The 7 biggest comeback stories in retail

You may be surprised that some of these brands underwent major struggles.

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You may be surprised that some of these brands underwent major struggles.
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Hollis Johnson/Business Insider

Retail can be a cutthroat business. One wrong move, and you could find yourself floundering and out of step with the entire industry.

But that doesn’t mean that there isn’t room for a retail comeback story or two. In fact, some of the biggest brands today underwent struggles that saw them having to change tack in order to turn things around.

Here are a few retail brands that recently saw major comebacks:


Abercrombie & Fitch was one of the hottest clothing brands for teens — until it wasn’t. Throughout the 2010s, the brand struggled to connect with young people, culminating in its CEO’s controversial comments about plus-sized shoppers in 2013.

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Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

Sources: Forbes, Business Insider, Business Insider, Business Insider


Since then, the brand has undergone an overhaul, doubling down on its steadily growing Hollister brand and converting its traditionally dark and fragrance-infused stores into lighter, smaller, and less intense models.

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Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

Sources: Forbes, Business Insider, Business Insider, Business Insider


And the effort appears to have truly paid off. The company’s sales have been up and down, but consumers do appear to be back on board in a big way. A 2018 survey from YouGov found that shoppers’ impressions of Abercrombie underwent a significant positive spike between 2016 and 2018.

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Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

Source: Business Insider, Forbes


Sales of Pabst Blue Ribbon beer were in a free fall throughout the latter half of the 20th century, and even well into the early 2000s.

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Credit: Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

Source: Business Insider


But a savvy marketing campaign helped turn the once-overlooked beer into a hipster favorite by the 2010s.

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Drew Angerer/Getty Images

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Today, Pabst is the eighth largest beer company in the world. Its sales were down in 2019, but it’s still a far cry from where the business was back in the day.

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Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Source: Brew Bound


Starbucks is known as an international coffee giant, but in the late 2000s, it certainly didn’t look the part. In 2008 and 2009, the company laid off 6,700 people and shuttered 900 cafés.

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Hollis Johnson

Source: Business Insider


The issue was that the company had overstretched itself, tripling from 5,000 stores to 15,000 in a short amount of time.

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Hollis Johnson

Source: Business Insider


Howard Schultz returned to the company to serve as CEO in 2008, closing stores and ensuring that the brand wasn’t overextending itself.

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Hollis Johnson

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In 2018, Inspire Brands was formed. It would ultimately serve as a holding company for Arby’s, Buffalo Wild Wings, Sonic Drive-In, Jimmy John’s, and Rusty Taco. But this mega-fast-food corporation would never have formed if not for the turnaround of Arby’s.

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Irene Jiang / Business Insider

Source: Business Insider, Business Insider


In 2013, Paul Brown took over as CEO of lagging fast-food chain Arby’s. By 2016, things were looking up in terms of sales. In 2018, Brown would become the CEO of Inspire Brands.

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Irene Jiang / Business Insider

Source: Business Insider, Business Insider


Business Insider named Brown as one of its top executives transforming the world of retail, for not only his work with Arby’s, but for his efforts in turning around its sister chain, Buffalo Wild Wings.

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Irene Jiang / Business Insider

Source: Business Insider, Business Insider


BWW has since introduced a new menu and revamped employee uniforms. As for Inspire Brands, Brown predicts that it will continue to pursue more acquisitions going forward.

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Irene Jiang / Business Insider

Source: Business Insider, Business Insider


Applebee’s was riding high in the 1990s, establishing itself as a popular fast-casual option for diners. Then the 2008 recession hit, and the party was largely over for the restaurant chain.

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Hollis Johnson/Business Insider

Source: Business Insider


But in the 10 years since, Applebee’s has managed to bounce back in a major way, boosting sales after its acquisition by Dine Brands.

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Hollis Johnson/Business Insider

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Thanks to popular drink deals and an approach that emphasized the restaurant’s non-trendy, inexpensive roots, Applebee’s largely turned things around as a business in 2018.

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Hollis Johnson/Business Insider

Source: Business Insider


McDonald’s is widely known as a colossus even among the giants of the fast-food world. But in 2015, the golden arches had hit a wall when it came to growing sales.

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Hollis Johnson/Business Insider

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Within two years, McDonald’s had undergone a transformation in order to tackle the problem.

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Hollis Johnson

Source: Business Insider


By emphasizing new menu choices with high-quality ingredients — some of which it has since discontinued, such as Signature Crafted Sandwiches — while also continuing to offer steep discounts, McDonald’s was able to break out of its slump.

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Irene Jiang / Business Insider

Source: Business Insider

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