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SN's Top 50 on a Growth Track

SN's Top 50 on a Growth Track

SN’s annual list of the Top 50 Small Chains and Independents reflects sales gains at those companies

The top 50 small chains and independent operators on SN’s annual list are movin’ on up.

As a group, sales estimates for those companies on the 2012 list rose 6.3% to $29.5 billion, compared with $27.7 billion a year ago.

In addition, for the first time ever, the estimated volumes of the top four companies on the list are at or above $1 billion, with The Fresh Market, Greensboro, N.C., and Grocery Outlet, Berkeley, Calif., each doing about $1.1 billion; followed by Fareway Stores, Boone, Iowa, and Woodman’s Markets, Janesville, Wis., with an estimated $1 billion apiece.

A year ago, sales for those four companies ranged from $970 million to $910 million.

Click here to see the 2012 Top 50 list, which includes links to individual company profiles.

(Note: SN previously capped volume at $1 billion for companies to be eligible for the small chains and independents list. This year the companies simply had to fall below the lowest-ranked company on SN’s Top 75 list, published in the Jan. 30 issue.)

Fresh Market, No. 4 on last year’s list, saw its volume rise as a result of the growing appeal of its natural and organic selections; consistently strong annual comparable-sales growth of 4% to 5%; and aggressive unit growth, with 10 new stores in 2011.

At the other end of the demographic spectrum, Grocery Outlet, an extreme-value discount chain, saw sales climb as a result of its appeal to income-stressed shoppers and, significantly, the opening of 14 new stores in 2011.

Coming in third and fourth were two strong local operators:  Fareway Foods, Boone, Iowa, at No. 3, down from No. 1 a year ago; and Woodman’s Markets, Janesville, Wis., at No. 4, compared with No. 3 last year.

Two chains made their debuts among this year’s top 10:  Lowe’s Market, Littlefield, Texas, on the strength of a 55-store acquisition from Super S Foods, San Antonio, last spring, that boosted it to No. 5, compared with No. 13 a year ago; and Rouses Enterprises, Thibodaux, La., where the opening of three stores boosted the chain to No. 10, from No. 11 last year.

Among other operators in the top 10, Bodega Latina, a Hispanic chain based in Commerce, Calif., moved up to No. 6 from No. 10; and King Kullen Grocery Co., Bethpage, N.Y., fell to No. 8 from No. 5, while two chains held the same spots this year as last: Redner’s Markets, Reading, Pa., at No. 7; and Northgate Gonzalez Market, Anaheim, Calif., at No. 9.  

Moving out of the top 10, to No. 11, was Cardenas Markets, Ontario, Calif.

Two companies on last year’s list moved off the small chains roster onto SN’s list of the Top 75 chains in North America — Sprouts Farmers Market, Phoenix, which acquired 43 units of Henry’s Farmers Markets and Sun Harvest Markets last April from Smart & Final, Los Angeles; and PAQ Inc., Stockton, Calif., corporate parent of Times Supermarkets in Hawaii and a group of Food 4 Less stores in Northern California, which acquired five Big Save Value Centers in Hawaii during the summer.

Replacing them on the 2012 small chains list were Homeland Stores, Oklahoma City — making its debut at No. 25 — which became an independent entity at the end of December when it was sold to the chain’s employees by Associated Wholesale Grocers, Kansas City, Kan.; and Pro’s Ranch Markets, Ontario, Calif., which dropped off last year’s list after selling four stores and closing one following a major fire but which returned to the list at No. 47 this year after opening two new stores and replacing the closed store.

Despite operating one fewer unit, Foodland Super Markets, Honolulu, experienced a sales increase, enabling it to move to No. 14 from No. 17 a year ago.

In addition to Lowe’s, another chain that moved up the list this year following an acquisition during 2011 was Kings Food Markets, Parsippany, N.J., which rose to No. 27 from No. 32 following the acquisition by its owners of six Balducci’s stores (two in Virginia, two in Connecticut and one each in Maryland and New York).

Several companies moved up the list by opening new stores, including Rouses, as noted above; Harps Food Stores, with three new stores at the end of 2010 that boosted it to No. 23 from No. 26; Festival Foods, up to No. 19 from No. 23; Sunflower Farmers Market, up to No. 30, vs. No. 49 a year ago; and Mi Pueblo Food Centers, up to No. 41 from No. 47 last year.

This is the third installment of SN’s Top 50 Small Chains and Independents list. To qualify, a company must have sales below the lowest-ranked retailer on SN’s 2012 Top 75 Retailers and Wholesalers list. Chains that are owned by wholesalers are not included. All volumes listed are estimates, although SN attempted to obtain accurate figures by contacting every company on the list. If you feel your company  belongs on this list, please contact reporter Elliot Zwiebach at [email protected].

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