumphs. In April & May we experienced the 2 biggest retail spending drops in history, but the problems actually began in March. Retail sales began to recover in June and in October, YTD Total Retail turned positive for the 1st time since February. In December, Total Retail broke the $600B barrier – a historic first. While sales fell from their December peak, monthly sales records were set in both January and February. Then they took off again in March, breaking $600B again while setting a new monthly sales record of $633.1B. April sales were down slightly but were the second highest in history. Restaurant $ were down slightly from 2019. This was the only negative vs 2020 or 2019 for any group. In May, Auto had a slight, -0.1% decrease from April. All other groups increased sales. The result was yet another Total Retail spending record, $644.4B. Restaurants were still down slightly YTD vs 2019. Once again, this was the only negative for any big group vs 2020 or 2019. Some other areas of the economy are still suffering, and some spending behavior has changed but the overall Retail marketplace has strongly recovered.

Total Retail – In March, Total Retail hit $633.1B, a record for the most spending in any month in any year. In April, $ales dipped to $616.7B but were still $218.4B more than April 2020 – a record increase, which was more than double the size of last year’s record drop. That brings us to May. As we said, sales set another new record, $644.4B. Moreover, the current YTD average annual sales growth rate since 2019 is 8.7%, the strongest ever in records going back to 1992. Total Retail has not just recovered. It is stronger than ever.

Restaurants – This is the only big group with any negative measurements vs 2020 or 2019 . Last February YTD sales were up 8.1% vs 2019. The Pandemic changed that. Restaurants started to close or cease in person dining in March and sales fell -$33.3B (-52.5%) compared to March 2019. Sales bottomed out in April at $30.1, the lowest April sales since 2003. Sales started to slowly increase in May but never reached a level higher than 88% compared to the previous year. 2021 started off slowly. Through February,  YTD sales were down -16.7% from pre-pandemic 2020 and -10.0% from 2019. In March sales took off and grew steadily in April and May. Sales in both months exceeded 2019. YTD their $ are ahead of 2020 but still $6.3B (-2.0%) behind 2019. They are not “there yet” but their recovery is gaining strength.

Auto (Motor Vehicle & Parts Dealers)   – Staying home causes your car to be less of a focus in your life. Sales began to fall in March and hit bottom in April. Auto Dealers began combating this “stay at home” attitude with fantastic deals and a lot of advertising. It worked. They finished 2020 up 1% vs 2019 and have returned to a strong positive pattern in 2021. The “attitude” grew amazingly positive in March and slowed only slightly in April & May as sales exceeded $143B in all 3 months, by far the 3 biggest months in history. To show how well consumers responded to their campaign you just need to look at the data. This group has exceeded $110B in monthly sales only 11 times in history. 9 of those occurred after the onset of the pandemic.  YTD Avg Annual Growth Since 2019 = +13.0% – the best performance of any big group.

Gas Stations – Gas Station $ales have been a mixed bag. If you drive less, you visit the gas station less often. Sales turned down in March 2020 and reached their low point in April. They moved up but generally stayed about 15% below 2019 levels for the rest of 2020. In February they were still behind 2020 in monthly and YTD $ but ahead of 2019 in both measurements. In March, sales skyrocketed. They increased slightly in April and May and were 56.7% above May 2020. They have been positive in all measurements vs both 2019 and 2020 since March. Their comeback continues but there is another factor that must be considered – inflation. Gas prices can be pretty volatile. They dipped in the first 2 months of the pandemic but then returned to more normal levels for the balance of 2020. They began strongly inflating in 2021. In fact, the May 2021 prices were 56.9% above May 2020. That means that 100% of the 56.7% year over year lift in May came from higher prices. Analyzing retail can be complicated. YTD Annual Avg Growth Rate Since 2019 = +2.9%

Relevant Retail – Less Auto, Gas and Restaurants – This is what we consider the “core” of U.S. retail and has traditionally accounted for about 60% of Total Retail Spending. When you look at the individual channels in this group, you see a variety of results due to many factors – non-essential closures, binge buying, online shopping and a consumer focus on “home”. However, overall, April 2020 was the only month in which spending in this group was down vs 2019. Monthly $ales exceeded $400B for the first time ever in December ($407B). They finished 2020 up $260B, +7.1%. Their performance was the only reason that Total Retail was able to finish 2020 with positive numbers, +0.5%. Sales fell in January and February but set monthly records. In March they turned sharply up again, then dipped slightly in April but May brought the 2nd highest $ of all time. Currently, they are up $56.0B, +17.4% vs May 2020 and  +$260.2B, +17.5% YTD. We should note that that while December 2020 is still #1, March ($374.7B), April ($366.8B) and May ($378.9B) of 2021 are three of the five highest monthly totals of all time. It is also important that the Relevant Retail group has posted positive numbers versus last year and YTD for every month since April 2020 and their average YTD growth rate since 2019 now stands at +10.0%. Through May virtually all channels have now turned positive vs both 2020 and 2019. However, the primary drivers throughout the pandemic were and continue to be Nonstore, Grocery, SuperCenters/Clubs/$ Stores plus a never ending “spring lift” from Hardware/Farm and Sporting Goods.

Now let’s look at what is happening in the individual retail channels to see where the $ are coming from. May beat both April and March, and you will see that one of the increases vs 2020 was again literally “off the charts”. The groups are less defined than in the Final Monthly reports and we will look across the whole market, not just pet relevant outlets.

Sales in 10 of 13 channels were up vs April and 11 were up vs May 2020 $. Only 1 was down vs 2020 YTD while a different channel was down vs 2019 numbers. (Relevant Retail YTD Avg Annual Growth Rate since 2019 = +10.0%)

After hitting bottom in April 2020, Relevant Retail has now beaten the previous year’s $ for 13 consecutive months. The group set an all-time record of $407B in December and finished  2020 +$260B vs 2019. 2021 started strong, with record sales in every month. March > May ranked #2, #4 & #5 of all time. Essential channels are still the primary drivers:

  • Nonstore Retailers – The biggest driver. Online shopping continues to grow in # of households and in $.
  • Food & Beverage – Grocery– Restaurant $ are improving but consumers continue to eat & drink more at home.
  • Bldg Materials/Garden/Farm– Their “Spring” lift continues unabated as consumers focus on their home.
  • SuperCtrs/Club/Value/$ Strs – They keep the GM channel positive. Value is still a major consumer priority.

Regarding the Individual Large Channels (Includes YTD Avg Annual Growth Rate since 2019)

General Merchandise Stores – Sales bounced back in May and all numbers are positive. Department Stores $ remain up vs 2020 but down vs 2019. They were having problems before the Pandemic. After dipping to +7.5% in February, the growth rate by Club/SuperCtr/$ stores has remained near the current 8.7%. These stores are still the key to this channel.

  • YTD Avg Annual Growth: All GM = +6.9%; Dept Stores = -1.8%; Club/SuprCtr/$ = +8.7%

Food and Beverage, plus Health & Personal Care Stores – Sales in Grocery were down in March>May from 2020 – No surprise, as these were 2020 binge months – especially March. The Health, Personal Care group finished 2020 at +1.8%. 2021 has started even better. With strong March > May sales, YTD they are +11.2% vs 2020 and +9.3% vs 2019.

  • YTD Avg Annual Growth: Grocery = +6.7%; Health/Drug Stores = +4.5%

Clothing and Accessories; Electronic & Appliances; Home Furnishings – March, April and May have been spectacular for all these channels. The increase vs May 2020 was again literally off the chart for Clothing. All of these groups were up vs April and remain positive in all measurements vs 2020 or 2019 for the 3rd consecutive month.

  • YTD Avg Annual Growth: Clothing = +2.7%; Electronic/Appliance = +2.3%; Furniture = +10.2%

Building Material, Farm & Garden & Hardware – Their Spring lift began on time in 2020 and has never stopped. They have greatly benefited from consumers focusing on their home needs. They finished 2020 +53B (+13.8%). Sales took off in March, set a record in April then dipped slightly in May. They are +21.1% YTD vs 2020. Avg Annual Growth = +15.0%

Sporting Goods, Hobby and Book Stores – Book & Hobby stores are open but Sporting Goods stores have driven the lift in this group. Consumers turned their attention to personal recreation and sales in Sporting Goods outlets took off. The group ended 2020 +5.5% vs 2019. The growth accelerated in 2021. January > May set monthly records and March had the most $ of any non-December month in history. May YTD they are +55.2% vs 2020. YTD Avg Annual Growth = +17.3%

All Miscellaneous Stores – Pet Stores were deemed essential but most other stores were not, so closures hit this group particularly hard. Sales hit bottom at -$3.8B in April then began to rebound. They finished with a strong December and ended 2020 down $1.0B, -0.7%. In March sales took off and the channel set a new all-time monthly record of $14.3B in May. Their YTD sales are now 33.2% above 2020 and 24.0% more than 2019. It appears that their recovery has become very real. YTD Avg Annual Growth = +11.4%

NonStore Retailers – 90% of the volume of this group comes from Internet/Mail Order/TV. The pandemic accelerated the movement to online retail. In February 2020 NonStore $ were 8.6% YTD. In December monthly sales exceeded $100B for the 1st time. They ended 2020 at +21.4%, +$162.9B. This was 63% of the total $ increase for Relevant Retail Channels. Their 2020 performance far exceeded their 12.9% increase in 2019 and every month in 2021 has produced record $. May was -0.2% vs April but still +8.2% vs 2020 and YTD $ are +21.0%. YTD Avg Annual Growth = +18.2%

Note: Almost without exception, online sales by brick ‘n mortar retailers are recorded with their regular store sales.

Recap – 2020 was quite a year. April & May had the 2 biggest year over year sales decreases in history while December sales broke $600B for the first time. 2021 may become even more memorable. March>May became the 3 biggest $ales months in history with the 3 largest year over year monthly sales increases ever. The total increase was +$513B, almost triple (2.93 times) the -$175B decrease from March>May 2020. At yearend 2020, Restaurants, Auto and Gas Stations were still struggling but Auto had largely recovered. Relevant retail had segments that also struggled but overall, they led the way for Total Spending to finish the year +0.5% vs 2019. 2021 has started out even more positive. The Auto Segment is setting sales records. Gas Stations $, with help from inflation, are now all positive and YTD Restaurant $ are only slightly below 2019. As documented in the report, the recovery in Relevant retail has become real for virtually all channels and monthly sales continue to set records. Retail has recovered. The new question is, “How high can the $ go?”

PET PRODUCT $ALES ACROSS U.S. RETAIL CHANNELS The Migration of “Pet Parents” – 1992 to 2017

Pets, Pet Food and Supplies sales have shown tremendous retail growth since 1992. According to the Economic Census, which is conducted every 5 years by the U.S. Census Bureau, retail sales totaled $51.32 Billion in 2017 – up from $8.2 Billion in 1992. The spectacular growth was fueled by Americans’ growing love and commitment to their pets. 67% of U.S. Households have a pet – twice as many as have a child under 18.

While the love was growing in our hearts, the sales of pet products were growing at retail. It was not a simple journey –straight to the top. It involved expansion to a variety of different outlets and consumer migration between channels driven by their search for value, convenience and selection.

In this report we will use detailed data from the Economic Census to update our ongoing analysis through 2017.

Here is a visual look at the growth since 1992. I have also included a line on the graph which is adjusted for “petflation” and gives us a better indication of the actual increase in the amount of product sold.

Retail Growth 1992 to 2017

  • 1992 > 2017: Up $43.12B (+525.9%); Avg Growth = 7.6%
    • 1992 > 2012: Up $32.27B (+394.8%); Avg Growth = 8.3%
    • 2012 > 2017: Up $10.85B (+26.8%); Avg Growth = 4.9%

Real Growth 1992 to 2017 (Adjusted for petflation – Pet Food & Supplies CPI)

  • 1992 > 2017: Up $25.16B (+306.8%); Avg Growth = 5.8%
    • 1992 > 2012: Up $17.78B (+216.8%); Avg Growth = 5.9%
    • 2012 > 2017: Up $7.38B (+28.4%); Avg Growth = 5.1%

Note: Most of the growth (76.3%) in Pets, Pet Food and Supplies has been real growth. Pet Products Prices increased 53.8% in the 25 years from 1992 to 2017 compared to an increase of 74.6% in the Total U.S. CPI and a 138.6% increase in Pet Services Prices (Vet & Non-Vet combined) in just the 20 years from 1997 to 2017.

Pricing in Pet Products was an issue from 2007 to 2009 when prices jumped 17% in just two years, in the heart of the recession. Consumers started searching for value. This was a key point in Pet Products channel migration. On the flip side, from 2012 > 2017 Pet Products prices fell -1.25%. Although the growth rate during this period was down from the long term average, the increase in the amount of Pet Products purchased was actually greater than the $ increase.

We’ll stay with the total market and look at some key factors that have affected the overall growth since 1992.

Here’s how each factor changed during each of the five year measurements since 1992.

1992 to 1997 – No growth in outlets or in retailers’ share of overall market. The big growth was increased store volume due to increased consumer product demand – which was filled by expanded departments and bigger pet stores.

1997 to 2002– A 27% increase in number of outlets and a 15% increase in per store volume pushed sales up 45%. A huge increase in the representation of Pet in the overall market as it became available in stores doing over 35% of total retail.

2002 to 2007 – Store count continues to grow – up 18% and the per/store volume goes up even faster – +21%. Sales are up 43%. The overall Retail Market Share of outlets selling products remains stable at 35%.

2007 to 2012 – Another 18,000 stores (+14%) and a huge increase in per store volume (+32.4%). Consumers have started shopping intensely for value since the recession…and they found it as sales increased 50%. It was also easier to find products in a store, as outlets doing 47% of the total U.S. Retail market stocked pet supplies in 2012.

2012 to 2017 – Sales Growth slowed markedly to 26.8%. There were 12.600 more stores but +7.8% was much less than in the past. Pet Products stocking stores also loss share of the overall market but are still over 43%. It looks like this drop occurs regularly every 10 years. The $ lift was primarily due to a 17.7% increase in $ales per store – still relatively strong.

1992 to 2017 – Sales Now $51.3B; Up $43.1B (+525.9%)

  • 160,282 “pet” outlets; Up 74,101 (+86.0%)
  • Outlets stocking “pet” do 43.4% of U.S. Retail.
  • Pet Products do 3.5% of an outlet’s total sales.
  • Pet Products = 1.5% of Relevant Retail; 0.7% in 1992

Now, let’s see how the consumers decided to divide up their Pet Products $.

PET PRODUCTS SALES AND MARKET SHARE BY RETAIL CHANNEL

This chart shows the shows in detail the # of outlets, total pet product $ and market share of the retail channels and segments stocking pet products from 1992 to 2017. Use it as a reference point. Additional charts will follow.

99.3% of Pet Products Sales are done by 5 major Retail Channels. Let’s look at their market share from 1992 to 2017.

Drug Stores were included for historical reference. In 1992, they had a bigger share than Nonstore and Hdwe/Farm combined. Now their $ and share are below Gas Stations. 5 Major channels account for 99.3% of Pet Products $.

Observations

Drug and Health Stores – They were once a small, but notable force in Pet Products sales. However, except for an uptick in 2012, their share of Pet Products $ has generally declined. Their Pet Products Sales are now basically impulse or convenience purchases, a pattern similar to that for Gas Stations and Convenience Stores.

Hardware and Farm – Early growth came from the Farm Store segment. Hardware jumped on board in 2002 and pushed the market share up to 5.4%, capturing 40% of this channel’s pet business. The overall share stayed fairly stable from 2002 to 2012 then plunged in 2017 due to huge drop in Hdwe/Home Centers Pet Products $. While Farm Stores $ have consistently grown since 1992, Hdwe/Home Ctrs have been on a true roller coaster ride since 2002.

Food and Beverage – Supermarkets account for 98% of the business in this channel. In 1992 Supermarkets were the #1 Pet channel, with 42.1% of the business. They increased their business 9.5% in 1997. Unfortunately, overall “Pet” sales took off – up 55%, so their market share fell 30%. Sales stagnated in 2002 and actually dropped in 2007. Needless to say, their market share continued to plummet – down 73% from the 1992 high. Where did the business go? – just about everywhere else, but primarily to General Merchandise Stores and Pet Stores. Then from 2007 to 2012 they executed a remarkable turnaround.  The number of Supermarkets carrying pet products increased by over 70%. They more than doubled their pet sales and gained back 3.6 points in market share. However, 2012 to 2017 brought another turnaround – a negative one. The number of Supermarkets carrying Pet Products fell -12.5% and their Pet Products $ dropped -$725M (-12.2%). Their market share is at an all-time low of 10.2%, which is 76% below 1992. Some of the business may have been lost to SuperCtrs/Clubs or even Pet Stores, but most probably migrated to the Internet.

Nonstore Retailers – This channel includes both mail order and the internet. The increases in pet products $ have been truly astronomical. Sales in 2017 are 100 times what they were in 1992 and their Market share is up over 1500%. Since 2007 and especially since 2012 the growth has been fueled by the internet. In the years up to and including 2012 the internet/mail order share of Pet Products $ mirrored their share of Total Retail $. However, they have stepped up in Pet Products since then. Internet/Mail order now sells 18.8% of Pet Products $, compared to 16.1% of total relevant retail $.

Pet Stores – In 1992 Pet Stores were the second largest retail channel selling pet products. The category caught fire. Big Box Pet Super Stores were developed and built to offer the consumer the wider selection that they sought. In 1997, due to the growth of chains, Pet Stores moved into the #1 position with a 40.5% share of the business. The proliferation of Super Stores resulted in the closing of a number of smaller Independents, so the number of stores and market share dipped slightly to 38.0% in 2002. They were still #1 but now they were being strongly pursued by General Merchandise Stores – not Supermarkets.  More Super Stores, along with a continued high consumer demand, brought their market share back up to 39.0% in 2007. They had maintained the #1 status with a market share of 38 – 40% for over 10 years. Then…the recession happened, and consumers became focused on value. Their store count was the same and sales grew but their market share fell 5.9 points (-15.1%). On the surface, it appears that the bulk of the business went to Grocery and Internet/Mail-order but almost every major channel and a few minor players got a piece of their lost share. Things certainly changed in the period from 2012 to 2017 as the world, including retail began to move increasingly online. Pet Stores not only held their ground, but they also actually had a slight gain in share. They capitalized on Pet Parents desire for personal interaction in pet products purchases along with their desire for the convenience of one stop shopping. More Pet Stores began offering grooming services and some even added Veterinary services. They will never beat Internet product prices, but you can’t get your dog groomed online!

Minor Players – Although their combined market share is under 1%, the widespread appeal of Pets has brought in retailers from a variety of other “Specialty” channels – Home Goods (Furniture), Value Clothing Stores, Sporting Goods, Gift…to name a few. Although their selection is generally limited, they do broaden the consumer availability of certain pet product categories in the overall U.S. Retail Market. The success or failure of their venture into the Pet Products world is usually dependent upon the overall success of the individual retailer. If they are attracting consumers and their business is growing, then they may have some success with Pet. After all it appeals to 67% of U.S. households.

General Merchandise Stores – Currently they are hanging on as the #1 major channel in Pet Products sales. This group enjoyed strong to spectacular growth from 1992 to 2007. The number of outlets grew from 10K to 37K (+250%); sales grew $8B to $9.5B (+533%); market share grew from 19.1% to 35.3% (+83.9%). From 2007 to 2012, the number of outlets continued to grow, and sales increased to $14.2B (+49.5%) but their market share actually fell 0.1%…Yet, they still took over the #1 position in Pet…by just matching the overall market increase. From 2012 to 2017, their number of outlets and sales grew but couldn’t keep up with the internet, so their share fell. There were also some changes within the segments in terms of product mix and classification. This is a large and complex channel and deserves a closer look.

All Department Stores – Stores have been classified as either Traditional Department Stores, like Macy’s or J.C. Penney or Discount Department Stores, like Wal-Mart or Target. For the Economic Census that has changed.

Traditional Department Stores Although they do 8% of this channel’s overall business, they are basically a nonentity in Pet Products. These stores have consistently loss market share as they have done little to meet the consumer’s changing “needs” – including failing to recognize and embrace the Pet Phenomenon in the U.S.

Discount Department Stores – This segment is the one that started the decline in traditional Department Stores. In terms of Pet Market Share, these stores were at their peak in 1992. The commitment to SuperCenters and the rise of Club Stores started their decline. Sales continued to increase until 2002 and there was even a little uptick in market share between 2002 and 2007. From 2007 to 2012 sales flattened out and the number of outlets fell. In 2012 they were surpassed by the Dollar/Value stores in Pet Products’ market share. Between 2012 and 2017 the corporate owners decided to revise the product mix in many of these outlets. The continued growth in sales by Super Centers convinced them to add increasing quantities of fresh groceries to the product mix. Although the fresh offering is not as extensive as Super Centers it became significant. For the Economic Census, it was decided to eliminate the Discount Department Store Classification. Most of the existing outlets were classified as Super Centers. Those with an insignificant fresh grocery segment were lumped in with All Department Stores which included the traditional stores. The result was that Pet Product sales in the all department stores segment now mirrored that of the traditional stores – essentially zero.

SuperCenters & Warehouse Club Stores – This segment has been a retail winner since it came into play in the 90’s. It has shown consistent, even spectacular growth and in every measuring period its % increase in Pet Products $ has surpassed even the impressive growth rate of the overall Pet Products market. In 2007 they moved up in rank to #2, behind only Pet Stores in sales. Their pet products sales and share growth slowed from 2012>2017 and much of the growth from 2012 to 2017 must be attributed to the reclassification of many Discount Department stores. In fact, in 2012 the combined Pet Products $ share of SuperCtr/Clubs and Discount Dept Stores was 29.6%. In 2017, the share of all stores classified as SuperCtr/Club outlets was 27.0%. Like almost everyone else, this group lost $ to the internet.

$ Stores/Value Retailers – This channel was originally occupied by 5&10¢ Stores. They faded and were replaced by these Value Retailers. Since 1997, the store count and Pet Product sales have gone up dramatically. Their appeal and their share of the total market has grown markedly since the recession. In terms of number of outlets selling Pet Products, in 2017 they passed Supermarkets to take over the top spot. Their sales and market share also grew so they now rank #5 in Pet Products sales. Unlike most channels, they gained ground, in the internet wave.

Speaking of the internet wave, let’s take a closer look at the specifics for 2012>2017. First, the major channels Here’s the 2017 market share by Channel: (Arrows show if they are up , down and by how much in share from 2012)

  • GM Strs: 33.6% ↓1.6
  • Pet Stores: 33.3% ↑0.2
  • Nonstore Retailers: 19.0% ↑9.5
  • Food & Bev (Groc): 10.4% ↓4.6
  • Hdwe & Farm: 3.0% ↓2.3
  • All Other: 0.7% ↓1.2

Only Pet Stores held their ground and even gained a little in the Internet tsunami.

Now let’s look at the individual segments in terms of 2017: (Same rules as above)

  • Pet Stores: 33.3% ↑0.2
  • SuperCtrs/Club: 27.0% ↑2.9
  • Internet/MailOrder: 18.8% ↑9.6
  • Supermarkets: 10.2% ↓4.5
  • $ Value Strs: 6.5% ↑0.9
  • Farm Stores: 2.6% ↓0.5
  • Gas/Convenience: 0.5% ↓0.3
  • Hardware: 0.3% ↓1.9
  • Drug Stores: 0.3% ↓0.7
  • Other Nonstore: 0.2% ↔0.0
  • Furniture/Home: 0.1% ↓0.2
  • All Dept Strs: 0.03% ↓5.47

 The story is a bit more complex, and the specifics can be a little bit misleading. The gain by SuperCtrs/Clubs was largely due to the assimilation of many Discount Department Stores into this channel. The combined share of these two channels was 27.0% in 2017. That’s down -2.6% from 29.6% in 2012. There was also another winner – $ Value Stores. Consumers love the value and convenience of these outlets and they continue a rapid expansion in numbers.

The move to the internet is definitely a trend. Let’s look at some major trends that have impacted and continue to affect Pet Product Sales over the 25 years from 1992 to 2017.

There are 3 driving forces in consumer spending behavior:

  • Value (quality + price) – Looking for a deal.
  • Convenience – Make shopping easy.
  • Selection – They want choices. 

With that in mind, let’s look at the trends indicated by our analysis:

  1. The biggest trend is Value. It has shown consistent growth in importance and has been the single biggest factor since 2007. The channels that focus on Value are SuperCtr/Clubs, $ Stores and Internet/Mail order. They are definitely winning.
  2. One Stop Shopping is all about convenience. This is the second biggest driver and explains the ongoing success of SuperCtr/Clubs and the Internet. Supermarkets began this trend in the late 1970s by radically expanding their Gen Mdse sections in an effort to fulfill this consumer need.
  3. Groceries in the store. In 1992 consumers bought most pet products where they shopped for groceries – Supermarkets. In 1997 Supermarkets lost the top spot to Pet Stores. The GM Channel was also growing at this time and SuperCtr/Clubs also offered full grocery sections. Since 2012, consumers have come full circle and once again buy most Pet Products where they shop for groceries.
  4. The rise of Pet Super Stores and chains took off in the 90s. Their huge selection of Pet Products had a great appeal to the new generation of Pet Owners – Now Pet Parents. Pet Stores became the single biggest channel for Pet Products sales in 1997. Their success caused other channels to expand their Pet Sections. Pet Stores lost some ground in 2012 but they held onto the top spot and even gained share in 2017 by offering more Pet Services in store. They appealed to the consumer with 1 stop pet shopping.
  5. Internet – Their success should be no surprise. The game plan for online retailers exactly fits the consumers “wish list”. Great Prices! Shop without leaving home. Plus, a nearly unlimited selection

Summary

The underlying cause behind migration is evolution. In the migration of Pet Products there are two key evolutions taking place. The first is the evolution of Pet Owners to Pet Parents. Pet Parents are much more concerned about fulfilling the wants and needs of their Pet Children. This transformation took hold in the 90’s and accelerated during the early 2000’s when Pet Parents increasingly personified their pets. They began reading labels, became increasingly concerned about nutrition and now generally transfer human needs to their pet children. This movement continues to grow stronger.

The other evolution occurred in the retail marketplace and with all consumers. Consumers became less brand driven in their purchasing behavior and more concerned about value, convenience and selection. The great recession further cemented Value at the top. Online shopping was growing far before the pandemic moved it to the retail forefront.

We see the migratory results of the ongoing evolutions in our analysis.  In the 90s Pet Super Stores grew rapidly because they offered an unparalleled, broad selection of products to the ever increasing number of Pet Parents who were ready, willing and able to buy. Their success caught the attention of other retailers who expanded their Pet Products offerings. SuperCenters and Clubs were also growing strong at this time because these huge stores offered great Value and 1 stop shopping for groceries and a wide selection of GM categories, including Pet.

Everyone wants value but sometimes you don’t want to fight the crowds  – $/Value Stores are the answer. Great everyday prices plus brand name “close outs” in a small footprint store that is easy to navigate. Plus, they carry Pet Products. They continue to add stores and currently have more outlets stocking pet items than any other channel.

That brings us to the Internet, our most recent and largest migration, +9.6% gain in share. Want a bigger selection…. Go online. No one can build a store big enough to stock the selection of products available online…and with no brick and mortar overhead…you can get great value. Plus, you can shop for the best price and get what you want without ever leaving your easy chair…talk about convenient.

At this point, Pet Products have grown in importance and spread across the U.S. retail landscape. Consumer $ales are $51.3B, +525% from 1992. They are available in 160K outlets, up from 86K in 1992. They also account for 1.5% of Total Relevant Retail $, compared to 0.7% in 1992. The migration will continue. Brick ‘n Mortar Businesses need to adapt in the current internet surge. They must have an online presence and offer delivery and same day pickup in store/curbside if possible. Pet Stores have a unique advantage as they can offer pet services and personal interaction with Pet Parents and their pets – which can’t happen online. We’ll see how everyone adapts and what changes the next chapter brings.

Retail Channel Monthly $ Update – March Final & April Advance

It has been a full year since the Retail market bottomed out in April 2020, so this month’s retail update is particularly significant. Consumer spending behavior continues to evolve. In this report we will track the changes, migration between channels and the retail recovery with data from two reports provided by the U.S. Census Bureau.

The Reports are the Monthly Retail Sales Report and the Advance Retail Sales Report. Both are derived from sales data gathered from retailers across the U.S. and are published monthly at the same time. The Advance Report has a smaller sample size so it can be published quickly – about 2 weeks after month end. The Monthly Final Report includes data from all respondents, so it takes longer to compile the data – about 6 weeks. Although the sample size for the Advance report is smaller, the results over the years have proven it to be statistically accurate with the final monthly reports. The biggest difference is that the full sample in the Final report allows us to “drill” a little deeper into the retail channels.

We will begin with the Final Retail Report for March and then move to the Advance Retail Report for April. Remember, the maximum retail impact of the pandemic occurred in April 2020, but it began in March. We will compare 2021 to both 2020 and 2019 to document the progress that the retail market has made towards a full recovery.

Both reports include the following:

  • Total Retail, Restaurants, Auto, Gas Stations and Relevant Retail (removing Restaurants, Auto and Gas)
  • Individual Channel Data – This will be more detailed in the “Final” reports and we fill focus on Pet Relevant Channels

The information will be presented in detailed charts to facilitate visual comparison between groups/channels of:

  • Current Month change – % & $ vs previous month
  • Current Month change – % & $ vs same month in 2020 and 2019
  • Current YTD change – % & $ vs 2020 and 2019
  • Monthly and Year To Date $ will also be shown for each group/channel

First, the March Final. Retail hit bottom in April but began recovery, hitting record $ in December. In January & February $ fell but were still records for those months. Sales skyrocketed in March, beating December for a new all time $ record. Here are the major retail groups. (All Data is Actual, Not Seasonally Adjusted)

The final total is $2.0B more than the Advance report projected a month ago. All Groups but Relevant Retail were up. The specifics were: Auto: +$1.7B; Restaurants: +$0.9B; Gas Stations: +$0.8B; Relevant Retail: -$1.2B. All groups were up vs February and Total Retail set a new monthly record of $629.9B. Total $ales broke $600B for the first time in December and set individual monthly records in both January and February thanks to strong performances by Relevant Retail and Auto. In March, all groups contributed to the new monthly record and all, but Restaurants were positive in all measurements. Restaurants are still slightly negative vs 2019 and YTD but overall, Retail is strongly recovering.

Now, let’s see how some Key Pet Relevant channels were doing in March.

  • Overall– All 11 channels were up vs February and 10 of 11 were up vs March 2020 and March 2019. In YTD $, 10 were up vs 2020 and 9 vs 2019. March was a strong month, both overall and in the details.
  • Building Material Stores – Their amazing lift continues. The ongoing surge came as a result of pandemic spending patterns developed in 2020. Consumers began focusing on their homes. They’re still showing 20+% increases, with Farm Stores leading the way with 30+% increases in all measurements. Sporting Goods stores are not in this group but have a similar spending pattern. Sales took off in May, hit a record peak in December and continued strong into 2021, spiking in March. Compared to 2019, they are +67.6% vs March and +51.6% YTD
  • Food & Drug – Supermarkets finished 2020 up +$77.7B. Sales are up vs February but down vs the March 2020 binge. They are up YTD vs 2019 but about even with 2020. Drug Stores ended up +$17B (+5.7%) for 2020. Their $ fell in January and February but March $ set a new record. All measurements are positive and YTD $ are +3.0%.
  • General Merchandise Stores – $ in all channels had been falling from their December peak but sales in March grew 25% from February. Discount Department Store were having problems even before the pandemic, but they led the way in the March lift, +34.9% vs February. Clubs/SuperCtrs and $ Stores remain strong. These channels promote value. Their success in all measurements reinforces its importance in Consumer spending decisions.
  • Office, Gift & Souvenir Stores– March brought a big $ lift…finally. They were hard hit by the pandemic and still have negative numbers vs 2019 – monthly and YTD. Recovery is still a long way off but might be on the horizon.
  • Internet/Mail Order – The pandemic has accelerated this channel’s growth. Last March they were up 12.5% YTD vs 2019. This year they are up 46.6%. The pandemic lift spending pattern basically doubled the rate of increase.
  • A/O Miscellaneous – This is a group of small to midsized specialty retailers – chains and independents. It includes Florists, Art Stores and Pet Stores (22>24% of total $). Pet Stores were usually essential, but most stores were not. Stores began reopening in May and the $ grew. Their 2020 total sales were up +11.6%. March YTD sales are +$4.8B (+23.2%) vs 2020 and +$7.6B (+42.8%) vs 2019. Recovery is here and with continuing growth!

The Relevant Retail Segment began recovery in May, reached a record level in December, then $ fell in January & February. March set a new monthly record and virtually all members of this group are showing growth. Currently the key drivers are the Internet, SuperCtrs/Clubs/$ Stores and Hdwe/Farm. Now, here are the Advance numbers for April.

2020 will always be a memorable year for both its traumas and triumphs. In April & May we experienced the 2 biggest retail spending drops in history, but the problems actually began in March. Sales increased slightly from February but were $34.1B less than March 2019. Retail sales began to recover in June and in October, YTD Total Retail turned positive for the 1st time since February. In December, Total Retail broke the $600B barrier – a historic first. While sales fell from their December peak, monthly sales records were set in both January and February. Then they took off again in March, breaking $600B again while setting a new monthly sales record of $627.9B. April sales were down slightly but were the second highest in history. April Sales from all the major groups were close to March $. YTD Restaurant $ were down slightly from 2019. This is the only negative vs 2020 or 2019 for any group. In April of 2020 Retail sales fell $100B from 2019, the biggest monthly year over year drop in history. In March 2021 sales were up $152B over 2020. In April, the increase over 2020 was $209B. Certain retail segments and other areas of the economy are still suffering, and spending habits have changed but the overall Retail marketplace has recovered and is stronger than ever.

Total Retail – In March, Total Retail set a record for the most spending in any month in any year. In April, $ales dipped by -$13.2B (-2.1%) to $616.7B but were still $209.5B (51.4%) more than April 2020 – a new record increase, double the size of last year’s record drop. If you compare the YTD 2021 spending to 2019, you see an increase of $334.8B (+17.4%). That is an average annual spending increase of 8.4%. If you just looked at these strong topline growth numbers, you would not suspect that a retail spending crisis had ever happened. Always look below the surface.

Restaurants – This is the only big group with any negative measurements. Last February YTD sales were up 8.1% vs 2019. The Pandemic changed that. Restaurants started to close or cease in person dining in March and sales fell -$33.3B (-52.5%) compared to March 2019. Sales bottomed out in April at $30.1, the lowest April sales since 2003. Sales started to slowly increase in May but never reached a level higher than 88% compared to the previous year. 2021 started off slowly. Through February,  YTD sales were down -16.7% from pre-pandemic 2020 and -10.0% from 2019. In March sales took off. They grew slightly in April but were more than double April 2020 and even ahead of 2019. YTD their $ are ahead of 2020 but still $10.8B (-4.4%) behind 2019. They are not “there yet” but their recovery is strengthening.

Auto (Motor Vehicle & Parts Dealers)   – Staying home causes your car to be less of a focus in your life. Sales began to fall in March 2020 and hit bottom in April. Auto Dealers began combating this “stay at home” attitude with fantastic deals and a lot of advertising. It worked. They finished 2020 up 1% vs 2019 and have returned to a strong positive pattern in 2021. The “attitude” grew amazingly positive in March and slowed only slightly in April as sales exceeded $142B in both months, by far the 2 biggest months in history. To show how well consumers responded to their campaign you just need to look at the data. This group has exceeded $110B in monthly sales only 10 times in history. 8 of those occurred after the onset of the pandemic.  YTD Avg Growth Since 2019 = +12.6% – the best performance of any big group.

Gas Stations – Gas Station $ales have been a mixed bag. If you drive less, you visit the gas station less often. Sales turned down in March 2020 and reached their low point in April. They moved up but generally stayed about 15% below 2019 levels for the rest of 2020. In February they were still behind 2020 in monthly and YTD $ but ahead of 2019 in both measurements. In March, sales skyrocketed. They increased only slightly in April but were 77.4% above the April 2020 “bottom”. They have been positive in all measurements vs both 2019 and 2020 since March. Their comeback continues but there is another factor that must be considered – inflation. Gas prices can be pretty volatile. They dipped in the first 2 months of the pandemic but then returned to more normal levels for the balance of 2020. They began strongly inflating in 2021, peaking in April. The April 2021 prices were 49.6% above April 2020. That means that 64% of the 77.4% year over year lift came from just higher prices. Analyzing retail can be complicated. YTD Avg Growth = +2.9%

Relevant Retail – Less Auto, Gas and Restaurants – This is what we consider the “core” of U.S. retail and has traditionally accounted for about 60% of Total Retail Spending. When you look at the individual channels in this group, you see a variety of results due to many factors – non-essential closures, binge buying, online shopping and a consumer focus on “home”. However, overall, April 2020 was the only month in which spending in this group was down vs 2019. Monthly $ales exceeded $400B for the first time ever in December ($407B). They finished 2020 up $260B, +7.1%. Their performance was the only reason that Total Retail was able to finish 2020 with positive numbers, +0.5%. Sales fell in January and February but continued to set monthly records. In March they turned sharply up again but dipped slightly in April. Currently, they are up $80.1B, +28.5% vs April 2020 and  +$195.5B, +16.8% YTD. We should note that March ($371.8B) and April ($361.0B) spending were the third and fourth highest monthly totals of all time, trailing only December 2020 and December 2019. We should also note that the Relevant Retail group has posted positive numbers versus last year and YTD for every month since April 2020 and their average YTD growth rate since 2019 now stands at +9.8%. Through April virtually all channels have now turned positive vs 2020 and 2019. However, the primary drivers throughout the pandemic were and continue to be Nonstore, Grocery, SuperCenters/Clubs/$ Stores plus a never ending “spring lift” from Hardware/Farm and Sporting Goods.

Now let’s look at what is happening in the individual retail channels to see where the $ are coming from. April was not as big as March, but you will see that some of the increases vs 2020 are literally “off the charts”. The groups are less defined than in the Final Monthly reports and we will look across the whole market, not just pet relevant outlets.

Sales in only 2 of 13 channels were up vs record March $ but Only 1 channel was down vs March 2020 $ and 2020 YTD. A different channel was down vs 2019 numbers. (Relevant Retail YTD Avg Annual Growth Rate since 2019 = +9.8%)

After hitting bottom in April 2020, Relevant Retail has now beaten the previous year’s $ for 12 consecutive months. The group set an all-time record of $407B in December and finished  2020 +$260B vs 2019. They started 2021 strong, with record sales in every month including #3 and #4 all time in March & April. Essential channels are still the primary drivers:

  • Nonstore Retailers – The biggest driver. Online shopping continues to grow in # of households and in $.
  • Food & Beverage – Grocery– Restaurant $ are improving but consumers continue to eat & drink more at home.
  • Bldg Materials/Garden/Farm– Their “Spring” lift continues unabated as consumers focus on their home.
  • SuperCtrs/Club/Value/$ Strs – They keep the GM channel positive. Value is still a major consumer priority.

Regarding the Individual Large Channels (Includes YTD Avg Annual Growth Rate since 2019)

General Merchandise Stores – Even though sales dropped in April, all other numbers remain positive. Department Stores $ remain up vs 2020 but down vs 2019. They were having problems before the Pandemic. The growth by Club/SuperCtr/$ stores has slowed to +7.4% in April, down from +14.7% in January but these stores are still the key.

  • YTD Avg Annual Growth: All GM = +5.7%; Dept Stores = -2.9%; Club/SuprCtr/$ = +7.4%

Food and Beverage, plus Health & Personal Care Stores – Sales in Grocery were down in March and April from 2020 – No surprise, as these were 2020 binge months – especially March. The Health, Personal Care group finished 2020 at +1.8%. 2021 has started even better. With a strong March & April, YTD they are +7.8% vs 2020 and +8.5% vs 2019.

  • YTD Avg Annual Growth: Grocery = +6.6%; Health/Drug Stores = +4.2%

Clothing and Accessories; Electronic & Appliances; Home Furnishings – March & April have been spectacular for all these channels. The increases vs April 2020 were literally off the chart for Electronics and Clothing. All of these groups are now positive in all measurements vs 2020 or 2019.

  • YTD Avg Annual Growth: Clothing = +0.6%; Electronic/Appliance = +2.0%; Furniture = +10.4%

Building Material, Farm & Garden & Hardware – Their Spring lift began on time in 2020 and it has never stopped. They have greatly benefited from consumers turning their focus to their home needs. They finished 2020 +53B (+13.8%). Sales took off in March and increased in April. They are +32.9% vs April 2020 and +25.5% YTD. Avg Annual Growth = +15.2%

Sporting Goods, Hobby and Book Stores – Book & Hobby stores are open but Sporting Goods stores have driven the lift in this group. Consumers turned their attention to personal recreation and sales in Sporting Goods outlets took off. The group ended 2020 +5.5% vs 2019. The growth accelerated in 2021. January > April set monthly records and March had the most $ of any non-December month in history. In April they are +59.4% vs 2020. YTD Avg Annual Growth = +17.2%

All Miscellaneous Stores – Pet Stores were deemed essential but most other stores were not, so closures hit this group particularly hard. Sales hit bottom at -$3.8B in April then began to rebound. They finished with a strong December and ended 2020 down $1.0B, -0.7%. In March and April sales took off. April sales were only up 0.6% from March but +87.4% from April 2020. Remember, only 2 channels had a March>April increase. Their YTD sales are now 30.4% above 2020 and 27.0% more than 2019. It appears that their recovery has become very real. YTD Avg Annual Growth = +12.7%

NonStore Retailers – 90% of the volume of this group comes from Internet/Mail Order/TV businesses. The COVID-19 crisis accelerated the movement to online retail. In February 2020 NonStore $ were 8.6% YTD. In December monthly sales exceeded $100B for the 1st time. They ended 2020 at +21.4%, +$162.9B. Their increase was 63% of the total $ increase for Relevant Retail Channels. Their 2020 performance far exceeded their 12.9% increase in 2019 and every month in 2021 has produced record $. April is +14.2% vs 2020 and YTD $ are +20.8%. YTD Avg Annual Growth = +18.7%

Note: Almost without exception, online sales by brick ‘n mortar retailers are recorded with their regular store sales.

Recap – 2020 was quite a year. April & May had the 2 biggest year over year sales decreases in history while December sales broke $600B for the first time. 2021 may become even more memorable. April and March had the 2 biggest year over year monthly sales increases in history. The total increase was +$361B for these 2 months, more than twice the -$175B decrease in the 3 months from March>May 2020. In 2021, March and April also took the top 2 spots for monthly sales. At yearend 2020, Restaurants, Auto and Gas Stations were still struggling but Auto had largely recovered. Relevant retail had segments that also struggled but overall, they led the way for Total Spending to finish the year +0.5% vs 2019. 2021 has started out even more positive. The Auto Segment is setting sales records. Gas Stations $ are now all positive and YTD Restaurant $ are only slightly below 2020 and 2019. As documented in the report, the recovery in Relevant retail has become real for virtually all channels and monthly sales continue to set records. Retail recovery is here…now!