westernhillHibbett Sports brings premier athletic brands to customers in neglected markets. By Tim O’Connor

Most retailers want to be where the majority of shoppers are. Major brands place their flagship stores in big cities where they can pull customers from the large surrounding population. But Hibbett Sports has found success in the past 40 years by taking the opposite approach. Instead of chasing population-packed metropolises, the sporting goods retailer found success by being the go-to store for small markets.

Hibbett Sports stores are typically found in county seat-type markets with few major retailers. Places where without Hibbett Sports residents would have to drive a long way to purchase well-known brands such as Nike and Under Armour or settle for discount products. “We like to go to markets where we’re needed,” says Jeff Gray, vice president of real estate. “We have a pretty specific focus we’ve done for 40 years. It really gives us an advantage in those type markets.”

coldersColder’s Furniture, Appliances and Mattresses continues to focus on customer service by being one of the first retailers to offer The Serta Connection and continuously improving its locations. By Janice Hoppe-Spiers

Colder’s Furniture, Appliances and Mattresses has been southeastern Wisconsin’s go-to retailer for household items for 75 years. Colder’s has continually offered a great value, selection and service. “I think the overall success has been that it’s a family owned and operated local company.” owner Tom Balistreri says. “In addition to that, we offer a great value for the products we sell and that contributes to our reputation and of course, contributes to more customers and repeat business.”

Henry Felker founded the Milwaukee-based company in 1942 as the Henry Cooler Co. The future namesake was created after an advertising sign misspelled the name as Henry’s Colder Co. Colder’s began as a refrigeration service company and in 1946, when Felker’s brother Harry Felker joined the company, it branched out into refrigerator and freezer sales.

Verlo Verlo Mattress leverages technology and a unique franchise model to attain success. By Chris Kelsch

Verlo Mattress’ new president and COO is serious about her sleep, and she is not the only one. Currently, the United States finds itself in a sleep revolution. Pundits such as Arianna Huffington are writing books about the importance of sleep, and numerous TED Talks are given on the subject every year.

“One of the things I’m passionate about is my sleep,” Kathy Thornton-Bias says. “If you think about it, so much depends on a good night’s sleep: your ability to function at a high level, plus your overall health, are both at stake. If anything, we don’t pay enough attention to it.”

And that is just one of the reasons Kathy Thornton-Bias decided to come aboard Verlo Mattress in September 2016. She is no stranger to brands with a strong retail store presences, having previously served as the president of Bang & Olufsen North America, and having held leadership positions for other companies such as Target, Saks Fifth Avenue and the Museum of Modern Art in New York. But given the high growth potential with Verlo, she leaped at the opportunity.

MM KitchenerM&M Food Market is overhauling the look and product mix of its more than 340 stores in Canada while planning potential expansion. By Jim Harris

For more than 35 years, M&M Food Market’s customers have looked to it for high-quality food, personalized service and convenience. Those three qualities remain at the heart of the Mississauga, Ontario-based company’s operations, even as practically everything else about M&M has changed for the better.

Since 2015, the company has been actively rebranding its roughly 340 stores, located in towns and cities across Canada. The rebranding was a high priority for CEO Andy O’Brien, who set about remaking the veteran brand soon after Searchlight, the private equity company he represents, acquired the chain the previous year. “Searchlight was looking at businesses that had strong consumer appeal and trust, but were considered a bit dated,” he says.

JewelryK&M fuses logistics and design to stay competitive. By Chris Kelsch

In the insanely competitive world of wholesale distribution, K&M Accessories has navigated a difficult environment by doing two things extremely well: design and logistics.

Founded in 1959, the company was known as “K&M Associates” until two years ago. That’s when President Todd Marcus decided the company needed a bit of a rebranding of its own, and decided to go with a moniker that more accurately reflected what the company did. Hence, the name change to “K&M Accessories.”

And what K&M does, it does very well. It remains a top-100 leader in fashion accessories, serving all channels of retail. It has a unique understanding of an individual brand’s aesthetic, Marcus says, and that has led to producing accessories for such well-known licensors as Guess, T Tahari and Jessica McClintock. Additionally, its design acumen has led to the development of its own house brands such as Facets by Vendôme®, Finishing Touches® and Glitz and Glam® that allows K&M to provide a variety of labels to its retail partners. In addition to its licensed and house brands, K&M prides itself on understanding a retailers Private Label offering as well. “Our merchants have become experts at quickly understanding the needs and finding ways to support a retailers Private Label brands” says Marcus.

LoopCalifornia-based Au Energy is developing a new concept to bring healthy foods and offerings to the traditional convenience store. By Stephanie Crets

Au Energy began in 2010 and now has 119 locations throughout California dedicated to high-quality fuel and a high-quality experience, always providing a clean and well-lit store for its customers. “We’re very good at being nimble, creative, and innovative,” President Varish Goyal says. “We are strong operators. We really understand real estate and how to develop sites.”

Goyal’s family has been operating convenience stores since 1978. He was originally planning to become a doctor, but he moved back to California after college and joined the company in 2002 to develop the company’s new IT infrastructure.

“Once you get good at IT, everything else revolves around it,” Goyal explains. “So, I started to get more involved with marketing and merchandising, then operations, HR and a little finance and accounting to understand how data from the stores went into the general ledger. Through that, I started to take on different roles in different parts of the company. In 2010, we acquired 74 stores in the Bay Area. With the added stores we had to bring in more talent, and I took on the president role.”

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