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TJ Maxx hopes customers will ‘revenge shop’ to make up for a lost year

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TJX (TJX), the owner of discount chains TJ Maxx and Marshalls, said Wednesday that sales at stores in the United States open for at least a year dropped 7% during the 13 weeks ending January 30 compared with the same stretch last year. CEO Ernie Herrman said on a call with analysts that consumer demand for clothing in the pandemic wasn’t “as great as it has been.”

But he expects that to change. Herrman predicts a “resurgence in consumer spending and revenge shopping once vaccines are widely available,” he said.

Revenge shopping is a “theory that once the pandemic is over, people will go out and spend loads as revenge for being restricted from so long,” said Neil Saunders, managing director at GlobalData Retail. Saunders believes that as people return to eating out for dinner, traveling and returning to work, shoppers may spend more on clothes for these occasions.

This is already playing out in China, he said, where there has been a surge in spending on luxury items. The trend helped create an uptick in sales last spring for several companies, such as Tiffany and Burberry.

TJ Maxx is not the only US company predicting this phenomenon.

“We do feel like there’s going to be a lot of revenge shopping and revenge spending,” Conor Flynn, CEO of mall owner Kimco Realty (KIM), which owns around 400 US shopping malls, said on a call with analysts last week.

He added: “I can’t tell you how many conversations I’ve had about what restaurants people are going to go to or what fitness club they’re going to go back to or what trips they’re going to take.”

The US retail industry is predicting a strong 2021. The primary trade association for the industry said Wednesday that it expects a bumper year as the economy rebounds from the pandemic and more people get vaccinated.

The National Retail Federation forecasts retail sales to grow between 6.5% and 8.2% to more than $4.3 trillion this year. That would mark the fastest growth since 2004, the group said.

“We are very optimistic,” NRF CEO Matthew Shay said in a news release. “Healthy consumer fundamentals, pent-up demand and widespread distribution of the vaccine will generate increased economic growth, retail sales and consumer spending.”

—CNN Business’ Michelle Toh contributed to this article.