The 2017 CropLife 100 Preview
Every year about this time, as autumn begins to give way to winter and the harvest numbers start to roll in, we here at CropLife® magazine are usually knee-deep in compiling the facts and figures that will make up our annual CropLife 100 rankings of the nation’s top ag retailers. For 34 years now, our December editions have been packed with industry knowledge, gleamed from our yearly survey of how independents and cooperatives have fared, financially, during the past 12 months.
Also something of a tradition these past few years has been to provide our devoted CropLife 100 readers with an early look at some of the trends standing out from the annual survey data. So, without further ado, here are some of the early findings from the approximately 60 CropLife 100 surveys already tabulated.
Size Matters, But in Reverse Order. Overall, this year’s CropLife 100 retailers will likely add a few hundred million collectively to their bottom lines, with the total marketplace topping the $30 billion mark for the second time ever. The surprising facts about this market gain, however, is that it seems to have been driven by the smaller retailers. With a few exceptions, all of the Top 20 companies had sales figures lower in 2017 vs. 2016 in most areas of their businesses. On the flipside, smaller retailers — virtually every company outside of this Top 20 grouping — saw small to modest sales gains across the board (for those companies not involved in large mergers, of course).
Hard-to-Find Bodies Apparently Found. Each year, we leave one open-ended question in the CropLife 100 survey: “In one sentence, what one agricultural trend is causing you the most stress going into [the upcoming year]?” Most years, the majority of respondents list some aspect of trying to find/keep good employees as their No. 1 stress item. This year was no different, with roughly 70% of retailers saying this was still the biggest headache facing their operations.
However, a slightly deeper dive into the survey numbers show ag retailers are still finding more employees someplace. With few exceptions, all of this year’s CropLife 100 retailers listed more employees for their businesses than they did in 2016.
More Optimism for 2018. Finally, when asked to rank their outlook for 2018 on a scale of one to 10, better than half (52%) thought next year would be a seven or an eight. During the 2016 CropLife 100 survey, only 36% of respondents believed the upcoming year could be described as a seven or an eight in terms of economic outlook. So perhaps the anticipated market turnaround will finally start to appear.
Obviously, these three “quick factoids” are only scratching the surface of what the entire CropLife 100 universe is likely to show once all the surveys have been collected. So watch for the December 2017 edition “for the rest of the story.”