A trip to Western Pennsylvania to see my in-laws ended up being a marathon attempt to rid the property of a few groundhogs that have been wreaking their own brand of havoc. It was not successful, although I did not resort to Caddyshack-like tactics (that was for gophers, but same principle). Maybe I'll try what Bill Murray's character did next time. Scratch that -- using explosives under a garage and other outbuildings would not end well.
A western PA visit is not complete without a trip to the local outlet stores, which over the years have been huge draws for shoppers for many miles around. Given the pandemic, I was not sure what my wife and I would find, but we were pleasantly surprised to see a full parking lot and the need to hunt for a space. That was a good sign. While it seemed like a more somber atmosphere, the people were out and wearing their masks, likely thrilled to have been sprung from their homes on a beautiful, sunny day.
The first thing I noticed was that the Gap (GPS) store was gone; that was a shock. While Gap did announce it would close 225 Gap and Banana Republic stores this year, I was surprised to see this particular location shuttered.
Folks were definitely spending money, on this Saturday, anyway. This particular outlet is the one that generated my original Fossil Group (FOSL) purchase idea back in early 2018, a position I built and then closed within six months or so after Fossil shares ran much higher far more quickly than I expected. The Fossil store had some great merchandise, and my wife did make a purchase, but the store was fairly empty, unfortunately. (I initiated a new position in FOSL).
However, there were several stores with lines well outside the door. To what extent this was due to patron restrictions, I can't say. However, stores including L Brands' (LB) Bath and Body Works, Nike NKE, Under Armour (UA) and Vera Bradley (VRA) had many patiently waiting to get inside. Tapestry's (TPR) Coach store had no line, and that's typically a store that has had a line nearly every time I've visited the outlet center in the past.
How meaningful are the observations at one outlet mall on one random day by one guy who does not really like to shop? Maybe not very, but under the current economic and pandemic-impacted circumstances it is telling that folks want to be out, want to shop and want to spend money.