Missed It By That Much: Grant’s, Jetson, Bjorn Top The Next Tier

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NEW YORK — Grant’s, Jetson and Bjorn’s, three of the most familiar names in independent electronics and appliance retail, have long flirted with Top 100 CE status.

This go around, the chains placed 107th, 108th and 109th, respectively, missing the cut by less than $10 million.

Grant’s Appliance & Electronics

has served the Chicago area for more than 80 years, beginning with its first incarnation as a hardware and appliance store. Current management, lead by president/CEO George Olsen and COO and chief technology officer Bob Bevilacqua, acquired the Joliet, Ill.-based business in 1993 and built it into a 10-store CE and majap chain.

Its Illinois showrooms and opento- the-public warehouse draw customers from nor thern Illinois, northern Indiana and southern Wisconsin, who are enticed by the wide assortment of tier-one TVs, premium appliances, and the promise of competitive prices. Its slogan: “If you want to spend more money, that’s your business. If you want to spend less money, that’s Grant’s business!”

However, the privately held company provides neither online shopping nor in-home installation services, opting to outsource the latter.

Last year the chain left the NATM Buying Corp. for a rival organization after six years with the buying group, paving the way for the return of local competitor Abt Electronics. Sales slipped 7.7 percent in 2009, to $16 million.

Jetson TV & Appliance Centers

also changed affiliations last year, opting to join the A/V specialty Progressive Retailers Organization (PRO Group). The five-store chain, based in Ft. Pierce, Fla., and led by president Trey Thofner, seeks to fill the better-CE void left by Circuit City and Tweeter subsidiary Sound Advice within the Sunshine State. At last report, the company was remodeling stores and adding new electronics brands through its affiliation with PRO, while leveraging the group’s strategic relationship with Home Entertainment Source (HES) to tap into parent BrandSource’s majap buying and warehousing programs.

Apparently the plan is working: Jetson’s CE sales rose 7.2 percent last year to $16 million.

Last year was less kind to


’s, the best-in-breed A/V specialty dealer and fellow PRO Group member. Sales fell 17.5 percent to $13 million, which some industry observers would attribute to the absence of ecommerce capabilities.

President/founder Bjorn Dybdahl started the single-store operation in 1975, and continues to focus on selling and servicing audio, video and home theater — and designing and installing complete home entertainment systems — for the greater San Antonio, Texas community.

Bjorn’s greatest asset is Dybdahl himself, whose love of the business has helped make him a larger-thanlife presence in the store and on the airwaves. Beginning with how-to stints on local radio talk shows, he slowly assumed the role of front man and goodwill ambassador for both Bjorn’s and the CE industry, having hosted informational network TV spots while conducting regular seminars at the store.

Other retailers that fell shy of the Top 100’s $22 million cutoff, as set by No. 100, Cowboy Maloney’s, included:

Rite Aid (No. 101):

The nation’s third-largest drugstore chain, with 4,800 stores in 31 states, sold $21 million in largely low-end CE and accessories last year, reflecting a 19 percent drop in sales.

The Camp Hill, Pa.-based company had a net loss of $506.7 million for the full fiscal year ended Feb. 27, compared with a prior-year loss of $2.9 billion, and revenue declined 2.4 percent to $25.7 billion due to 121 fewer stores and weak consumer demand, chairman/CEO Mary Sammons said.

CVS (No. 102):

Consumer Value Stores started in 1963 as a lone health and beauty aid shop in Lowell, Mass., and has become the nation’s largest pharmacy health care provider with nearly $100 billion in revenues. Despite a recent buying binge under outgoing chairman, president and CEO Thomas Ryan that brought it Eckerd, Sav-On/ Osco and Longs Drugs, the Woonsocket, R.I.-based business was surpassed by Walgreens as the No. 1 drug-store chain.

CE products include cameras, flash memory, PNDs, personal media players, batteries and accessories, sales of which fell 6 percent last year to $20 million.

Bi-Mart (No. 103):

Bi-Mart is a 55- year-old employee-owned discount membership chain headquartered in Eugene, Ore., operating throughout the Northwest with 72 stores in Washington, Oregon and Idaho. Each full-line store stocks about 40,000 SKUs, including a limited assortment of imaging products, LCD TVs, BD and DVD players, phones, blank media, entertainment software, and accessories.

CE sales totaled $18 million last year, down 22 percent from 2008.

Other would-be Top 100 contenders included:

• REI (No. 104)

, the 80-store outdoor recreation chain operating in 27 states, which saw sales rise 5.5 percent to $18 million last year;

• Hastings Entertainment (No. 105)

, a 42-year-old entertainment chain whose 153 superstores sell new and used CDs, books, videos and video games. Sales slipped 2.2 percent to $18 million;

• Bass Pro Shops (No. 106)

, the 54- store sporting-goods chain, which enjoyed an 8.5 percent spike in sales last year to $17 million; and

• Big Georges (No. 110

), the Michigan appliance, electronics and furniture dealer whose two superstores generated $13 million in CE sales last year, up 1.4 percent.

NATM Looms Large On Top 100

SMITHTOWN, N.Y. — Due to the makeup of its membership, which is comprised of regional and multiregional electronics and appliance chains, The NATM Buying Corp., here, has the unique distinction of being represented on the Top 100 charts by all 11 members.

They are, in order of CE sales volume:
• P.C. Richard & Son (No. 23), $779 million
• BrandsMart USA (No. 30), $438 million
• Conn's (No. 35), $360 million
• ABC Warehouse (No. 40), $263 million
• Nebraska Furniture Mart (No. 43), $248 million
• Abt Electronics (No. 46), $210 million
• Video Only (No. 48), $181 million
• R.C. Willey (No. 55), $132 million
• Electronic Express (No. 66), $85 million
• Boscov's (No. 68), $78 million
• Cowboy Maloney's (No. 100), $22 million.


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