State's Private Retailers See Increases in 2011

by Mark Friedman  on Monday, May. 21, 2012 12:00 am  

Nearly all of the retailers on this year’s list of Arkansas’ largest private companies saw revenue gains over 2010.

(Click here for a list of retailers among the largest private companies in Arkansas.)

The biggest revenue jump came from RLJ McLarty Landers Automotive Holdings LLC of Little Rock, which sells automobiles. The company’s revenue climbed 15.6 percent in 2011 to $1.03 billion.

“What you see is that retail sales regained all-time highs in 2011,” said Kathy Deck, director of the Center for Business & Economic Research at the University of Arkansas’ Walton Business College. “The consumer was spending money again in 2011. There was no doubt about that.”

One of the best retail sectors was automotive, she said.

Hickingbotham Investments Inc. of Little Rock has a number of auto dealerships in its portfolio of businesses that includes restaurants. In 2011, Hickingbotham Investments’ revenue increased 13.2 percent to $351 million.

“Across the company, we have just seen a general increase in our business, and we attribute that to some improvement in the economy,” said Gene Whisenhunt, a partner in the firm. “And the economy has forced you to do things a lot better.”

He credits the company’s leadership team for “doing a great job to capture the business.”

Out of the company’s portfolio of businesses, its luxury auto brands and Harley Davidson dealerships have seen “tremendous” improvement, Whisenhunt said.

And 2012 looks even better, he said.

The Crain Management Group of Sherwood, which includes auto dealerships, the Crain Media Group and Crain Investment, also reported revenue gains in 2011. Its revenue improved 17.2 percent to $345.8 million.

The added revenue moved Crain from No. 9 last year to No. 6 on the list of largest private retail companies.



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