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Charting The Changes In A Shifting Retail Environment

...edged up by 2.9% in 2013 to $4.98 billion, compared to $4.84 billion in 2012.The sales gains slightly outpaced industry growth, leaving the Top 200 with a market share of 72.2%, compared to 71.6% in 2012. This advance continues the two-decade consolidation trend.

The Top 200’s “average” sales gain masked a significant divergence in performance that ranged from a 140% gain for the fastest-growing company to a 40% decline at the other end of the scale. 116 companies on the list posted revenue gains, 23 reported flat revenues, and the remaining 61 retailers experienced declines. Perhaps the only definitive conclusion this divergence allows is that the results were “mixed.”

Not surprisingly, seven out of the ten fastest-growing companies on the sales roster were internet retailers. As in most other specialty industries, online music retailers continue to take market share. Their combination of consumer convenience and the absence of sales tax make for a compelling competitive advantage. What was surprising is that after over a decade of struggle, two pianos dealers were also among the ten fastest-expanding retailers.

Despite the varied performance of the Top 200, the mood of the group was almost universally restrained. In interviews and questionnaire responses, retailers used words like “challenging,” “difficult,” and “a perpetual grind,” to describe the business climate. This is in contrast to the responses of six or seven years ago, where the most commonly used words were “growth,” “booming,” and “great.” On one level, the current downcast attitude reflects life in retail. Addressing the needs of demanding customers, fending off never-ending competitive challenges, and dealing with all the other details of running a store is and always has been a taxing proposition. From the largest to the smallest, retail is an endless series of challenges to be solved. But then, showing up at the office every day is called work for a reason.

For complete 2013 retail data and continued analysis, order the Top 200 report today!

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