2021 Retail Category Winners and Losers (Jan-Oct 2021)

Posted by Tom Kessler on Oct 18, 2021 6:30:00 AM

Retail Categories that have added or lost locations 1/2021 to 10/2021Back in February 2021, we wanted to take a look at the year 2020 and figure out what retail categories did well (grew) and which ones struggled (shrunk). The year started off as many years do and then when the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus outbreak to be a global pandemic on March 11th, life as we all know it changed forever.

All businesses were forced to halt in-person business and pushed into e-commerce on no notice whatsoever. Our goal with that blog was to understand what types of retailers did well despite those unique conditions and what struggled by looking at the biggest increases and biggest decreases throughout the year.

Without a doubt, 2021 has been another rollercoaster, with the Delta variant of COVID-19 creating a second wave that is once again shaking people and affecting businesses and schools. As you’re planning ahead for 2022, it’s worthwhile to take a look at the same data, but between the start of the year and now.

Here are our retail categories ranked from biggest increase (in terms of % change in locations) to biggest decrease between January 2021 and October 10, 2021:


% Change – Jan to Oct 2021

Ag Equipment and Supplies




Banks And Financial




Discount Store


Coffee Shop


Cosmetics and Beauty


Restaurant - Other


Restaurant - Fast Casual




Optical and Vision


Hair, Skin and Nails




Fuel/Convenience Store




restaurant - casual


Restaurant - Quick Service


Home Improvement



And now for the biggest decreases:


% Change – Jan to Oct 2021

Vitamins and Nutrition


Car Wash


Office Supply/Services


Loan and Pawn








Pet Supplies/Services




Clothing And Apparel


Fitness And Gyms


Consumer Electronics


Department Store


Senior Living


Other Food/Beverage




Home Specialty




Specialty Retail


Sports And Recreation


Grocery Store


General Merchandise


Pharmacy/Drug Store


Restaurant - Fine Dining



A few observations:

  • Home Improvement was a big winner between January 2020 and 2021, which was not surprising—many people improved their homes during the pandemic—but in 2021, that growth has cooled a lot. This category grew still, but by a mere 0.1%--the smallest % growth on our “winners” list.
  • The top spot this time belonged to Ag Equipment and Supplies, which grew an impressive 25.3%. Retailers in this category include Caterpillar, for which some analysts are projecting a “megacycle” of financial performance. Another big retailer on the list is Tractor Supply, which opened stores in 2021 (as did its Petsense brand).
  • Healthcare saw a big increase in locations again, growing 8.9% over the nine-month period.
  • Vitamins and Nutrition once again took a hit. This could be attributed to the continued divestiture of GNC (filed bankruptcy in June 2020) and Weight Watchers (had a mass firing in May 2020).
  • Some movement from the biggest winners list to the biggest losers list and vice versa:

o   Car Wash was a strong category in 2020, growing 10.7% over the year, while the Jan-Oct 2021 period, it dropped down to the losers category—and was apparently hit hard (12.8% decrease).

o   Restaurants struggled throughout 2020 but have recovered nicely in 2021, with four of the five categories (other, fast casual, casual, and quick service) adding locations. The only category to continue to lose locations in 2021 is the fine dining category, but at a mere 0.1%.

o   Dental was a strong category in 2020, but has lost some locations in 2021 to date—1.8% decrease

o   The Grocery Store category went from growth (1.6%) in 2020 to decline between January and October 2021 (0.7%). This is a relatively small number, but could be an indication of a return to normal, as people have returned to restaurants once again.

o   The Office Supply/Services category saw a 1.2% decrease in 2020, but in the nine months of 2021 has already seen a 10.1% decrease. This might be attributable to more people working from home permanently and the rise of remote ways of doing business and working (i.e., fewer legal pads and more use of project management systems for recording ideas and information).

o   Fitness and Gyms have bounced back a little, but are still struggling some. In 2020, the % decrease of number of locations was 7.5%, but from January to October 2021, the decrease was 3.3%.

The year is not over yet and it will be interesting to see where things go from here during the remaining quarter of 2021, but we wanted to share what we’re seeing so far. If you like this blog series and want to see it continue, reach out to us and let us know! We hope it is helpful.

And of course, if you need help planning for a great 2022 using SiteSeer retail site selection software (or guidance beyond our software from our professional services team), contact us for a demo or consultation!

Take a demo of SiteSeer

Thanks to our data provider, ChainXY, for this data. ChainXY’s business locational data allows retailers, restaurant chains and real estate professionals that are conducting market research to make smart decisions. Note that there might be independent stores or smaller chains that are not included in ChainXY data.

Topics: Smart Retail Growth, Data Study, Retail Site Selection, Site Selection Software

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