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Barbara Farfan

Most Promising Retail Companies Compete Against Largest U.S. Retail Chains to Survive, Against Technology Companies to Get Recognition (WMT, TGT, AMZN, AAPL, KR)

By February 27, 2013

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When Forbes recently released its 2013 Most Promising Companies list, twelve of the companies that were ranked from all industries were retail industry companies. That doesn't really seem like a very large percentage of promise coming out of the U.S. retail industry this year.

But consider how difficult it is for new retail companies to even survive in their own industry when competing with the largest U.S. retail chains - behemoths like Wal-Mart (WMT), Kroger (KR), Target (TGT), Amazon (AMZN), and Apple (AAPL) are rather daunting competitors. Beyond that, it's even more difficult for an up and coming retail company to stand out and be recognized for being more promising than the slew of technology, IT, and software companies that have the potential to produce something tangibly life-changing for mankind.

Being the company that sells the latest and greatest may not seem to hold as much promise as being the company that creates the latest and greatest. At least that seems like the conclusion that the Forbes list makers drew, looking at the choices and rankings of the companies on the 2013 Most Promising Companies list.

The retailers that have been designated as this year's Most Promising Companies are not particularly well know, except by the customers who have shopped with them, of course. So as an introduction, here's what a few of the Most Promising Retail Companies have been up to lately...

#16 - Wayfair.com and Flash Furniture Deals

Named as the most promising retail company, Wayfair.com has just launched its own daily deal promotion which it is calling the "Daily Fair." It claims to be the only mass retailer to integrate daily flash sales to the public at large without membership or invitations. Apparently the Wayfair marketing team hasn't visited Amazon.com, Walmart.com, BestBuy.com, TigerDirect.com, or just about any other website of the largest U.S. retail chains which have been offering daily deals to the general public for a while.

Perhaps Wayfair meant to say that it is the only mass market furniture retailer using a daily deal strategy. It is definitely true that 70% discounts on furniture sold over the Internet aren't quite so common, although Sears staged quite a few of those flash furniture sales over the 2012 Christmas holiday shopping season. Nonetheless, Wayfair is involving bloggers and designers in choosing the products for their Daily Fair flash sales, which is a smart strategy, as word-of-mouth and social media marketing goes. There's no doubt that 70% discounts will go a long way towards motivating shoppers to purchase things like sofas and patio furniture without ever sitting on them.

#21 - TheFreshDiet.com Still Seeking Celebrity Cool

This prepared meal home delivery company managed to get included in some Golden Globe, Grammy and Oscar celebrity swag bags this month, which could prove to be a savvy marketing strategy, if it eventually results in some big celebrity endorsements. But despite its consistent effort of TheFreshDiet.com to align itself with celebrity cool, the strategy has not been overwhelmingly successful yet. While TheFreshDiet.com has been on the past two Forbes Most Promising Companies lists, it went from the #15 ranking last year to the #21 ranking in 2013. Which, I guess, means TheFreshDiet.com is a little less promising than it used to be.

The most interesting thing about TheFreshDiet.com is that it was founded by two men who are practicing orthodox Jews. They started their business initially selling kosher food, but decided along the way to go for a bigger niche. This is a sound business strategy except that now they are selling foods that are forbidden by their religion which they personally have never tasted (at least not that they will admit to tasting.) That's kind of like selling a car that you've never operated or ridden in. Something about the whole concept might be just a little bit misaligned.

#44 H.U.M.A.N. Healthy Vending Gets a Boost fromt he USDA

Exclusivity is the name of the game when you are selling healthy food instead of junk food from a vending machine, according to H.U.M.A.N. Healthy Vending leaders. The way that they ensure their healthy vending snacks are the only vending choices available in any given location is by insisting on it. No junk or no deal.

So far this ultimatum marketing strategy has worked in 1,500 schools and workplaces in 40 states, but healthy vending may still be far ahead of healthy eating habits of the masses. This cutting edge vending company did get a boost this month when the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) published new guidelines about "competitive foods" sold in schools that are not part of federally funded school breakfast and lunch programs. According to the new USDA guidelines, there is a fat, sugar, sodium, and calorie limit placed on snacks and meals sold in schools, along with requirements for the nutritional value of ingredients.

Of course there are already guidelines about the food that is and isn't supposed to be sold in schools that are not being enforced already. So, HUMAN Healthy Vending and its distributors might find themselves acting as USDA enforcers. Looking at the HUMAN Healthy Vending website, though, one thing the company employees don't seem to lack is passion and energy. They must be eating out of their own machines.

Smashburger Smashed It

And speaking of previous Promising Company lists, Smashburger was chosen as the #1 Most Promising Company on the 2011/2012 list published by Forbes, and is not included on the list that was published in 2013. Presumably this is because... click to read why Smashburger is no longer "most promising." >>

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