Nebraska-based retailer The Buckle Inc. is reporting signs of improvement.
On Thursday, the specialty chain announced a 17.3 percent year-over-year uptick in store net sales in December 2021, bringing net sales from $169.4 million to $198.7 million as of Jan. 2, 2022. Overall, 2021 was much more positive for the company than the year prior: It experienced a 46.7 percent increase in net sales, totaling $1.230 billion in 2021 compared to $838.2 million in 2020.
During its most recent earnings call in November, the company reported notable strength in the women’s category—specifically in denim—despite supply chain disruptions.
“We were able to react quickly to the changing environment and still deliver newness across all women’s business,” said Kelli Molczyk, vice president of women’s merchandising at Buckle.
Denim also fueled success across youth and men’s, with the latter showing double-digit growth—a sentiment felt throughout the industry. The new denim cycle of looser fits is driving consumers to take inventory of the denim they currently own, and fill their wardrobes with a more diverse range of styles. Product intelligence company Trendalytics reported that searches for wide-leg, baggy and relaxed styles are up 168 percent, 86 percent and 73 percent, respectively, as a result of the loose-fitting denim movement and rugged cabincore trend.
The firm also reported that loose denim is gaining traction in children’s apparel: New arrivals of girls’ baggy jeans are up 353 percent and wide-leg jeans are up 107 percent compared to April 2020, while girls’ skinny jeans are down 10 percent year-over-year.
Aside from the general uptick in denim interest, the holiday season also could have contributed to Buckle’s December success. Throughout the industry, holiday sales were up over last year. Foot traffic analytics firm Placer.ai said that visits were up 35.3 percent at indoor malls and 18.3 percent at outdoor malls versus last year, though they were down 7.9 percent and 9.1 percent, respectively, versus 2019.
In the November earnings call, Buckle Inc. president and CEO Dennis Nelson discussed the “good problem” it had regarding inventory for December.
“With the success of the stores and our business, it’s difficult to catch up, but a good problem and we’re still working hard,” he said, adding that getting product to the stores took “more planning and work than ever.”
Buckle currently has 441 retail stores in 42 states across the country. Over the next year and a half, it plans to undergo “relocation remodels” of 20 stores, meaning it will move some mall locations to outdoor centers or shopping strip centers for better foot traffic. By doing so, it will expand store sizes by around 1,000 square feet, allowing for a larger presence without adding more store personnel or associated expenses.