Think of SN's annual Top 75 List of retailers and wholesalers as a snapshot that marks where the industry has traveled over the past year. This time the picture tells a story of how this most challenging of economies helped boost sales for some operators while hobbling others.
The 2009 sales rankings can be found in a supplement inside this week's issue. The roster reflects how some discount-oriented retailers were lifted while some conventional operators were hurt by shoppers trading down to price-oriented formats.
Not surprisingly, BJ's Wholesale Club, the membership warehouse club operator, rose two spots on the list to No. 17 as it grew customer transactions. This followed a number of reports last year from BJ's about attracting more business from shoppers seeking value.
Another gainer was WinCo Foods, the discount retailer, which jumped six spots to No. 33 based on improved sales for price-oriented retailers, as well as its new units.
Tough economic times worked against some retailers. Brookshire Brothers declined five places to No. 65 as higher fuel prices led consumers to flock to Wal-Mart supercenters for one-stop shopping. Little wonder that Wal-Mart Stores' stock shot up almost 18% in 2008, a period when the stock market plunged. (Click on the article link for more about "Food Retail Stocks.")
Interestingly, at least one company facing tougher times in this economy raised its standing in the Top 75 roster. Whole Foods Market, listed at No. 21, has been challenged by its higher-price image. However, sales benefited from its acquisition of Wild Oats Markets and recent conversions of stores to Whole Foods.
The Top 75 list does a great job of portraying where the industry has been, but like any other snapshot, it doesn't necessarily indicate where things are headed. This year the rankings don't convey the notable boost that will come to several wholesalers from pending or very recent acquisitions. Those wholesalers include C&S Wholesale Grocers, which just acquired the wholesale operations of Penn Traffic; Nash Finch Co., which will add three distribution centers from Grocers Supply Co.; Spartan Stores, which just acquired 17 VG Food & Pharmacy stores; and Central Grocers of Illinois, which is adding about 80% of the sales of Certified Grocers Midwest.
Overall, this year's rankings show that despite the grueling economy, many companies are still performing at the top of their game. Another example of this can be found in this week's issue, where SN profiles the winners of its annual industry awards for community service, diversity and marketing. The winners are Publix Super Markets for the Community Service Award, Safeway for the Champion of Diversity Award and Joe Sheridan, Wakefern Food Corp., for the Marketer of the Year Award. (Click on the article links to read more about the award winners.)
The opportunity to honor companies and executives is especially sweet in a period when everyone is focused on bad news about the economy. Consider it a reminder to keep an eye on the big picture.