• Jennifer Marks

Racing To The Top

Pure play retailers pour it on

How fast is Amazon flying up the rankings of H&TT’s annual Top 50 Retailing Giants?

Consider the fact that it made its first appearance in the Top 10 just a year ago, and now it hops over Ross Stores into the No. 8 spot. Note also that if Amazon enjoys the same level of 27.1% growth in home textiles sales this year that it had in 2016, it will overtake Macy’s and potentially JCPenney. Under that scenario, Amazon would become the fifth largest retailer of home textiles in the country.

It would also be cranking out over $1 billion in home textiles sales.

Amazon wasn’t the only pure play retailer to generate double-digit growth last year. Online home furnishings specialist Wayfair logged the biggest year-over-year gain in sales among the Top 50 – up 50% to $219 million. It also jumped from 36th place on the ranking to 29th. A similar market share gain this year would propel it into the Top 20 for next year’s report.

Overstock’s 10% boost in home textiles sales didn’t move it out of 14th place this year, but it does put it within striking distance of Big Lots and Kmart. Kmart, which fell out of the Top 10 in last year’s report, is likely to continue its downward march in the rankings. Big Lots will be tougher to beat. Its 9.7% jump in home textiles sales last year is a close match for Overstock’s market share gain, and Big Lots sees home as a key driver for growth.

Reflecting the more difficult nature of the business in 2016, there are slightly fewer retailers showing growth among this year’s Top 50 Retailing Giants than in last year’s report – 33 vs. 34. The number of nameplates producing double-digit gains fell to nine from 10 in last year’s ranking.

HomeGoods moves up to the No. 11 spot this year thanks to its 14.3% sales boost. If it keeps up the pace, it could dislodge Ikea for a spot in the Top 10. Burlington Stores produced a 14% boost to home textiles sales, moving it into the Top 15.

This year’s report for the first time combines Dollar Tree and Family Dollar into a single entity with a 33.7% increase in sales. Dollar Tree finalized its acquisition of Family Dollar in July 2015. While the formats present distinct shopping propositions to consumers – all merchandise $1 or less at Dollar Tree – the parent company has streamlined portions of their sourcing operations.

The other two high fliers in growth terms are small but rapidly growing chains: At Home (up 20.1%) and Ollie’s Bargain Outlet (up 10.1%). Both are still adding stores and expanding their reach into new markets.

Ethan Allen joins the rankings this year at No. 50. The manufacturer and retailer of home furnishings has a small assortment of home textiles – 8.2% of the mix. But that small business yielded a 7.8% jump in growth last year.

Among the 25 retailers than generated single-digit sales gains in home textiles last year, just four others posted better growth than Ethan Allen: Ross (8.3%), Lowe’s (8.1%), Ashley HomeStore (8.0%) and TJMaxx/Marshalls (8.0)%.

Among the 14 retailers that saw declines in home textiles sales, only Sears and Kmart fell by double digits. The rest of the crew consisted primarily of department stores (Macy’s, Bloomingdale’s, The Bon-Ton Stores and Belk), televised retailers (QVC and HSN) and three of Williams-Sonoma Inc.’s brands (Pottery Barn, Pottery Barn Kids and PBTeen).

HSN’s Cornerstone catalog/online division also gave up sales. Dragged down by the apparel malaise that impacted many other retailers last year, it has been putting more energy into home categories and experimenting with physical store locations under its Ballard Designs and Front-gate businesses.

Pier 1 dropped to 19th place in the rankings. This past April, former Kmart exec Alasdair James became president and ceo. The company is considering the launch of new brands and focusing on newness across all categories.

BJ’s Wholesale Club sits low on the chart at No. 49 and experienced a small decrease in home textiles sales. Another robust years for No. 50 Ethan Allen would push BJ’s into last place in the rankings.

Stein Mart and The Company Store were fl at for the year. Home textiles sales for Stein Mart may come in even lower next year. The regional off-pricer is testing a smaller home/gift department and putting the brakes on new store openings this year.

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