After closing all of its physical retail outposts during the initial onset of the pandemic, Glossier announced this summer that it was looking to get back into the brick-and-mortar business. In a blog post in June, founder Emily Weiss stated that “the world of Glossier is ready to exist again in 3D,” and that the company would be opening three new stores “starting in Seattle this August, followed by Los Angeles in the fall, and London in the winter” in furtherance of a larger “retail roadmap to bring Glossier to many more places, including our home base of New York City, in 2022.” 

More recently, Weiss revealed that the company – which closed an $80 million Series E round in July – has been busy “reimagin[ing] the Glossier retail experience,” with a focus on “fostering connection, community, and discovery.” The robust re-focusing on physical retail will be spearheaded by newly-appointed Senior Vice President of Retail Kristy Maynes, who “served as the general manager of Lululemon’s first 40 stores in Canada and opened the athleisure brand’s first locations in Europe,” per Fortune

In addition to serving as a way to enable “digital and offline experiences [to] exist in harmony” by way of “immersive, real-life experiences rooted in discovery and connection,” which Weiss says are “more resonant than ever” even if consumers continue to rely heavily on e-commerce, the $1.8 billion brand’s brick-and-mortar stores will help Glossier to continue to cement its branding in the minds of millennial consumers. This is, of course, something that Glossier has excelled at – from its authenticity-centered ethos, which has permeated into Instagram account from the outset (“Glossier has perfected [its] marketing on Instagram, not only by using models who seem ‘relatable,’ but by reposting content made by regular customers wearing its products, who willingly associate themselves with the brand,” Quartz put it in 2019) to its instantly-recognizable pink bubble wrap pouches

Glossier’s foray back into physical retail involves its millennial pink, of course, which the brand has positioned as its calling card of sorts when that hue is used across cosmetics packaging, including boxes and those translucent bubble wrap bags. The seven-year-old beauty company also maintains trademark rights in – and registrations for – the shape of its perfume bottles, its distinctive “G” logo, and no shortage of its catchy product names (think: Cloud Paint, Balm Dotcom, etc.). Taking its branding exercise a step further, Glossier introduced a display table in the first of its newly-rolled out stores, the top of which the brand claims acts as an indicator of source. 

Glossier display table
Glossier display table

According to the trademark application for registration that it filed with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office last month (serial no. 97079249), Glossier is asserting rights in “the three-dimensional configuration of the top of a retail display table, [with] said top featuring a three-dimensional pattern appearing as waves” for use in connection with “retail store services featuring cosmetics, makeup, perfumes,” etc. (Note: The brand is not claiming any rights in the use of the display in a specific color, which appears in both white and in its ubiquitous millennial pink in its almost three-month-old Seattle store.) 

Given that the pool of potentially protectable subject matter when it comes to trademarks is broadly open to any “symbols” that are capable of identifying a single source when used on/in connection with certain types of goods or services, the top of Glossier’s tables very well function as a trademark for the brand in the same way as its use of a specific color pink does. 

And it is worth noting that Glossier’s attempt to claim rights in allegedly source-identifying furniture is not an entirely novel one. The burgeoning brand appears to be taking a page from Apple’s book, as the tech titan is famous for maintaining registrations for the layout of its stores, for instance, including, “light brown rectangular tables arranged in a line in the middle of the store parallel to the walls and extending from the storefront to the back of the store.” At the same time, the Cupertino, California-based company also has a long list of design patents for things like Jony Ive-designed tables and credenzas, as well as shopping bags and other product packaging, which the brand may claim trademark rights it once the duration of those patents lapses. 

Glossier’s renewed focus on brick-and-mortar retail is in line with a larger trend of what brands across the board are doing in the wake of the pandemic; buzzy direct-to-consumer underwear brand Parade, for example, recently raised $20 million in a Series B round led by Reformation and Califia Farms backer Stripes, with one of its primary goals being to fund its initial expansion into brick-and-mortar. Elsewhere in the market, brands are working to provide consumers with an omni-channel experience, with an emphasis on both in-store and e-commerce capabilities, with The RealReal’s CFO Matt Gustke, for one, stating early this year that physical stores are important to the luxury reseller, as they “make it easier to sell high value products,” while also leading to “return rates [that] are exceptionally low” compared to online sales. At the same time, margins tend to be notably higher for in-store sales. 

This is a pattern that carries over across brands and industries, and one that is presumably driving at least some of the push by brands to get consumers back into stores, as well as brands’ investment not only in store safety measures but also unique in-store experiences, and in Glossier’s case, source-identifying decor. With this renewed interest in physical retail in mind, chances are, we just might start to see renewed efforts by brands to protect brand-centric assets in their stores in the same vein as Apple and Glossier and in the same way as they have started to claim rights in their digital appearance and attempt to enforce those rights against alleged infringers.

Can the shape of a lipstick case, alone, function as an indicator of the source of the product? That was ones of the questions at the center of a matter involving Guerlain and the packaging of its Rouge G de Guerlain lipstick. In a decision on Wednesday, the European Union General Court handed LVMH-owned Guerlain a win, overturning an earlier determinations of the European Union Intellectual Property Office (“EUIPO”) and its Board of Appeal, both of which refused to register the shape of the French cosmetics and perfume brand’s lipstick case on the basis that the design of the three-dimensional packaging does not “depart significantly” from what others in the beauty segment of the market are doing, and thus, does not have the distinctive character necessary to serve as a trademark. 

In a decision dated July 14, the General Court held that the mark represented in the trademark application that Guerlain filed with the EUIPO in 2018 does, in fact, “have distinctive character because it departs significantly from the norm and customs of the lipstick sector,” and focused specifically on two points in furtherance of its decision. 

First, the court held that “the assessment of whether [a mark] has distinctive character is not based on the originality or the lack of use of the mark in the field to which the goods and services concerned belong,” and more than that, “mere novelty of [a] shape is not sufficient in order to conclude that there is distinctiveness.” At the same time, the court asserted that “the fact that a sector is characterized by a wide variety of product shapes does not mean that a new possible shape will necessarily be perceived as one of them.” 

Second, the court stated that just because certain products, such as Guerlain’s refillable lipstick cases, “have a high-quality design” does not, on its own, mean that the 3D shape of those goods can be distinguished from the goods of others in the market. While the court claimed that it is appropriate to take into account “the aesthetic aspect of a mark,” such consideration does not amount to an assessment of “the attractiveness of the product in question,” and instead, is done for the purpose of determining “whether [the] product is capable of generating an objective and uncommon visual effect” among the relevant public, and thereby, differentiating it from other products in the market.

With the foregoing in mind, the General Court held that the shape of the Rouge G de Guerlain lipstick case – which it says is “reminiscent of that of a boat hull or a baby carriage” – is “uncommon for a lipstick and differs from any other shape existing on the market.” Specifically, the court asserted that the shape at issue “differs significantly from the images taken into consideration by the EUIPO’s Board of Appeal, most of which represented cylindrical and parallelepiped lipsticks.” The presence of the “small oval embossed shape [of the Rouge G de Guerlain lipstick case] is unusual and contributes to the uncommon appearance of the mark,” the General Court’s panel found. Still yet, the court determined that the fact that the lipstick “cannot be placed upright reinforces the uncommon visual aspect of its shape.” 

As a result of its foregoing findings, the General Court held that “the relevant public will be surprised by this easily memorable shape” of the lipstick case – which Guerlain first introduced in 2009 – and “will perceive it as departing significantly from the norm and customs of the lipstick sector and capable of indicating the origin of the goods concerned,” thereby, enabling the court to find that the mark has distinctive character, and can be registered with the EUIPO for use on “lipstick” products. 

Reflecting on the significance of the case, Eleonora Rosati, a Professor of Intellectual Property Law and Director of the Institute for Intellectual Property and Market Law at Stockholm University, says that the General Court’s decision “represents a sensible outcome and brings about some refreshing news to trademark applicants seeking to register shape or less conventional marks.” It is also a particularly welcome development for the fashion industry, she says, as “in the past 2-3 years, alone, things have been rather gloomy for trademark applications relating to such signs.” For instance, she notes that the Court of Justice of the European Union “held that Birkenstock’s surface pattern mark is devoid of distinctiveness (C-26/17 P); LVMH has not yet been able to secure registration of its Damier Azur pattern (though things may look up now; T-105/19); the shape of Moon Boots may be protected by copyright (in Italy), but it has so far been unsuccessful on the trademark registration front (1093/2019-1); and Buffalo Boots’ position mark has not yet been considered registrable (2167/2019-1).” 

Echoing Rosati’s sentiment, K&L Gates’s Simon Casinader and Katherine McDermott assert that Guerlain’s success in registering its Rouge G de Guerlain lipstick mark is good news for cosmetic and fragrance producers across the board, which “can hold out hope for the future and their ability to register distinctive 3D packaging” of their own. 

Sales of goods that COVID firmly relegated into a corner are starting to rebound, in some cases in a big way, making for increased demand for things like lipstick and an opened floodgate for all things wedding. First up: Lipstick sales, which are growing again, as mask mandates continue to loosen amid the roll out of vaccines across the U.S. Following a striking slump in makeup sales in 2020, with sales across the prestige beauty segment down 34 percent for the year, according to market research firm NPD, which pointed to “broader lifestyle changes due to the pandemic moved the needle in unprecedented ways” as driving the drop in beauty purchases. Among the hardest hit within the beauty sphere was, of course, lipstick, while things like skincare and eyeshadow did not fare as poorly. 

Down by almost 50 percent in Japan in 2020, sales of lip products on Amazon saw a slip of 15 percent in between March and April 2020, while prices were down by almost 30 percent for the month-long period, per McKinsey & Company. Yet, with lockdowns out of sight in the U.S., and masks swiftly becoming less of a daily requirement, the category is bouncing back. Citing the latest figures from market research firm IRI, CNN reported this week that while lipstick sales have no reached pre-pandemic levels, they did, nonetheless, reach $34.2 million between March and April of this year, “an increase of more than 80 percent from the same period last year.” 

Walmart, for one, told CNN that lipstick is “the top performer across all segments of cosmetics” at the moment, and that lipstick sales were “a standout” in its latest quarter, which ended on April 30, as consumers resumed their purchasing of pre-pandemic-esque products, such as teeth-whitening kits, formal apparel), travel bags, and of course, cosmetics, in lieu of sweatpants, athleisure, homewares, etc. “Both Walmart and Macy’s reported strong results for the latest period and boosted their outlooks as consumers, flush with stimulus checks and buoyed by the vaccination rollout, unleashed spending on items they haven’t needed for more than a year,” Bloomberg reported early this week.

The Floodgates are Opening

Look beyond the lipstick-specific headlines and there is another bright spot on the horizon: a boom for the wedding industry. The business of brides and grooms – which is valued at upwards of $300 billion – was hit especially hard by the pandemic, and is expected to lose nearly $50 billion in sales between 2020 and the end of 2021 as a result, as couples joined a mass move to cancel or postpone weddings that were previously slated to take place in 2020. In a nod to the nuptial-specific upheaval that came with COVID, wedding planning site The Knot asserted in its recently-released “2020 Real Weddings Study [COVID-19 Edition]” that 96 percent of all 2020 weddings were modified to some extent. For instance, 32 percent of couples that planned to marry in 2020 still had a small ceremony but scheduled a larger reception for 2021. 15 percent postponed their events entirely, opting to forego any events in 2020.

Now, with COVID-19 restrictions consistently easing, the floodgates are opening and “momentum” in the wedding industry – which saw an overall drop in revenues of 20 percent in 2020 – is “coming back,” David’s Bridal CEO James Marcum told the Wall Street Journal. David’s Bridal revealed that July and August 2021 wedding dates have increased 35 percent compared to last year, and 2022 dates are up 22 percent already. At the same time, a rep for Walmart told Business Insider that its sales of bridal jewelry spiked by 80 percent in April compared to the same time last year, while the American multinational retail chain is also seeking a surge in demand for artificial flowers, wedding décor, and wedding-specific arts and crafts. 

Meanwhile, at the higher end of the spectrum, Monique Lhuillier recently revealed that as of late last month, “ready-to-wear and special occasion sales [were] ‘a bit slow to come back,’” but that bridal sales were, nonetheless, on the rise in the U.S. – with some of that coming by way of online appointments and e-commerce sales, which have accelerated during the pandemic. 

Reflecting on how Oscar de la Renta – which has famously dressed the likes of Amal Clooney – adapted to mandated store closures, co-creative director Fernando Garcia told Brides that the brand “created a Zoom call type of interview process to discuss what each bride wants to do,” which he said led to “a more personalized experience for our brides and therefore, [has] increased the demand for gowns, which came as a surprise to us. We essentially developed a new selling tool that helped the business and increased our sales.”

And still yet, e-commerce retailers like Moda Operandi have sought to cater to brides-to-be by way of its trunk-sale site – curating everything from dresses and accessories for “micro weddings” (think: Jacquemus linen frocks, Simone Rocha midi dresses, and no shortage of slip dresses) to maintaining a packed “For the bride” section on its site with bridal jewelry, and Markarian and Miu Miu gowns in case the bride opts to buy off the rack, a consumption trend that has been on the rise in the midst of COVID and the onslaught of Zoom weddings, complete with slightly more pared back dresses.

Dresses aside, putting the push for 2021 weddings – and the scramble of those aiming to walk down the aisle this year – firmly into perspective, the traditional Saturday wedding has gone out of the window. “Monday is the new Saturday in Palm Beach,” Caroline Scarpinato, director of event services at the Breakers Palm Beach, told the WSJ. “With such limited availability, couples are willing to host their event on a Monday or Thursday.”

In March, Chinese regulators made headlines when they announced a change to the animal testing requirements that the country had previously maintained for imported cosmetics. That change, which comes in the form of an exemption from mandatory pre-market animal testing for general cosmetics goods, and which stands to have significant implications for non-native brands, came into effect on May 1. The size and growth of the cosmetics market in China means that every international beauty brand must be looking at China. However, the mandatory animal testing requirements imposed by Beijing on imported cosmetics have posed a major dilemma for many cruelty-free brands. While China has not banned animal testing for all cosmetics, the new regulations provide a pathway for international cosmetic brands to enter the China market and remain cruelty-free. 

With the new regulations in play, international brands need to bear in mind that although there is now a pathway to enter the market in a cruelty-free manner (and without relying in third-party marketplaces, such as Alibaba’s Tmall), this path will still require a lot of careful navigation given the greater scrutiny and regulatory paperwork that will come as a result. One regulatory challenge that beauty brands need to be aware of comes in the form of appointing a Domestic Responsible Agent.

What is a Domestic Responsible Agent? First introduced into the Chinese legal cosmetics regime by the Notification 2017 No.7, and on the heels of a successful trial in the Shanghai Pudong New Area, the Domestic Responsible Agent program covers all of China. In short, the concept of Domestic Responsible Agent means that with respect to imported cosmetics, there must be a party situated in China that can be held accountable in the event of a safety issue arising in respect to such products. The Domestic Responsible Agent is a pre-requisite to apply for a National Medical Products Administration (“NMPA”) Product Registration – and therefore, in order to have a product registration in China means you will need to have a Domestic Responsible Agent. 

What has Changed? Although, the Domestic Responsible Agent requirement has been in place since 2017, the regulations and the requirements that they entailed were relatively lax. There was no specific qualification, no requirement to have a quality management system, no requirement on personnel, no recall systems in place, etc. While there was an obligation upon the Domestic Responsible Agent with respect to quality and safety, these requirements were vague.

The newly-enacted Regulations on Supervision and Administration of Cosmetics have changed this dramatically. Companies’ Domestic Responsible Agents now must meet specific – and rigorous – requirements, and are subject to very serious potential liability, including major fines, employment bans and even criminal liability.

Who can be a Domestic Responsible Agent? Legally, the main requirement is that the Domestic Responsible Agent must be established in China. Initial reports indicate that the NMPA is carrying out rigorous on-site inspections and grading of Domestic Responsible Agents, which means that unqualified candidates will not be permitted to act as Domestic Responsible Agents. With that in mind, Domestic Responsible Agents for international brands are likely to be one of the following …

Chinese Distributor (or JV or other partner) – At least some international cosmetics companies have relied upon their distribution partners as their responsible agent, which we have generally discouraged on the basis that it cannot be guaranteed that a company’s Chinese distributor will follow the rules set out by the international brand. Beyond that, having the NMPA registration in its name, gives the distributor a lot of leverage, which could prove problematic for the brand.

In light of the new regulations and especially given the greater scrutiny in screening Domestic Responsible Agents that is currently underway, many international brands will likely look to this model if they do not, at least in the short term, have the resources to establish a Domestic Responsible Agent of their own. Accordingly, if international brands intend to appoint their Chinese distributors to act as their Domestic Responsible Agent, it is important to: 1) select the right partner; 2) have a clear contractual basis; 3) have an audit and supervision plan in place; and 4) have an exit plan in the event the relationship sours in the future.

The exemptions for animal testing will very likely lead to even more Chinese distributors reaching out to non-native brands that have not yet launched in China. Brands are advised to be diligent in picking a partner, to have the a contract in place outlining the relationship, and to exercise oversight over the Agent.

Regulatory Experts or Consultants – In the past in order to avoid providing a Chinese distributor with too much leverage, many international brands have opted to appoint a third party – often a regulatory advisor or even just an independent consultant – as their Domestic Responsible Agent. This is likely to be less common going forward because: 1) few of these third parties will meet the NMPA requirements or pass the inspection; and 2) those who have sufficient experience will be very wary of the potential liability (e.g. including responsibility for document submission authenticity, and product recall). 

Wholly Foreign Owned Enterprise (“WFOE”) – Finally, China has a relatively liberal attitude to establishing WFOEs for cosmetic companies.  There are great advantages of using a WFOE, such as the having the ability to exert greater control, avoid misalignment with a distributor (or JV partner), and maintain your own team on the ground. The procedure is quite straightforward – a brand will need to apply for the establishment of a WFOE that has a business scope that includes “sale and import of cosmetics” and complete relevant registration formalities with customs. Generally, the establishment of such a WFOE will take approximately 6 to 8 weeks.

Intended to function at least in part as a Domestic Responsible Agent, a WFOE will need to have an actual, physical office (i.e. not a virtual office), as the NMPA will carry out an inspection of that office, as well as of any warehousing space. It should also be noted that if an international brand intends to import products into China from ports other than the local port where the WFOE is registered, then a relevant filing of consignee location must be completed on the NMPA system before imports can commence. The WFOE will also be responsible for making product distribution registrations and also reporting adverse reactions regularly.

All in all, the new 2021 exemption from animal testing for certain imported cosmetics will lead to even greater interest on the part of international cosmetic brands, particularly in light of the size and rate of growth of the Chinese cosmetics market. To date, China’s animal testing regime has largely meant that many cruelty free brands have been forced to avoid the China market or only supply via cross-border e-commerce sites, as opposed to maintaining their own operations. Accordingly, the vast majority of international cosmetic brands do not have NMPA registrations and therefore, have not come across the Domestic Responsible Agent concept in the past. 

Nonetheless, in order to make use of the exemption and trade more freely in China, companies will need NMPA registrations and to appoint of a Domestic Responsible Agent. Many brands will establish WFOEs to support their market entry, but it is likely that in most cases, the WFOE will not (at least in the short term) will be able to meet the requirements of being a Domestic Responsible Agent. As such, many brands will need to rely on Chinese partners. And regardless of the partner, international brands should ensure that they have a detailed and sound contract detailing the relationship and an exit plan if the relationship does not work out. In particular, brands will be well advised to ensure they keep as much of their intellectual property and business details confidential, and also remain involved in the Chinese arm of their business so they can keep track of all developments. 

Mark Schaub is the Managing Partner at King & Wood Mallesons, where he specializes in foreign direct investment, cross border M&A, intellectual property, and private equity investment in China.

On the heels of plummeting sales for fashion and makeup products as consumers have been shut in as a result of the pandemic, beauty brands and off-price retail players are expected to be “the biggest winners in 2021,” CNBC reported, citing a recent report from Wells Fargo retail analysts. Surveying 1,000 U.S. consumers, Wells Fargo found that 40 percent of participants revealed that their “first, post-pandemic” purchases will be makeup, followed by 37 percent who said “going-out apparel,” thereby, signifying a shift away from COVID-centric buying behavior, which has centered largely on homewares, as well as athleisure and loungewear, back to pre-pandemic consumption habits. 

Wells Fargo’s findings mirror the sentiments coming from other market entities, such as NPD Group, whose analyst Marshal Cohen, asserted this month that “apparel and footwear sales are starting to show some signs of life.” The market research firm suggests that the roll out of COVID vaccines and the increased desire among consumers to “plan vacations and socialize again” is leading to a “sudden” rise in sales in previously dormant categories. “More than half of U.S. consumers plan to buy apparel in the coming months, making it the top category of anticipated spending, followed by footwear and beauty products,” the Washington Post wrote, citing NPD findings.

And still yet, brands, themselves, are starting to see an uptick. Richard Hayne, the CEO of Urban Outfitters’ parent company URBN, stated in a Q4 earnings call early this month that the group is “seeing signs of customer interest in going-out type apparel beginning to emerge,” which he attributes to “vaccines becom[ing] more widely distributed, new COVID cases continuing to fall, and government restrictions begin[ing] to loosen.” Speaking specifically about the URBN-owned Anthropologie brand, Hayne stated on the call that he noticed a shift in late February when the “list of top 10 selling items on the website included seven dresses,” which he said was “striking” given with over “the past year, we were lucky if they included one or two dresses.” 

In terms of the growing rebound in the apparel and beauty spaces, Wells Fargo analyst Ike Boruchow says that he expects beauty retailers like Ulta to be among “the biggest beneficiaries” of the return to a new sense of normalcy. In that same vein, rival retailer Sephora is similarly slated to benefit from a boost in demand for cosmetics, with parent company LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton revealing early this year that the beauty chain was in the midst of ramping up by “strengthen[ing] its offering with new skincare and hair products.” (A recently-filed trademark application for “Fenty Hair,” anyone?)

Both beauty retailers have been busy angling for a return to stores across the U.S. by partnering with big box retailers – Target for Ulta and Kohls for Sephora – for mini shop-in-shop set-ups. In addition to seeking to build upon the pandemic-driven momentum that has been enjoyed by the likes of Target and co., the beauty-and-the-big box partnerships appear to be playing to the call for brands and retailers to “facilitate better retail experiences” in the post-pandemic market, according to Gentler consultant Michael Gatti, whether that be through “engaging and creative in-store experiences” or the introduction of an expanded range of products, such as a revolving roster of buzzy new beauty brands, something that Target has been increasingly working on in recent years. 

Elsewhere in the beauty market, rebound momentum is underway. In its annual report in January, LVMH revealed that despite the “sector suffering from the decline in international traveller spend,” its Perfumes and Cosmetics brands, such as Dior, Guerlain, and its Fenty venture with Rihanna, “show[ed] good resilience,” due at least in part to “the growth of skincare and online sales, particularly in Asia.” More recently, L’Oréal saw its shares hit a new record high in March, as the cosmetics titan revealed that it saw continued recovery in its latest quarter, while Estée Lauder Co. posted “outstanding” second-quarter fiscal 2021 results, with CEO Fabrizio Freda touting the group’s “return to growth in [the] second quarter, earlier than we anticipated.”

Beyond Beauty

Looking beyond beauty, Boruchow says that off-price names are situated to fare well in furtherance of the larger return to retail, as they have been known to do in times of market uncertainty. Economic downturns “work in favor” of discount retailers, Fortune asserted in the wake of the Great Recession, noting that the  2007-2009 recession “turned millions of Americans on to shopping at T.J. Maxx, Ross, Burlington, and Marshalls, and they never looked back.” Reflecting on the success of TJX and Ross during the striking market slump almost 15 years ago, the Wall Street Journal reports that “the S&P 500 lost more than 14 percent of its value from December 2007 to December 2010,” and yet, “TJX and Ross Stores gained 55 percent and 147 percent, respectively.”

Like others, these largely brick-and-mortar dependent chains suffered significantly during the pandemic, with full year revenue for TJ Maxx’s parent company TJX, for instance, declining by about 23 percent to approximately $32.1 billion. Widespread store closures were particularly hard-hitting for these companies, of course, given that they pride themselves (and their largely off-line success) on the in-store treasure-hunt shopping experience that they provide for consumers. Falling sales are expected to change soon – particularly if the past is any indication – as “the economy reopens, pandemic-fueled digital sales growth slows down,” per S&P Global, and price sensitive consumers get back into stores. 

To meet such anticipated demand, and presumably take advantage of the opportunity that has come from an enduring influx of unsold inventory as retailers have struggled to move merchandise during the pandemic, leading to “thousands” of new vendors for TJX, the Framingham, Massachusetts-headquartered chain says that it plans to continue to invest in its physical retail network, with plans to open 122 new stores this year. That will bring its outposts to a total of almost 4,700. At the same time, TJX is likely to benefit from increasingly attractive real estate terms, as landlords scramble to fill vaccines across the U.S.

As for the state of brick-and-mortar sales more generally, despite enduring expectations that consumers will not revert to relying on physical stores in the same way as they did in a pre-pandemic scenario and instead, continue to shop online en masse, that may not be the full story. “E-commerce has been moderating for a couple quarters now,” S&P Global states, citing Garrett Nelson, senior equity research analyst at CFRA. “We think that [will] continue more drastically as the vaccine is distributed and the pandemic gradually fades,” ultimately, prompting the share between physical store sales and e-commerce “to be more balanced.”