We visited dozens of stores in 2018 — but these impressed us the most

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We visited dozens of stores in 2018 — but these impressed us the most

2018 was a difficult year for some retailers. Many of the dozens of stores we visited this year were either in complete disarray or marred by empty shelves.

But while some stores were barely hanging on, others were thriving.

Kohl’s, for example, reported comparable sales were up 2.5% in the third quarter. When we visited a Kohl’s store recently, we found that it was well-organized, clean, and affordable. Part of why Kohl’s is able to continue performing well, despite the ongoing retail apocalypse, is because of its store locations in suburban strip malls, a high demand for budget options, and its continued focus on e-commerce, such as with its expanding partnership with Amazon.

Aerie is another store that is well-loved by shoppers — especially teens. In the third quarter of 2018, American Eagle reported that comparable sales were up 32% at Aerie. Beyond being pleasant to shop at, Aerie is often praised for being a relatable brand, especially because of its “real” ads with no photoshopping and its emphasis on comfort.

Off-price retailers like TJ Maxx and dollar stores also had a great year because of an increased demand for budget products. While dollar stores like Dollar General and Dollar Tree both saw comparable sales growth each quarter this year, Five Below stood out. Five Below was much cleaner, much more organized, and overall better to shop it.

Here are some of the best stores we visited in 2018:

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