Blue Nile, Tiffany Make the Hot List

Blue Nile Inc. and Tiffany & Co. are the two hottest jewelry retailers in the U.S., according to an annual survey of retailers.

Stores magazine, the official magazine of the National Retail Federation, ranked Blue Nile, the Seattle-based online jewelry and diamond retailer, 20th on its “Hot 100 Retailers” list. The venerable luxury jeweler Tiffany came in at 92. No other jewelry retailer made the list, which appeared in the magazine’s August issue. The list highlights retail companies with a minimum of $100 million in annual revenues that reported the greatest increase in year-over-year revenues in 2006.

Blue Nile reported revenues of nearly $251.6 million, a 23.8 percent increase over the previous year’s earnings. Meanwhile, Tiffany posted revenues of more than $2.6 billion in 2006, an increase of nearly 10.6 percent over 2005 revenues. While revenues soared for both companies, earnings for the year declined by less than 1 percent (Blue Nile 0.7 percent, Tiffany 0.3 percent), according to the rankings.

Among general merchandise retailers that sell fine jewelry, Seattle-based Internet retailer Amazon.com came in at number 19 with a 26.1 percent increase in revenues in 2006 to $10.7 billion. Federated Department Stores (which has been renamed Macy’s Inc.) came in at 28th with a 20.4 percent increase 70 $26.9 billion.

Among big box retailers, Target was ranked 70th on the list with a 13 percent increase in revenues to $59.5 billion. Wal-Mart, the world’s largest retailer and the world’s largest jewelry retailer, came in at number 78 with an 11.7 percent increase in revenues to $348.6 billion.

Nordstrom finished 89th on the list with a nearly 10.6 percent increase in revenues to $8.6 billion.

This is the second year for the Hot 100, which is sponsored by Alliance Data. According to the list, the convenience store group experienced the highest growth last year with a 21.9 percent boost in sales. The department store sector continued its resurgence with 21.5 percent growth.

“Smaller companies must be innovative risk-takers to compete with mega-brands—and many of them are winning,” said Susan Reda, executive editor of Stores. “Mid-sized retailers can also implement new ideas more quickly than large competitors. With a flawless combination of creativity and cost savings, the Hot 100 Retailers are setting the curve for the rest of the industry.”

All but four of the Hot 100 Retailers saw double-digit sales increases in 2006. Many of the Hot 100 Retailers grew through acquisitions. The Bon-Ton Stores, once an overlooked regional department store chain, tops the list this year with a revenue increase of 164.3 percent, due largely to its acquisition of what was once Saks’ northern department store division. GameStop (number two on the list) can trace its 72 percent growth to an acquisition, the 2005 purchase of EB Games. Convenience store chain The Pantry, Inc. (number five) also saw its revenues grow from multiple acquisitions.

The Hot 100 Retailers list was redefined this year to include quick serve and casual dining restaurants, with interesting results. A total of 23 of the Hot 100 Retailers are restaurant companies, including Triarc (third), BJ’s Restaurants (sixth) and Buffalo Wild Wings (ninth) breaking into the Top 10.

Other companies in the Top 10 are in the specialty apparel category. Zumiez (fourth) sells active sports apparel, footwear, and accessories for board sports, motocross, and bicycle motocross. Multichannel retailer Coldwater Creek (seventh) is focusing on opening 65 new locations last year and as many planned in 2007. Charlotte Russe (eighth), a chain targeting women in their teens and twenties, is a part of the volatile fast-fashion segment. Citi Trends (10th) is a value-priced family apparel retailer located primarily in the southeast and mid-Atlantic.

“Retailers can no longer deliver just a product; it’s about the end-to-end experience for consumers,” said Ivan Szeftel, president of Retail Services for Alliance Data. “This year’s Hot 100 Retailers are leading the way in creating their own formula for growth that centers around the customer.”