Convenience stores, restaurants make Hot 100 Retailers list

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The convenience store category experienced the highest growth among all categories last year with a 21.9 percent boost in sales, and the department store sector continued its resurgence with 21.5 percent growth, according to the second annual Hot 100 Retailers list by Stores Magazine.

The new report, featured in the August issue of the National Retail Federation's magazine, was sponsored by market research firm Alliance Data. It highlights the retail companies that reported the greatest year-over-year revenue percentage growth, including all public companies with more than $100 million in sales.

All but four retailers saw double-digit sales increases in 2006, and many grew through acquisitions. The Pantry, a convenience store chain, saw its revenues grow from multiple acquisitions and came in at No. 5.

"I continue to see convenience stores doing pretty well because they continue to be very well suited for a nation that is one the move," said Susan Reda, executive editor of Stores. "They have made a very strong effort to offer more healthy foods, which also strikes a core with today's consumer."

As American consumers become increasingly time-strapped, restaurants are also playing a greater role in day-to-day lives. The retail list was redefined this year to include quick-serve and casual-dining restaurants and saw 23 of the 100 retailers coming from this category, including three in the top 10: Triarc, owner of Arby's and Deerfield, at No. 3, BJ's Restaurants at No. 6 and Buffalo Wild Wings at No. 9. Reda pointed out that not a lot of supermarkets made the list as restaurants and convenience stores seem to cater better to the American consumer's busy lifestyle.

The No. 1 store on the list was The Bon-Ton Stores with a revenue increase of 164.3 percent. This once-overlooked regional department store chain grew largely because of its acquisition of what was once Saks' northern department store division, according to Reda.

"The Bon-Ton Stores were always the little department store that could, and they have shown this," Reda remarked. "They are a very smartly run organization and continue to offer brands that people continue to cherish."

GameStop came in second place this year after topping the inaugural Hot 100 list last year. The games retailer can also trace its 72 percent growth to an acquisition, the 2005 purchase of EB Games. The company opened its 1,000th international store in June and has momentum because of the current strength of the videogame market.

"It is interesting to see how the teenage demographic is spending and influencing this list in their purchases of fast food and things like video games," Reda added.

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