Hot 100 Retailers
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Click on chart to see a list of the Hot 100 Retailers.
Many of the nation’s hottest retailers are either on a growth tear or coming off a major acquisition — which may be a good thing or bad long term, if too much baggage was included in the transaction. Next year’s Hot 100 report will likely tell tales of what happened to several of this year’s leaders. Various scenarios are well-represented at the top of this year’s STORES Hot 100 Retailers report, with Bi-Lo Holdings, a collection of struggling supermarkets, ranking No. 1, followed by Michael Kors, one of the hottest brands in clothing. While the economy is improving, the outlook isn’t overly rosy, notes Bryan Gildenberg, chief knowledge officer at Kantar Retail. “We are looking at retail growth over the next five years as roughly the same as the rate of inflation, about 4.5 percent, but that isn’t to say everyone will be growing equally,” Gildenberg says. “We see non-store and online growth of 11.4 percent and the bricks-and-mortar segment growing at 3.5 percent … [and] losing market share. Right now, non-store accounts for approximately 7 percent of non-automobile consumer sales, but we see that doubling to 14 percent by 2020.” Food for thought B i-Lo emerged from Chapter 11 in May 2010 after operating for 14 months under bankruptcy protection. Controlled by private equity fund operator Lone Star, it acquired the remnants of the Winn-Dixie chain in December 2011. Bi-Lo was the smaller of the two entities, hence 2012’s triple-digit sales increase. This spring Bi-Lo also acquired three groups of supermarkets from Delhaize Group: 72 Sweetbay stores in Florida; 72 Harveys markets in Georgia, Florida and South Carolina; and 22 Reid’s Groceries in South Carolina. Grocery retailing is a $450 billion business and supermarkets “have always been a bit of a mirror as to what is happening in retailing in general,” says Gildenberg. He sees further contraction among traditional supermarket chains while specialty supermarkets will grow as they “get their value message across to the consumer.” Kantar sees a scenario in which “20 supermarket chains control as much as 90 percent of the market” at some point in the future. No. 3 Sprouts — 2012’s hottest retailer — is one of the specialty grocers that Kantar sees as driving supermarket growth. Earlier this year, the company hit a milestone by opening its 150th store just a decade after its founding. Though its origins can be traced to 1943 when Henry Boney opened a fruit stand in Southern California, the company marks its modern era from the time Boney family members opened the first Sprouts store in Chandler, Ariz. Also in the top 10 is The Fresh Market, another specialty supermarket. Emphasizing customer service and presenting an unconventional store layout, it has grown to more than 100 locations in 25 states over the past 30 years. Rather than growing progressively, it clusters stores by region: In the past few months, the company opened its fourth store in Pennsylvania, its eighth in Illinois and its sixth in California, with four more slated to open later this year. In all the company plans to add 19 to 22 new stores in 2013. Craig Carlock, Fresh Market’s CEO, suggests that there are three reasons consumers shop The Fresh Market stores, which average just over 21,000 sq. ft.: Food quality that emphasizes healthy, fresh, local and regional; extraordinary customer service; and the stores’ neighborhood grocery atmosphere. In the first quarter of this year, sales remained in “hot retailer” territory with a 12.9 percent increase and same-store sales growth of 3 percent. Wearing it well M ichael Kors, which went public in December 2011, posted a 57.1 percent jump in revenues and same-store sales gains of 36.7 percent in the first three months of 2013. The company has increased revenues at a compound annual rate of about 50 percent over the last five years and has tripled its store count over the past three years. No. 4 Lululemon Athletica has been through a dramatic year that included a quality control issue that led to the exit of its chief product officer and, subsequently, the abrupt and unanticipated departure of chief executive Christine Day. In March, Lululemon was forced to remove nearly one-fifth of its inventory after its black stretch pants were deemed too sheer when the exclusive Luon fabric was stretched. The recall would cost between $57 million and $67 million, the company said. “While we regret that we had quality issues … we are proud of the organization’s ability to get Luon delivered back into our stores within 90 days of having pulled it from our line, all the while keeping our guests happy and engaged with the brand,” Day said in announcing her resignation. In June, Lululemon said it would begin opening stores devoted exclusively to menswear by 2016. No. 6 Under Armour, which sells almost as much merchandise through Dick’s Sporting Goods as it does through its own stores and website, may see tougher competition as it expands into global territory controlled by Nike and Adidas. Well-represented among American high school, college and professional teams, last year only about 6 percent of Under Armour’s revenues were from abroad; Nike and Adidas each generated about 60 percent of their revenues in non-U.S. markets. Company executives acknowledged that “international was underinvested because they were trying to find the right team,” noted Kate McShane, a securities analyst with Citi Research. Under Armour outfits one team in the English Premier soccer league and plans to outfit many athletes at the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia, and the 2016 Summer games in Rio de Janeiro. Hot 100 newcomer H&M has experienced a slowdown in sales so far this year and says it will step up store openings in response, particularly in China and the United States. American store openings include a high profile location on New York’s Fifth Avenue about a block from Saks Fifth Avenue, and another three-story, 42,500-sq.-ft. site at Broadway and 42nd Street. The company also plans to launch an e-commerce site catering to U.S. customers. H&M, which was stung three years ago when news media reported the retailer disposed of unsold inventory by putting holes in the garments and leaving them on the street for trash collectors, in February launched a program to encourage customers to recycle old garments in exchange for discounts on new merchandise. “We don’t want clothes to become waste, we want them to become a resource,” says Henrik Lampa, H&M’s sustainability manager. “We want to make new commercial fibers out of this, to make new clothes and textiles.” The online factor No. 5 Apple’s hot growth continued last year, but this spring’s e-book pricing trial was a distracting sidelight for company executives seeking to keep consumers’ attention focused on products and services. iTunes Radio, a streaming music service offering more than 200 free stations, was launched in June; later this year, Apple is expected to introduce its Mac Pro, a sleek new desktop computer. One of Apple’s more significant retail moves was last fall’s ouster of Scott Forstall, a long-time associate of Jobs who oversaw Apple stores. No. 7 Amazon.com’s most recent splash in the retail arena was entering the Los Angeles market with a grocery delivery service honed for years in its Seattle home territory. Called Amazon Fresh, the operation was jump-started when Amazon acquired Kiva Systems last year for $775 million; Kiva employed concepts and technology used by early Internet grocer Webvan. Citing Amazon as “one of the few large-cap [businesses] to have secular exposure to e-commerce,” Oppenheimer & Co. analyst Jason Helftstein says the company “continues to gain share of U.S. e-commerce with its deep product selection, low-cost express delivery through its Prime program and breakthrough successes of its Kindle e-reader platform.” Amazon also has an advantage because of its “head start and deep operating capability,” says Kantar’s Gildenberg. “It’s hard to see other e-commerce start-ups replicating what Amazon has done.” There is still plenty of opportunity for Amazon, he says, noting its relative weakness in such areas as consumables and apparel. The expansion of Amazon Fresh to a second major market may turn out to be as significant a game-changer as Wal-Mart’s entry into the grocery business, Gildenberg says. “There are a lot of parallels” in that both Amazon and Wal-Mart went about showing the retailing establishment “a fundamentally different way of selling,” he says. “They operated with business models that were different from the way consumers bought things before.” Curation and convenience Kantar predicts drug stores, dollar stores and membership warehouse clubs will remain in growth mode. “One reason club stores and dollar stores will be successful is that they both do a good job curating product,” Gildenberg says. Drug stores will also see an anticipated $15 billion increase in prescription medication spending as a result of coming changes in health care coverage, he says. Even if dollar store openings see a temporary slowdown after the past five years’ explosive growth, Gildenberg sees expansion in the sector continuing as they exploit their capability “in curation and proximities as competitive advantages.” The most successful retailers will be those that “best present their business’s value proposition to consumers,” he says. Whatever the economy is doing, consumers were out and about in their cars more often in 2012 than 2011, as evidenced by the presence of eight convenience store chains on the Hot 100 Retailers chart, up from seven last year. Kantar’s researchers say c-store chains are growing through “acquisition of smaller chains and independents, rapid organic store growth and big investments in store remodels, food service and private label merchandise.” The numbers back that up: At the end of 2012, there were nearly 150,000 convenience stores in the United States, according to Nielsen Research — accounting for a little more than a third of all retail stores in the country. As much as a quarter of the population says it shops convenience stores as often as supermarkets, according to a study released in June by Imprint Plus. The survey, which polled 1,000 consumers, also found that 60 percent of respondents bought something at a convenience store at least once a week. C-store sales are segregated into two major categories: Fuel sales, which last year amounted to $501 billion, according to the recently-released State of the Industry Report by the National Association of Convenience Stores; and in-store sales of $199.3 billion. The three hottest categories for in-store sales were “alternative snacks” like meat snacks and health/energy/protein bars, which grew 12.2 percent year over year; liquor, up 11.6 percent; and cold dispensed beverages, up 11.3 percent. The highest-ranked c-store chain on the Hot 100 Retailers chart is No. 24 Stripes, owned and operated by Susser Holdings. Stripes, which has locations throughout Texas, New Mexico and Oklahoma, has opened eight new stores so far this year. The company recently brought in Sid Keswani from Target stores to serve as senior vice president of store operations. No. 73 7-Eleven, owned by Japan’s Seven & I Holdings, is the largest c-store chain among the Hot 100 Retailers in terms of sales and has plans to double its North American footprint over the next several years, both through takeovers of small operators and increased penetration of urban areas. The chain “could increase … store numbers to 20,000 or even 30,000,” says Toshifumi Suzuki, chairman of Seven & I, declining to specify a timetable for the expansion. The company acquired more than 650 stores last year and controls nearly a quarter of the North American market. 7-Eleven has also invested heavily in remodeling and renovating both its own older units and acquired stores. It has been an industry leader in improving the quality and freshness of its offerings along with increasing the amount of private label products.