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Jennifer Marks

Climbing Out

Jennifer MarksJennifer Marks EDITOR-IN-CHIEF
NUMBERS FROM THE TOP 50 Retailing Giants may not be super-duper, but they certainly mark 2010 as a year of recovery for many retailers.
     Consider that in last year's report, 58% of the retailers on HTT's list logged sales declines - seven of them double-digit drops. This year, there is not a single double-digit decliner, and 66% of the retailers in the ranking reported sales gains.
     Only one was absolutely fl at year-over-year, although it must be noted several sales increases were minimal.
     The report covering 2010 sales performance produced six double-digit gainers: Bed Bath & Beyond, Williams-Sonoma, Ross Stores, Cornerstone Brands, Crate & Barrel and Ashley Furniture HomeStores.
     In last year's report just two retailers increased sales by double-digits: Ross Stores, reaping the fruits of a down economy; and Pier 1, bouncing back from a crummy year.
     It's in reviewing the 2010 net unit growth that one really sees the cautious strategies at work in the industry last year. Dollar General opened the most net new stores from January to December 2010. It opened 33 units, a far cry for the 300- to 500-unit-per-year pace that characterized the glory days. Kohl's opened only five, Bed Bath & Beyond two and Walmart one - yet that was enough to rank all three among the Top 10 retailers by net unit growth.
     Instead, the year was marked by tweaking and in some cases revamping existing stores - a prudent course, to be sure. Since this past January, a number of retailers have announced plans to step up store expansion, though in most cases not as aggressively as before the crash - which also seems reasonable.
     Mid-way through 2011, the consumer data are still all over the place. Credit card use is rising again, suggesting more discretionary spending, and June sales exceeded expectations, but June surveys of consumer attitudes found them not so cheery about the economy.
     Still, the industry is climbing out of the trough, one step at a time.

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