Two. That’s the number of dealers on this year’s ProSales 100 ranking whose revenues dropped in 2012. As the market solidifies around new growth opportunities, dealers nationwide are vying to meet steadily increasing demand while rebuilding their infrastructure—or, in some cases, constructing it anew.

This year’s ProSales 100 members reported total revenues of $29.74 billion in 2012. That’s 12.4% better than the same group did in 2011. They also added 4,857 employees and 122 locations, and an average 86% of their sales went to professional builders and remodelers.

But this year’s news isn’t the number of dealers—94—who posted gains. It’s which members experienced the most profound growth. If the pre-downturn years belonged to LBM’s national and regional giants (still the dominant force in the market), 2012 showed evidence of marked gains by small independents. In more cases than we could spotlight (we picked three, beginning here), their malleable hierarchy and betting disposition joined with relatively healthy local economies to drive significant sales growth and a steady uptick in share.

That’s not to say the list’s larger dealers didn’t grow, too. All of 2011’s top 10 dealers finished in the top 10 again, with the only swap being Builders FirstSource (BFS) moving past Roofing Supply Group (RSG) to seventh in the rankings. ABC Supply again topped the list, followed by ProBuild and Beacon, just as in 2011. Allied Building Products came in fourth, followed by 84 Lumber, L&W Supply, BFS, RSG, Stock Building Supply, and BMC. Coming on fast was No. 11 SRS Distribution, up 45%.

Fast Growth on a Small Track

Not all growth is equal. And smaller operations are rising proportionately faster. Dealers with 11 to 99 locations and dealers with 10 or fewer locations averaged a 13% increase in sales per location in 2012 from 2011. Sales per location at firms with 100 or more yards increased just 5% for the same period. Compare that with 2008, when sales for dealers with 10 or fewer locations dropped 5% and sales for dealers with 11 to 99 locations fell 20%, while dealers with more than 100 locations grew less than 1%.

This year’s list of year-over-year revenue increases reveals hot new growth nationwide among a fresh crew of retailers.

Of the 25 firms with the most significant annual sales growth, Builders FirstSource was the only top-10 dealer to make the cut, placing 12th thanks to its 37% year-over-year increase. The Lester Group, Martinsville, Va., ranked 25th in growth with a 23% rise. The group’s average ranking on the top 100 list was No. 54, and their average sales to pros was $165.1 million.

Central Network Retail Group’s rapidly expanding portfolio of independently operated LBMs and hardware retailers enabled it to post 222% year-over-year growth, topping the list. In second was Denver-based Kodiak Building Supply, which comprises a lumberyard and two specialty distributors run by former ProBuild CEO Paul Hylbert. It grew 180% from 2011.

The next three fastest-growing operations caught our attention. Hailing from each U.S. coast and the heartland, these nearly all-pro dealers leveraged stable or fast-rebounding housing markets into growth opportunities. What makes them different? A flat chain of command, a readiness to tap new customer verticals, and a management team willing to take a (calculated) gamble and run against some of the largest players in LBM. Here are three dealers to keep an eye on.

  1. Locally Grown
  2. Flat and Fast
  3. The Specialists