State's Private Retailers Showing Signs of Life

by Mark Friedman  on Monday, May. 23, 2011 12:00 am  

The retail sector showed signs of life in 2010.

(Click here for a list of the state's largest private companies in the retail sector.)

Some of the companies that had the biggest revenue jumps on the Arkansas Business list of the largest 75 private companies were retailers.

RLJ McLarty Landers Automotive of Little Rock, which sells automobiles, saw its revenue soar 43.3 percent to $893.6 million in 2010.

And the Crain Management Group of Sherwood reported revenue of $295 million in 2010, an increase of 28.3 percent over 2009 for the company, which includes auto dealerships, the Crain Media Group and Crain Investments.

"We are seeing some bounce-back from the economy across all of our brands," said Drew Dees, a spokesman for the Crain Management Group.

Dees said sales also had been strong in 2011.

"We're still hopeful that it's going to be a great year," he said.

Other retailers have seen growth in 2010. Harps Food Stores Inc. of Springdale reported revenue of $516.7 million for its fiscal year that ended Aug. 29, 2010, up 3.3 percent from 2009.

"What's amazing is that we are back to a point where we're seeing record retail sales, despite the fact that we went through such a horrific recession," said Kathy Deck, director of the Center for Business & Economic Research at the University of Arkansas' Walton Business College. "It's great news for the economy and what we have to do to move forward."

Although consumers are spending more money, the bad news is prices are higher, she said.

"They are spending more money on gas and food, and they have less discretionary income to spend elsewhere," Deck said.

Nevertheless, in 2011, revenue for retailers should continue to improve as the unemployment rate keeps declining and employment numbers rise, she said.



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