While optimism about the economy fell slightly in August, consumer sentiment remained close to its six-year high. During the recession, Americans were reluctant to spend more than they had to. This dealt a serious, and sometimes lethal, blow to many of the country’s large retailers.
Yet as consumers return to the stores, some retailers have grown substantially. According to data provided by the National Retail Federation’s publishing group STORES Media, Apple stores and iTunes' sales grew nearly 35% between 2011 and 2012, more than double AT&T, the second fastest-growing retailer. 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the top 100 retailers by sales with the largest percentage increase in revenue from retail last year.
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Many of the nation’s fastest-growing retailers have benefitted from consumers' reluctance to spend freely. The TJX Companies and Ross Stores grew by offering great bargains. Both retailers purchase excess inventory from department stores and other chains and then sell it to consumers at lower prices. Similarly, department store chain Nordstrom launched Nordstrom Rack, its own off-price apparel store, to sell its inventory at a discount.
While consumers remain price conscious, they are willing to open up their wallets for retailers with strong brands that are aligned to consumer's changing tastes. Kantar Retail global manager Alexandra Mansfield told 24/7 Wall St., “U.S. shoppers are complex, disparate, knowledgeable and demanding -- retailers that are attuned to consumption habits ... are succeeding.” Apple’s retail sales grew by nearly 35% because of its wildly popular product line. Similarly, Whole Foods sales continued to grow partly because of consumers’ growing preference for organic food.
Retail sales growth can be the product of increases in online or existing store sales. But the addition of new stores can also be the cause. Most of the 10 fastest-growing retailers increased their U.S. store count. Two retailers that did not add stores, AT&T and Foot Locker, are expected to invest heavily in their stores in the coming years.
To identify America’s 10 fastest-growing retailers, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed STORES Media’s Top 100 Retailers report. The report is based on Kantar Retail’s estimates for companies' retail-only sales, and includes the 100 largest companies by this measure, as well as their estimated number of stores. The 10 companies on our list had the largest percentage increase in retail sales between 2011 and 2012. Sales figures listed do not include third-party sales, but include digital sales by the company. We excluded digital-only companies like Amazon.com from our list because the company’s sales are entirely online. We also excluded Bi-Lo from our list because the company’s more-than tripling of revenue was due almost entirely to its purchase of the Winn-Dixie Franchise.
These are America's fastest-growing retailers
10. TJX Companies
> 1-yr. retail sales growth: 11.6%
> U.S. retail sales (2012): $19.4 billion
> Total stores (2012): 2,335
> 1-yr. store growth: 5.6%
The TJX Companies Inc. (TJX) consists of U.S. retailers T.J. Maxx, Marshalls and HomeGoods, which focus on selling consumers off-price, brand name apparel and furniture. The company is able to offer lower prices to customers by buying products at a discount from manufacturers and retailers that have to shed inventory. The company’s business model has been successful as customers have sought lower prices. TJX also recently moved further into e-commerce with its acquisition of online merchant Sierra Trading Post. In all, the United States accounted for close to 76% of the company’s total revenue, or $19.4 billion in sales, in 2012, according to Kantar Retail.
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9. Dick’s Sporting Goods
> 1-yr. retail sales growth: 12.0%
> U.S. retail sales (2012): $5.8 billion
> Total stores (2012): 601
> 1-yr. store growth: 7.1%
Dick’s Sporting Goods Inc.’s (DKS) retail sales jumped by 12% to more than $5.8 billion in 2012. Driving the sales improvement were a jump in same-store sales at both its Dick’s Sporting Goods and Golf Galaxy stores, as well as a 48.5% increase in online sales. Dick’s success is also partially dependent on the weather. Last December was unusually warm, which meant the company held more cold-weather goods in its stores than customers wanted. And once the retailer decided to unload those goods, the weather turned cold, which lead to both a missed opportunity and missed earnings estimates. The company also lost out on golf and camping sales in its most recent quarter due to abnormally wet weather.
> 1-yr. retail sales growth: 12.1%
> U.S. retail sales (2012): $11.8 billion
> Total stores (2012): 240
> 1-yr. store growth: 6.7%
Nordstrom Inc. (JWN) operates department stores, discount stores and other specialty stores, as well as an online store. In addition to its retail business, which generated roughly $11.8 billion in sales in 2012, Nordstrom offers its own credit cards to customers to promote customer loyalty. The company's discount business, Nordstrom Rack, has been the main growth driver. Effectively all the company’s planned openings for fiscal 2013 are Nordstrom Rack stores. However Nordstrom, like other retailers, has had to deal with cautious consumers spending -- at all levels of income -- in recent months.
7. Foot Locker
> 1-yr. retail sales growth: 12.9%
> U.S. retail sales (2012): $13.5 billion
> Total stores (2012): 2,406
> 1-yr. store growth: -2.8%
Foot Locker Inc. (FL) operates stores in North America, Europe and Australia. In fiscal 2012, Foot Locker’s sales totaled nearly $4.5 billion domestically and $6.1 billion globally. In early 2012, CEO Ken Hicks said the company was looking to increase sales partly by growing the number of stores it has by 60 or 70 each year. However, the total number of company stores actually shrank last year, as Foot Locker closed more stores than it opened. Hicks also stated the company was looking beyond shoes, notably at apparel, to further drive sales. The possible addition of apparel could have contributed to the company’s decision to remodel or move close to 200 stores last year.
6. Ross Stores
> 1-yr. retail sales growth: 12.9%
> U.S. retail sales (2012): $9.7 billion
> Total stores (2012): 1,198
> 1-yr. store growth: 6.6%
Ross Stores Inc. (ROST) is an off-price retailer of apparel and home furnishings. Ross CEO Michael Balmuth told MarketWatch that, as an off-price retailer, the company is able to buy goods at a discount from other retailers’ inventories, which gives it “the flexibility to buy closer to when shoppers need things.” This flexibility was cited by the company as a major reason for its record sales and earnings in fiscal 2012, when retail sales jumped to $9.7 billion -- a 12.9% rise from the year before. Also, while major teen retailers have struggled to adjust to young consumers’ changing tastes, Ross Stores views this group as an opportunity to expand.
> 1-yr. retail sales growth: 14.0%
> U.S. retail sales (2012): $4.6 billion
> Total stores (2012): 1,703
> 1-yr. store growth: 5.4%
Chick-fil-A is famous for its advertising campaign, which uses cows to urge customers to “Eat Mor Chikin." The company is also the center of a controversy because of its president’s opposition to gay marriage -- although it has reiterated that all customers are welcome in its stores. Despite the controversy, Chik-fil-A had a strong year in 2012. Sales rose by 14% as the chain expanded its total store count by 5.4% and same-store sales rose by 8%. The company operates various different styles of restaurants, including stand-alone stores, in addition to exclusively drive-thru locations and full-service restaurants. According to Kantar Retail’s Manfield, the company “has a big footprint, and a variety of formats; so they are capturing broader markets.”
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4. Whole Foods Market
> 1-yr. retail sales growth: 15.6%
> U.S. retail sales (2012): $11.3 billion
> Total stores (2012): 322
> 1-yr. store growth: 3.5%
Whole Foods Market Inc. (WFM), often derided as “Whole Paycheck,” managed to grow sales despite the still cautious consumer. Whole Foods’ retail sales rose by 15.6% to $11.3 billion in 2012, as comparable store sales rose by 8.7% in the fiscal year and the company expanded its count of new stores. For years, the company’s growth has been due in part to its promotion of organic products, which have increased in popularity. Now, the company hopes to grow further by offering lower cost items to consumers who are more price-sensitive. To prevent this plan from cutting into its profit margins, the company is also expanding more into areas where it can buy or lease smaller spaces at a lower cost.
3. Bed Bath & Beyond
> 1-yr. retail sales growth: 16.1%
> U.S. retail sales (2012): $10.9 billion
> Total stores (2012): 1,434
> 1-yr. store growth: 25.5%
Bed Bath & Beyond Inc. (BBBY) grew its store count by more than 25% in 2012. One major reason for the home furnishing retailer’s growth was its acquisition of World Market, a home goods furnishing chain with more than 250 stores. However, the company’s comparable stores sales growth has been falling. In 2010 same-store sales grew by 7.8%, then by 5.9% in 2011 and then by just 2.7% in 2012. According to Mansfield, the company “is often viewed as one of the notable victims of show-rooming and the Amazon effect.” However, a recent report found Bed, Bath & Beyond’s prices actually were lower than those offered at Amazon.
2. AT&T Wireless
> 1-yr. retail sales growth: 16.8%
> U.S. retail sales (2012): $7.6 billion
> Total stores (2012): 2,300
> 1-yr. store growth: 0%
AT&T Wireless’ retail sales totaled $7.6 billion in 2012. This total, according to Kantar Retail, includes sales of phones, accessories and equipment, but does not include service revenues from phone plans. Such sales constitute just a small part of the telecom giant’s business; AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) generated more than $125 billion in revenues for fiscal 2012. But while service sales -- which accounted for the bulk of the company’s wireless revenue -- grew just 4.3% in fiscal 2012, equipment sales jumped 16.8%. AT&T apparently will emphasize retailing going forward. It intends to create new outlets that emphasize service and engaging consumers -- following the Apple Store model.
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1. Apple Stores/iTunes
> 1-yr. retail sales growth: 34.6%
> U.S. retail sales (2012): $24.0 billion
> Total stores (2012): 255
> 1-yr. store growth: 4.1%
Apple Inc. (AAPL) has been one of the great retail success stories of the past decade. The basic model of the store allows customers to browse uninterrupted by salespeople, try devices and products, and consult with specialists as needed for product advice and technical support. Although its 2012 results did not match Wall Street’s expectations, Apple still managed to grow its overall sales by 45% in its most recent fiscal year, while growing U.S. retail sales by 34.6%. Much of the company’s growth in both retail sales and third-party sales was due to the popularity of Apple’s lines of iPads and iPhones. Sales of the iPhone jumped by 71% last year.