By  on August 1, 2008

Drugstore and restaurant chains were the fastest-growing retailers last year, according to the National Retail Federation’s “Hot 100” list. Apparel ranked fifth.

The trade organization said two drugstore giants, bolstered by acquisitions, were the top merchants. CVS Caremark, which operates the CVS chain and for a year has been running the prescription benefits manager Caremark Rx, grew 74.2 percent. Rite Aid, which purchased Brooks Pharmacy units in New England and Eckerd on the East Coast, reported that revenues increased 39.8 percent.

Coming in a close third was the International House of Pancakes, with a 39 percent growth rate, boosted by its purchase of the Applebee’s chain.

Public companies with more than $100 million in sales were eligible for the list, which is featured in the August issue of Stores magazine, published by the NRF. The list is sponsored by Alliance Data, the consumer research firm.

Amazon.com came in fourth, growing 38.5 percent by adding groceries and other categories.

Along with acquisitions, the NRF said some chains increased their footprints by opening stores. American Apparel, which finished fifth, has gone from three stores to almost 200 in five years. The chain reported 35.8 percent revenue growth last year.

Another expanding fashion retailer, Coldwater Creek, finished sixth. The multichannel retailer opened 67 stores last year and reported sales gains of 33.8 percent.

Other fast-growing retailers were FTD, the flower shop chain; BJ’s Restaurants, a brewery known for its deep-dish pizzas, and Chipotle, the Mexican restaurant chain.

Retailers with “sustained sizzle,” meaning those that showed strong growth over three years, included GameStop, CVS and Amazon.com.

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