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Retail Giants: Two Heads (And Core Categories) Are Better Than One

Retail giants rack up 3.2 percent sales gain

July brings with it many things: summer fun, sales of room air conditioners and outdoor products, pre-planning for the big fourth quarter, and the conclusion of TWICE’s four-part retail rankings series.

Over the course of the last three months we have sliced and diced the retail channel by sales of consumer electronics (Top 100 CE dealers); sell-through of major appliances (Top 50 majap merchants); and aptitude in e-commerce (Top 25 e-tailers).

Now we bring all those yardsticks of success to bear in our combined Retail Giants report, which provides a fuller real-world assessment of the marketplace, where sales clout and shopping experience are measured in multiple categories by manufacturers and consumers.

Indeed, while TWICE is primarily focused on consumer tech — CE, after all, is in our name — retailers don’t operate in silos, and many, if not most, have extended their product assortments amid declining profitability in core A/V categories. Dealers have famously expanded into decidedly non-CE businesses like mattresses, furniture and, yes, home appliances to help temper the volatility of their tech aisles, often with an assist from their buying groups.

Take Electronic Express, No. 53 on our Retail Giants Top 100. Founded in 1983 by brothers Sam and Abe Yazdian, the Tennessee-based big-box chain with the clearly stated CE stance took a cue from its fellow NATM Corp. dealers and dipped a tentative toe in the white-goods waters over a decade ago. The company hasn’t looked back since, and last year moved some $24 million worth of refrigerators, washers and ranges, on top of $130 million in CE.

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The added sway from major appliances also gives renowned but smaller, single-market majap dealers like Charlotte, N.C.’s Queen City Audio, Video & Appliances (No. 93) and Orville’s Home Appliances of Amherst, N.Y. (No. 81), standing on a Top 100 list that includes national powerhouses like No. 5 Lowe’s, third-place Walmart and No. 2 Amazon.

Speaking of which, Amazon’s second-place showing — unchanged from the Top 100 CE Retailers Report — is less a reflection of its nascent but growing appliance business than the awesome sell-through of its consumer tech offering, which was led during the holiday season by its proprietary Echo Dots and Fire TV Sticks.

Specifically, the House that Bezos Built racked up $250 million in majap sales last year, aided by its third-party marketplace sellers and a deepening partnership with Sears that saw the iconic Kenmore brand sold outside its stores for the first time.

See also: The Top 10 CE E-tailers

Sears supports the now-nationwide program by housing the inventory and providing delivery, installation, haul-away and repair services — as well as the opportunity for the e-tailer to study a product category that has remained largely immune to its charms.

For while Amazon’s appliance haul topped the 37 retailers that trailed it on the TWICE Top 50 Majap Report, it still represents less than 1 percent of the company’s combined CE/majap sell-through last year.

Sears, meanwhile, managed to hold onto its ninth-place ranking on the Retail Giants charts despite dwindling majap market share and a CE business that’s admittedly become a strategic afterthought. The result: an 18 percent sales decline topped only by sister chain Kmart (No. 35), and the Icarus-like Pirch, whose sales plummeted 64 percent after shutting more than half its stores, lowering it from 51st to 82nd place.

Find more Top Retail Report Coverage in the TWICE Research Center. 

Amazon’s tech momentum was mirrored by Apple Stores, which held onto its fourth-place showing from the CE-only list with nary an appliance in sight, due to a $13.8 billion bonanza in all manner of “i” gear and accessories last year.

But the giant among giants remains No. 1 Best Buy, which was firing on all cylinders in 2017 with a 5.8 percent sales gain on the combo charts, and which barreled into its first fiscal quarter in May with a 13 percent increase in appliance comps and a 6.3 percent hike in total U.S. revenue.

All told, our 100 Retail Giants collectively pushed the needle up 3.2 percent, to $168 billion, in combined tech and appliance sales last year, up from their 1.9 percent gain in 2016.

See also: The Top 100 Combined Report Methodology