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Behind The Numbers, Oddities Abound

Most informed observers would not be surprised when looking at the big numbers for the TWICE Top 100 CE Retailers and seeing that annual sales surpassed $100 billion for the group for the first time ($101.4 billion during 2002).

Yet if you look behind the numbers, you find that there can be plenty of surprises. For instance, as with all of our Top 100 retail sales lists, we usually revise our numbers for the previous year, reflecting changes in company estimates and additional information provided by chains since last year’s report. In this report we have 2001 sales at $95.5 billion, which is $6.3 billion more than what we originally reported. So 2001’s sales were even more robust than we thought for the Top 100.

Another major oddity is that the market share per store type numbers all seem to be flat in 2002 vs. 2001. Variations are minimal, usually around 1 percent or less for all categories. But all was not tranquil in those individual categories.

Take mass merchants, whose share of the Top 100 is 24.9 percent for 2002, or $25.3 billion in sales, making it the No. 2 CE retail category behind electronics/appliance stores. During 2001 it was No. 2 with a 25.2 percent share, or $24.1 billion. But the leading mass merchant in this list, and in the world for that matter, is Wal-Mart. This giant chain had $14.1 billion in CE sales during 2002, a 12.9 percent sales gain. Target, No. 2 on the mass merchant list and No. 6 in the overall Top 100, with almost $4.8 billion in sales, had a 13.3 percent gain during 2002.

So how could mass merchants’ number go down 0.3 percent? Remember Kmart? CE sales during 2002 dropped about $400 million or 14.9 percent for the chain. And Sears had $500 million less in electronics sales during the year, representing a 15.4 percent drop vs. 2001.

Last year’s report explained that Web sites or retail chains that were owned and operated by computer manufacturers were not on the list because all they sold were their own, branded products. Well, Dell Computer, Gateway and Apple Computer all made this year’s list because they went beyond their original business model and began to sell products other than their own brands.

Given that, you would think that the computer store category would have shown a major market share gain in this year’s Top 100 and that PC sales exploded during 2002. Well … yes and no.

First off, based on the specific definitions of types of retailers developed by the Consumer Electronics Association and adapted by TWICE for this report, Dell is considered a “consumer direct” operation, so its $5.3 billion in sales goes to that category. Gateway is a “computer store” and Apple is part of the “electronics-only” category.

Categories be damned, it is obvious that computer manufacturer-owned retail operations, regardless of retail type, are more popular than ever. (Studies have shown that they do a better job at customer service than CE retailers do.) But does that mean that TWICE is saying that PC sales went through the roof last year? No. What we are showing is that the “other brands” that these three PC manufacturers are carrying on its Web sites and stores are CE products. With sales of PCs and peripherals sagging, these retailers are turning more and more toward CE products to make a buck and increase sales volume.

And finally, while everyone always focuses on the Top 10 of the Top 100, there is always plenty going on in the 90 to 100 area of the list. Last year we reported that Blockbuster began testing CE sales in its stores during 2001 (TWICE, April 20, 2002, p. 19) giving it $48 million for the year. Well, Blockbuster is still testing CE sales at its chain. Since the prerecorded video retailer has almost 4,500 stores, sales have grown by $29 million to $77 million, moving it up from No. 90 in 2001 to No. 74 last year.

Two chains that didn’t make the list last year are now in the Top 100. King’s Great Plus Buys , based in Evansville, Ind., and operating 36 stores serving Indiana, Kentucky and Illinois, had $40 million in CE sales during 2002. That was a $10 million gain vs. 2001.

And finally BrandsMart of Kansas City (not to be confused with Florida’s BrandsMart U.S.A.) had a 12.1 percent sales gain in CE sales during 2002, with $37 million. That brought them into the Top 100 with a ranking of 98. We will see if K.C.’s BrandsMart will remain in the TWICE Top 100 CE Retailers list next year, or if it was just visiting.