America's Fastest-Growing Retailers

5. Chick-fil-A
> 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. (NASDAQ: 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. (NASDAQ: 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. (NASDAQ: 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.

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