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2012 Was Unusual For The Top 100

If you remember the May 6 issue, we covered the industry’s buying groups and their members, the independent retailers. In this one, we will shift our focus to the annual TWICE Top 100 CE Retailers Report, which covers calendar year 2012, and it is one of the most unusual Top 100 reports I can recall. As a group, business declined 0.3 percent in 2012.

(A copy of the complete report is now available online. Please click here.)

Of course, more than a few independents, which are part of buying groups along with national retailers, are part of the Top 100, so all the talk we have heard at group meetings in the past year about them taking share from the nationals seems to ring true.

When you consider that two of the largest beneficiaries of the smartphone and tablet revolution are on the list — Apple and Amazon — it is even more surprising that sales were off slightly for the entire Top 100.

But the thing that really sticks out in my mind is that after a year of soap opera stories from the financial media, which focused on Best Buy, “showrooming,” and the dominance of Amazon and all online retailers, it makes the sales results of a few notable top 10 members interesting to say the least.

For instance, Best Buy is still No. 1 in CE, and its sales fell 3.1 percent. Nothing to be proud of, but after all the histrionics about its demise, you’d think it would not only fall from the No. 1 spot but would sink out of the top 10 altogether.

Amazon is a leviathan of CE retailers. If you believe half the stuff that comes out of the financial bloggers and media, even Walmart is looking over its shoulder. Well, Amazon had good growth in CE, 7.5 percent to be exact, for $12.9 billion in sales. And that gives it third place in our list and around $18 billion behind Best Buy.

Walmart had an even stronger year than Amazon in CE, if that is possible. It has a growth rate of 8.3 percent for $22.2 billion in U.S. sales. But it is still $9 billion behind Best Buy, for a No. 2 ranking.

Apple Retail Stores just keeps rolling along. There has been a lot of nitpicking about Apple’s leadership, future without Steve Jobs, the “vision” thing, etc., but its retail operation had 4.7 percent growth and maintained its No. 4 ranking with $11.7 million in sales.

So while Best Buy and its CEO Hubert Joly have a lot of work to do, its imminent demise has been overstated. And Walmart, Amazon and Apple will continue to be powerful competitors.

Thanks for this year’s Top 100 go to senior editor Alan Wolf; our partners, the Stevenson Group; and managing editor John Laposky and senior editor Lisa Johnston for their efforts.

The original version of this blog appeared in the TWICE May 20 print edition.