Thursday, August 9, 2012 | Edited by Daniel Moores
||New Report Ranks Fastest-Growing Retailers in U.S.
A look at the fastest-growing retailers in the United States highlights some of the biggest trends among consumers, including the interest surrounding organic supermarkets, high-end retail brands, and mobile technologies.
STORES Hot 100 Retailers list, published annually in the magazine's August issue, consists of retail companies that reported the greatest increase in domestic sales between 2010 and 2011. All public and private companies with more than $300 million in sales were eligible for the list, which was compiled by Kantar Retail.
"The list of the fastest-growing retailers is in sync with current shopping trends as these merchants have a razor sharp focus on today's consumer. Among the top ten are retailers that cater to shoppers' desire for smaller footprint organic supermarkets, high-end workout apparel and luxury accessories, and even online shopping," said STORES Media Editor Susan Reda. "Not surprisingly, Verizon Wireless, Apple Stores and AT&T Wireless round out the mix -- a clear indicator of how important smartphone devices have become."
Topping the list this year is Phoenix-based Sprouts Farmers Market, which witnessed nearly 72 percent year-over-year sales growth in 2011. The company has a total of 109 establishments -- a 102 percent increase from the prior year. The family-owned organization also has ambitious growth plans for 2012 that include the merger with Sunflower Markets.
No. 2 Verizon Wireless and No. 10 AT&T Wireless both had tremendous sales growth in 2011. Verizon Wireless' sales grew 69 percent last year while AT&T saw sales growth of 30 percent. Building on this trend, No. 9 Apple Stores/iTunes' sales grew 37 percent last year. Apple also benefits from the digital side of the business with iTunes, which rakes in sales from the online purchase of music, movies and videos.
Hot 100 newcomers Michael Kors Holdings (3), Lululemon Athletica (4) and Under Armour (5) continue to make noise within the retail industry. Known for their hyper-loyal customer bases and high-end apparel and accessories, experts agree these retailers have staying power even in a shaky economy. Michael Kors' U.S. sales grew 65 percent in 2011, Lululemon's 65 percent, and Under Armour's 63 percent.
CARE Pharmacies (6), Amazon.com (7) and Lowe's Market Place (8) round out the hot 10.
"For all the changes we see in the Hot 100, the attributes of greatness remained consistent in 2011," commented Bryan Gildenberg, chief knowledge officer at Kantar Retail. "Retailers that have a strong value proposition defined for their audience combined with the economic and operating savvy required to execute against it continue to define 'winning' in today's challenging retail environment," he added.
Qualifying for a list of the fastest-growing retailers is a feat in itself; making that list seven years in a row deserves a designation all its own. The following retailers have each made the STORES Hot 100 list since its inception in 2006. The companies are listed below in order of average annual growth, with their 2012 ranking in parenthesis:
- Amazon.com (7)
- Ascena Retail Group (95)
- O'Reilly Automotive (85)
- Urban Outfitters (62)
- Tractor Supply Co. (22)
- Dick's Sporting Goods (18)
- J.Crew Group (79)
- Dollar Tree (35)
- Jos. A Bank Clothiers (28)
- Walgreen (72)
- Ross Stores (58)
- PetSmart (87)
The fastest-growing American restaurants were separately recognized again this year. The top 10 are:
(Source: National Retail Federation, 08/01/12)
- Five Guys
- Jimmy John's
- Chipotle Mexican Grill
- BJ's Restaurants
- Cheddar's Casual Cafe
- Buffalo Wild Wings
- Panda Restaurant Group (Panda Express)
- Noodles & Company
- Wingstop Restaurants
To access the complete Hot 100 list, follow this link.
||Manufacturing Boom: Trade School Enrollment Soars
Trade schools nationwide are bursting at the seams as demand for skilled factory workers pushes enrollment to record highs.
American manufacturers in certain sectors are enjoying a rebirth fueled by the return of overseas production back to the United States. As factories crank up, they have an urgent need for high-skilled workers such as machinists and tool-and-die makers knowledgeable in computers.
Trade school officials say manufacturing programs are experiencing an influx of students -- young people starting out, mid-career workers who are retraining after a layoff, and incumbent factory workers.
Workers are drawn not only by the opportunity but also the pay: Starting salaries of $50,000 to $60,000 are not out of range for high-skilled talent.
But the surge in enrollment is posing unique challenges for schools, many of which are running at or beyond full capacity for the first time in decades.
School administrators are clamoring to hire more instructors and secure funding to buy additional equipment and add classes.
These infrastructure limitations, and the fact that it can take a year or more to train high-skilled factory workers, mean that the current labor shortage could persist for several years.
Unlike 20 years ago, manufacturing today requires workers who are computer literate and skilled in computer-aided design and engineering, said Sandra Krebsbach, executive director of the American Technical Education Association.
Demand through the roof
The Dunwoody College of Technology, a private nonprofit school in Minneapolis, offers two-year programs in tool and die, computer-aided and robotics manufacturing. Dunwoody will have 120 students across its manufacturing programs this year.
"That's the highest level of enrollees we've had in 15 years," said E.J. Daigle, the school's director of robotics and manufacturing.
For the first time in the school's 99-year history, Dunwoody will this fall introduce a six-month certificate program designed to fast-track training. The program will allow the school to churn out an additional 40 graduates trained specifically in computer-aided manufacturing, said Daigle.
"Most of these fast-track students are older, in their 30s and 40s, who can't take two years off to go to school," he said, adding that these students have the option to return at any time and complete the two-year degree.
Demand for skilled workers has shot through the roof in his area, spurred largely by Minneapolis' robust medical devices industry led by Medtronic, said Daigle.
"We graduated 20 students in June and we had 400 inquiries about them from manufacturers," he said.
It's a similar story in parts of Wyoming, said Ami Erickson, dean of agriculture and technical careers at Northern Wyoming community college in Sheridan and Gillette.
Demand for skilled workers in Wyoming is coming primarily from mining and natural gas companies, she said. Both industries also have incumbent workers nearing retirement who will need to be replaced.
Starting salaries run as high as $80,000, and possibly more with overtime because of the worker shortage. Not surprisingly, the school's diesel and welding technology programs have large waiting lists, she said.
Erickson is on the hunt to add instructors in both schools but money is tight. "As a public school, we're funded by the state. Lately, we've had a pullback in funding," she said.
High-skilled workers are a hot commodity in Georgia as new manufacturers set up base, and existing ones expand operations, said Linda Barrow, vice president of academic affairs at Lanier Technical College, a two-year public school outside Atlanta.
"We expect enrollment in our programs will jump 8% to 15%, said Barrow. But accommodating more students is a challenge. "Our most hands-on classes have at most 20 students each, for adequate training and safety reasons," she said.
So the school's come up with a creative solution -- "virtual training." Barrow said the school recently purchased a "virtual welding trainer" that allows students to learn and practice skills on a screen.
"If a student takes too long on a conventional machine, they can go practice on the virtual trainer," she said. "This way, the whole class isn't held up and we can also train more students."
(Source: CNNMoney.com, 07/31/12)
||Back-to-School Promotions Aren't Limited to School Supplies
This stuff's sure not on the list the teacher sent out.
But it's hardly stopping savvy marketers -- whose products have absolutely nothing to do with school -- from latching on to the back-to-school mantra.
Next to Christmas and its all-important Black Friday, back-to-school is the second-biggest spending event of the year, the National Retail Federation says. It expects $83.8 billion to be spent this season. And retailers from flower-delivery services to skateboard distributors are leaping into the fray.
No product is off-limits, marketing guru Thomas Hine says. "Skateboards is pushing it, obviously. But pushing it is not unknown to retailers," says Hine, author of I Want That! How We All Became Shoppers.
Among the items that are stretching the meaning of "back-to-school" sales way beyond pencils, paper and clothes:
• Skateboards. AWH Skateboard Distribution offers discounts on bulk orders of skateboards and components. During back-to-school season, parents put their kids' needs first, manager Tony Aimone says, and often think, "I'll skip buying golf clubs, but I'll still buy little Junior a skateboard."
• Flower delivery. ProFlowers tries to have an offer for every holiday it can, even back-to-school, when kids can get 15% off on flowers for their teachers, spokeswoman Jen Carroll says.
• Cars. Ourisman Toyota in Chantilly, Va., has a back-to-school clearance event on vehicles such as the Sienna and Highlander that are geared toward families.
• Tans. A big part of the excitement of back-to-school is about seeing your friends again, and the best way to do that is with a great new tan, says James Oliver, CEO of Beach Bum Tanning. "Going into your first class, you want to look the best you can," he says.
• Speakers. World Wide Stereo managing director Bill Hettinger insists that his back-to-school sale on headphones and speakers isn't aimed at young rock fans but at students who want top-quality audio to complement online lectures.
• Massages. Nirvana Organic Spa offers discounts for teachers and parents. Teachers account for up to 20% of the business, spa consultant Cyndi Stockton says: "I'm a mom myself, and sometimes you need a massage to get through it all."
(Source: USA Today, 08/06/12)
Daily Sales Tip: Knowing the Outcome in Advance
People don't like to make decisions. The main reason is they don't want to make a poor or wrong decision.
Traditional sales closing methods ask people to make a decision. For example, do you want it in green or red? (Alternative choice) Do you want to use your pen or mine? (Action close) Can we write up an order now? (Direct close) Each of these closing techniques, even though they do work, has two fundamental problems:
-- They ask the prospect to make a decision
-- The average salesperson is uncomfortable using them
Few salespeople have a "closing strategy," a process that they follow with each and every real sales opportunity. Most tend to ask a few questions, jump into the presentation too soon, try and overcome a couple of the prospect's sales objections and then prematurely go for the close -– usually unsuccessfully.
The sales superstars know the outcome long before they get to the end of this routine process and they do it by ensuring that they have a well-qualified prospect, they know the prospect's dominant buying motives, they have identified all of their potential objections before they are even expressed, they have carefully observed the various buying signals from the prospect, and they have given an effective and interactive presentation.
They know long before they ask their closing question what the answer will be. How? By being effective at people reading skills, by asking intelligent, effective and appropriate, probing, qualifying questions, by being good listeners, and by asking a variety of trial closing questions throughout the sales process. They don't try and force a fit. They discover the prospect's sense of urgency or they create it.
They are in the prospect's presence to sell, not educate. They are there to do business. From their opening remarks to their final closing statement, their attitude is: I am here to sell. This does not mean that they are applying pressure or hard selling. It means they are serious about helping the prospect solve their problems or take advantage of opportunities.
Source: Sales trainer/speaker Tim Connor