Top cats

Wall Street pundits used to say, “As General Motors goes, so goes the nation.” Given GM’s fortunes of late, it’s a good thing the financial experts no longer say that. But if the saying were “As the Multichannel Merchant 100 goes, so goes the nation,” then it appears the country would be in solid shape.

Of the 101 companies (there was a five-way tie for #97) with the greatest annual catalog- and Internet-driven sales, 83 reported a year-over-year increase in revenue. That’s the same number as last year, and up significantly from the 2004 ranking (70 companies with year-over-year increases) and that of 2003 (60 companies).

And even among the 13 merchants that saw year-over-year sales decline (the remaining five companies had flat sales), the news wasn’t all bad. Take apparel and home furnishings merchant Blair Corp. (#49). Yes, its annual sales fell 8%, to $456.6 million. But its net income more than doubled, from $14.9 million for 2004 to $31.5 million. Much of that increase was due to a one-time gain of $27.7 million resulting from Blair’s November 2005 sale of its credit portfolio — but even taking such one-time gains into effect, net income rose 13%, to $16.9 million. In the case of Blair, the decline in revenue might be part of a true right-sizing.

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