As consumer shopping behaviors continue to shift and some even call for a ‘retail apocalypse’, three retailers consistently buck the trend and drive growth.
The three retailers in question have different approaches for the same goal; fend off Amazon and the disruption of brick-and-mortar retail. Burlington Stores (BURL) has taken advantage of the over-inventoried US Retail industry, Dollar General (DG) has created compelling value through price and Ulta Beauty (ULTA) has created in-store experiences not replicable online.
Burlington Coat Factory
A constant treasure hunt
Burlington Coat Factory, as an off price retailer, has been able to take advantage of excess inventory in the US Retail market and foot traffic from door closures of other retailers. Possessing only a limited online presence, they focus on experiential shopping by encouraging customers to ‘treasure hunt’ but also bring in continuous newness with a constantly changing assortment. Burlington’s buyers are able to demonstrate value but you do have to work for it. Anyone who has been to a Burlington knows you need to search a bit to achieve one of the company mottos: ‘finding your treasure’.
What’s the treasure worth?
How has this performed for the business? CEO Thomas Kingsbury quoted in the last earnings call:
“Q1 2017 was our 17th consecutive quarter of positive comp sales growth.”
At a 5% Q1 sales growth, they have been able to fend off Amazon’s encroachment and benefit from increased foot traffic from a declining department store market.
Bet you can’t find that on Amazon
Ulta has started 2017 on fire, driving a massive 14.3% comp in Q1 (at a time when most retailers would be happy with anything positive) by offering what online cannot – in-store services and experiences. Many stores have a salon inside, as well as a knowledgeable staff (*cough* unlike many department and big box retailers) and some offer additional services like brow bars and skin treatment stations. What is evident with Ulta’s success is you don’t need to offer everything, but a few key services along with a well-curated product assortment can make you a true category killer.
Offline & Online Success
Ulta’s growth isn’t limited to brick-and-mortar, in fact, their e-commerce grew 71% in Q1 2017 mostly due to improved technology. CEO Mary Dillon elaborates on the earnings call:
“I would say we’re probably benefiting from some newer digital marketing tools that we implemented last year. So – paid search, display advertising, paid social – those are all building momentum to really drive traffic, so that certainly has benefited our e-commerce business.”
The combination of their in-store and online success is fueling overall company growth, with intent to go from 974 stores to over the 1000 store milestone in 2017.
Got friends in low places
Dollar General is also able to offer something Amazon cannot – convenience to a consumer group where brick-and-mortar shopping is preferred. With nearly 70% of their store base located in towns of less than 20,000 people, Dollar General is often the most accessible retailer for folks living in Anytown, USA. Just like Burlington stores, they have a limited e-commerce presence but that’s something their clientele doesn’t really require, as Dollar General shoppers are more focused on convenience and getting the best deal.
Resistance is futile?
With Amazon’s foray into the brick & mortar world via Whole Foods and AmazonGo, some have speculated that Alexa may want to acquire Dollar General as a way to combat Wal-Mart in cities with a lower population density. However, with a market cap of $19B and over 13,000 stores, Amazon may be a bit gun shy to shell out that much of an investment. In the meantime, Dollar General will continue to build their moat, resisting Amazon and the rest of e-commerce’s growth.
There seems to be multiple isotopes of Kryptonite to Amazon’s seemingly unstoppable force. Contrary to the growing online trend, a small e-commerce footprint with a constantly rotating product assortment is working. Also effective is providing services that can’t be done through an e-tailer. However, the common denominator between these 3 companies is providing a great experience in-store at a strong value for that product or service. Do you think they will continue to fend off Amazon?