Cover Story: Reason to Smile
For the last 25 years, Dennis May has been involved in the retail industry — and he's loved every second of it. From his modest beginning selling audio equipment to help support himself while in college (that was the cool job at the time, May recalls) to his tenure today as president and CEO of one of the fastest-growing cross-channel retail brands out there, the one constant has been retail. But that's just part of the reason we've chosen May as our 2011 cross-channel retailer of the year.
Loving your profession only gets you so far; eventually you have to produce results or you'll be looking for another career. This hasn't been a problem for the 43-year-old May. Since joining cross-channel electronics and appliances retailer hhgregg 12 years ago as chief operating officer, the company has enjoyed consistent growth, both in its national store footprint and bottom line. Upon his promotion to president and CEO in August 2009, May has presided over one of the most profitable eras of the brand's 53-year existence. Consider the following:
- hhgregg's net sales grew 11.1 percent, 9.9 percent and 35.4 percent year-over-year for its 2009, 2010 and 2011 fiscal years, respectively;
- the company's gross profit increased 11.9 percent, 7.3 percent and 34.9 percent in 2009, 2010 and 2011, respectively; and
- 19 new hhgregg stores were opened in 2009, 21 in 2010 and 59 in 2011.
Central to hhgregg's identity is its retail locations. The company opened its first store in Indianapolis (home to hhgregg's headquarters) in 1958 and has maintained a significant retail presence in the Midwest ever since. It's only recently that hhgregg has decided to expand its reach and take big-box national retailers including Best Buy, Sears, Home Depot and Lowe's head on. The company now operates 190 stores in 15 states, including newer markets such as Delaware, Florida, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. The metropolitan areas of Chicago, Miami and Philadelphia will have seen a combined 36 new store openings within the last year-and-a-half come this fall.
The evolving needs of today's consumers aren't being met, according to May, and this has presented an opportunity for hhgregg to grow its market share by doing what it does best — making the purchase experience enjoyable, but not charging a premium for it. This philosophy is ingrained in the company's culture.