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08/26/2021

And the winners are….Chain Store Age’s Breakout Retailer Awards

Marianne Wilson
Editor-in-Chief
Marianne Wilson profile picture
Chain Store Age's Breakout Retailer Awards were presented at its SPECS Show. Representing their companies were, L to R: Michael Budzisz, Dick’s Sporting Goods; Tabassum Zalotrawala, Chipotle; and William Moorman, Goldfish Swim School.

Chipotle Mexican Grill, Dick’s Sporting Goods and Goldfish Swim School took top honors in Chain Store Age’s annual Breakout Retailer Awards. 

The awards, which were presented at CSA’s SPECS Show, are designed to recognize retail, restaurant and non-traditional specialty concepts that are running ahead of the pack and investing in innovation and growth in the physical space.

“Our honorees this year have little in common at first glance,” said Chain Store Age editor in chief Marianne Wilson. “But they are all engaging their customers in new ways and redefining their industry segments in the process.

Selected by the editorial board of Chain Store Age with input from industry experts, the winning concepts were represented at SPECS by Tabassum Zalotrawala, chief development officer, Chipotle; Michael Budzisz, VP of visual merchandising.  Dick’s Sporting Goods; and William Moorman, VP of construction, Goldfish Swim School.  The three honorees also participated in a special Q&A session during which they shared insights into their companies and plans for the future.

Here is more on the 2021 Breakout Retailers.

Chipotle is adding drive-thru, pick-up lanes for digital orders to its locations.

Chipotle Mexican Grill: The past 18 months has proved that nothing is off the table when it comes to innovation for Chipotle, from express drive-thru lanes to pick up windows.  It was one of the first restaurant brands out of the gate to open a digital-only restaurant.  Customers order in advance via the brand’s website,  app or third-party delivery partners.  They pick up their orders in a space  that is designed to include all of the sounds, smells and kitchen views of a traditional Chipotle restaurant

Chipotle was also a pioneer in the mobile space…it was one of the first restaurant brands to offer mobile ordering, starting back in 2008. It’s come a long way since then, evolving into of the industry’s most digitally-savvy players. With customer convenience as a trigger, Chipotle has succeeded in seamlessly connecting its digital and physical operations.

The company remains firmly committed to growth. It’s opening 200 new restaurants this year, and more next.

Dick's Sporting Goods' new House of Sport format includes an outdoor turf field where the retailer hosts clinics, sports camps, product trials and other events.

Dick’s Sporting Goods: The nation’s largest sporting goods retailer is in the midst of one the most innovative and busy years in its 73-year history. 

Among other projects, Dick’s is adding soccer shops to its namesake locations and remodeling its Golf Galaxy stores — and it just opened its first Golf Galaxy Performance Center, designed to offer golfers of all skill levels an immersive experience. The retailer has also entered the outlet space, opening clearance and outlet stores under several different banners.

But Dick’s most ambitious initiative was the opening of a new store concept earlier this year, called Dick’s House of Sport. The 100,000-sq.-ft. store offers customers a truly experiential shopping experience — it’s filled with multi-sports activities that customers can participate in — inside and out.

Of the store’s many features, one of the most popular is its 17,000-sq.-ft. outdoor turf field where Dick’s hosts clinics, sports camps, product trials and other events. The field (part of which will convert to an ice-skating rink in the winter) is open year-round for customers to enjoy.

Dick’s isn’t finished yet. It is set to debut another new concept, the outdoors-focused Public Lands.

Goldfish Swim School has more than 120 locations and over 130 in development.

Goldfish Swim SchoolFounded by a husband and wife team, Goldfish Swim occupies a very specific niche in the fast-growing swim school industry: It provides swim lessons and water safety instruction to infants and children, from four months to 12 years old, in a warm, nurturing environment.  The company’s growth in recent years has been fueled by franchising but its main priority has remained unchanged from day one:  educating kids on water safety while teaching them how to swim and respect the water — and to have lots of fun while doing it.

With shiver-free pools,  tropical-inspired décor and a viewing area for families, Goldfish has an inviting atmosphere that makes kids feel at ease. The success of its model has been made clear these past 16 months, during which it opened its 100th location, signed 19 franchise agreements, and entered four new states. 

Even when its locations went dark last year, Goldfish Swim was quick to adapt, creating “Goldfish at Home” to provide free, virtual dry-land swim exercises for families, along with other online and interactive water safety-focused activities.

Goldfish Swim has put itself in the fast lane for growth. It currently has more than 120 locations  and over 130 in development.