PLMA October Leaderboard

Little change in fastest-growing chains as of the end of 2019

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NEW YORK — Heading into this year, the ranks of the fastest-growing retailers in the United States had shown considerable year-over-year stability, according to the National Retail Federation’s (NRF) Hot 100 Retailers list for 2020.

The list, which is compiled for the NRF by Kantar Retail, annually ranks the nation’s fastest-growing companies in terms of sales volume.

The latest ranking is based on sales growth between 2018 and 2019, and it includes seven repeaters from 2019.

Deep discount grocer Lidl repeated at the top, with sales up 69% in 2019. In May the company opened its 100th store in Suwanee, Ga., one of more than 20 openings set for this year. It originally planned to open 100 stores by mid-2018, but it had to throttle back its expansion while fine-tuning its offering to American consumers. Lidl currently operates in nine eastern states.

The top 10 of the Hot Retailers includes another regional supermarket operator: Ninth-ranked Coborn’s, a family-owned grocer that operates stores under a variety of banners in four Upper Midwest states and achieved 15% growth, fueled in part by an ­acquisition.

“Regional grocers are frequently able to be more agile and more in tune with the part of the country they serve,” says Tory Gunde­lach, senior vice president of retail insights at Kantar. “It can often be easier to implement changes in a few hundred stores versus thousands of stores.”

In addition, No. 4 Tokyo-based Don Quijote, which posted a 24% sales increase, operates just four stores in California and three in Hawaii.

The head of U.S. operations, Koji Ohara, describes the stores as “essentially a Japanese supermarket,” but the chain is developing a new store format intended to spearhead U.S. expansion to around 60 stores.

Besides the regional supermarket operators, the top 10 includes, not surprisingly, four e-commerce players. Second-ranked Wayfair, a home furnishings merchant, recorded 29% sales growth but lost $985 million in 2019. Build.com, an online home improvement retailer, came in third with 2019 sales up 26%.

Despite its huge scale and online dominance, Amazon.com still managed to achieve 21% growth, which gave it fifth place in the ranking.

It was followed in the sixth spot by Boxed.com (up 20%), which delivers groceries and household supplies and is expanding from its New York base to the West and South.

Other chains rounding out the top 10 include seventh-ranked Five Below (up 18%); No. 8 At Home Stores, which grew 17%; and Primark, a discount apparel merchant that ranked 10th with a 14% sales increase.

With COVID-19 driving dramatic growth in e-commerce and omnichannel retail while pressuring “nonessential” retailers, the ranks of 2021’s Hot 100 Retailers are likely to see more change.

“Where we are now, in terms of how we shop and purchase items, is where we would have been 10 years from now,” says Reid Greenberg, executive vice president of global digital and e-commerce at Kantar. “In-person retail will never go away — humans are social creatures who want to touch, look at and feel things — but COVID-19 has absolutely changed the size and quantity of retail locations across the United States, if not the globe.”


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