No Room for Mediocrity

9/18/2013

The retail industry is a many-splintered thing, and its deviations and complexities are clearly on parade in STORES’ “Top 100 Retailers” annual report, which this year found 15 supermarket companies nabbing a slot on the yearly roundup of the nation’s fastest-growing retail companies.

Traditionally, the National Retail Federation’s venerable trade publication has profiled all walks of retailers demonstrating strength through revenue. This year’s report, however, evaluated growth over size, the subsequent findings of which were fairly intriguing and right on time with the prevailing theme of our annual Consumer Expenditures Study, which begins on page 27.

For starters is STORES’ startling No. 1 contender, Bi-Lo Holdings, ranking alongside one of the hottest brands in fashion, Michael Kors. Yes, you heard it secondhand here, folks: Bi-Lo and Michael Kors pacing neck-and-neck toward the tippy-top of the national retailers’ leaderboard. Pretty cool.

Here’s why: Having emerged from Chapter 11 in May 2010, Jacksonville, Fla.-based Bi-Lo’s private equity parent, Lone Star, scooped up the loose ends of Winn-Dixie in December 2011, which paved the way for triple-digit sales gains in 2012 and shortly thereafter, its acquisition of three Delhaize banners earlier this year: 72 Sweetbay Supermarkets in Florida; 72 Harveys in Georgia, Florida and South Carolina; and 22 Reid’s in South Carolina.

While Bi-Lo’s next chapter of is but one of many others well worth watching in the months ahead, STORES cast a spotlight on 14 other grocery chains in its annual study, rankings for which were based on Kantar Retail research and reports, including No. 3-ranked Sprouts. As 2012’s hottest retailer, Phoenix-based Sprouts again received hearty props from Kantar for driving growth in the specialty food arena, as evidenced by the recent opening of its milestone 150th store.

Greensboro, N.C-based The Fresh Market, at No. 10, earned kudos for its methodical expansion of more than 100 locations in 25 states in cluster fashion over the past three decades.

Other grocers in STORES’ 2013 “hot retailer” territory include:

14. Grocery Outlet Inc., the Berkeley, Calif.-based discount grocer, which bills itself as the nation’s largest extreme-value grocery retailer and encompasses 200-plus independently operated stores in Arizona, California, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon, Pennsylvania and Washington.

19. The pride of Williamsville, N.Y., Tops Holdings, which is on a tear with store makeovers and savoring the success of its first small-format Orchard Fresh concept store, with more in the pipeline.

20. The always admirable Whole Foods Market, based in Austin, Texas.

38. Onalaska, Wis.-based Festival Foods, the third-generation company that owns and operates 17 Wisconsin eponymous banner stores, primarily in the northern and western parts of the state. Skogen’s Festival Foods just picked up its first in store in southeastern Wisconsin with Spiegelhoff’s Supervalu, the operation of which it acquired in June.

55. Employee-owned Harp’s Food Stores, whose revenue reached $550 million in 2011, a one-year increase of 6.4 percent.

58. Rochester, N.Y.’s Wegmans Food Markets, which has attracted an exponentially larger fanatical fan base with each new store it opens, and which to date operates 81 in six states.

61. San Antonio’s beloved H-E-B, which has more than 350 stores in Texas and Mexico, and is known for its innovation and community service.

66. Boise, Idaho-based WinCo Foods, which our astute friend and well-respected industry authority Burt Flickinger III characterizes as “Walmart’s worst nightmare.”

Rounding out STORES’ rundown of the nation’s fastest-growing retailers are Trader Joe’s, at 76; The Kroger Co., at 84; Wakefern/ShopRite, at 90; Kroger’s pending new addition, 97th-ranked Harris Teeter; and Brookings, Ore.-based C&K Market, parent company of Ray’s Food Place, Ray’s Shop Smart and Price Less Food, at 98.

All of which is further verification of the timeless wisdom of Orison Swett Marden, whose first book, “Pushing to the Front,” published in 1894, said, “There is an infinite difference between a little wrong and just right, between fairly good and the best, between mediocrity and superiority.”

Indeed, in the present pressure-cooker environment, there’s simply no room for mediocrity.

There’s an infinite difference between a little wrong and just right, between fairly good and the best, between mediocrity and superiority.

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