America is home to several of the largest and most successful retailers in the world. Together, the top ten brought in more than $1.6 trillion in global sales last year.
Walmart and Amazon, the behemoths of the bunch, eclipsed their competition, in part due to their international reach, steadfast customer loyalty and continued investment in popular e-commerce initiatives such as grocery delivery and free one- and two-day shipping. The list also shows the continued dominance of brick-and-mortar stores, with nearly 90% of U.S. retail dollars spent offline in 2019. Grocery and pharmacy companies — businesses that, before the COVID-19 pandemic, did only a fraction of their sales online — account for many of the top slots, with home improvement retailers and value-focused big-box chains rounding out the pack.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, department stores and clothing and accessories retailers didn’t make the cut. While Macy’s and Kohl’s last year raked in nearly $25 billion and $19 billion, respectively, mid-range department stores have struggled to keep their footing in an increasingly fractured industry. Retailers like Gap, too, face fierce competition from fast-fashion chains, direct-to-consumer brands and online marketplaces.
And though it’s too early to gauge the full impact of the pandemic on the American retail landscape, the past six months suggest that consumers’ changing habits will bolster the grocery and home goods segments while creating new challenges for apparel and accessories (loungewear and Crocs excepted).
Read on for the top 10 U.S. retailers by worldwide retail sales:
1. Walmart, Inc. $523.96 billion
Its rivals may be growing fast, but Walmart’s dominance is still unparalleled: The retailer commands more than half of America’s $900 billion grocery market, and it has invested in curbside pickup and online delivery from stores as shoppers increasingly turn to digital channels to stock their fridges. Walmart’s international presence also puts it ahead of its competition, with 23% of its sales occurring in 26 countries outside of the U.S.
2. Amazon.com Inc. $280.5 billion
The e-commerce giant has seen its sales soar during the pandemic, but even before then, it was set up for success. More than half of all items sold on Amazon.com now come from third-party sellers, and this marketplace business is an increasingly lucrative segment. In 2019, seller fees contributed $53.76 billion to total revenue, up 25.8% year-over-year. Its Amazon Prime subscription service had more than 150 million members worldwide as of January 2020. The company continues to add benefits such as free one-day shipping (rolled out in 2019) to keep customers coming back to the $119-per-year program.
3. Costco $149 billion
Costco’s success can be attributed to customer loyalty: the warehouse club boasts an industry-leading 90% member retention rate, with tens of millions of customers paying between $60 and $120 annually to shop at its stores. Shoppers clearly appreciate getting a good deal, and Costco — with its in-house Kirkland brand and wide range of discounted merchandise — placed first among department and discount stores on this year’s American Customer Satisfaction Index.
4. Walgreens Boots Alliance $136.87 billion
With more than 21,000 stores in 11 countries around the world, Walgreens is an international leader in retail pharmacy. Its retail banners include Walgreens and Duane Reade in the U.S. and Boots in the U.K. and other countries Despite store closures and drastically reduced foot traffic due to COVID-19, the company grew sales to $139.5 billion for the fiscal year ended August 31, 2020.
5. The Kroger Co. $122.28 billion
Cincinnati-based Kroger — which owns chains including Ralphs, Kroger and Fred Meyer — is the nation’s second-largest grocery retailer after Walmart. It has invested heavily in online pickup and delivery in recent years, accelerating these programs during the pandemic to reach 97% its customers with 2,000 pickup locations and 2,400 delivery locations. For the fiscal year ended February 1, 2020, its same-store sales were up 2% year-over-year, while digital sales surged 29% — a number that has only increased in the months since.
6. The Home Depot $110.2 billion
The Home Depot has benefited from 2020’s DIY boom — a result of some Americans moving from cities to suburbs, and of others staying put and having time to work on their decks and lawns. Even last year, though, the retailer captured an estimated 15 percent of the $650 billion U.S. home improvement market — a share it expects to further grow through investments in store design, supply chain and digital capabilities.
7. CVS Health Corporation $86.61 billion
While retail only accounts for about a third of CVS’ total revenue (pharmacy services and health care benefits account for the remaining share), its merchandise and prescription sales still make it the seventh-largest retailer in the country. It has more than 9,900 stores across the U.S. and serves 4.5 million customers daily, putting it ahead of Walgreens in the national market.
8. Target $77.1 billion
Even as more and more of its revenue comes from digital channels each year, Target makes good use of its more than 1,800 stores. The retailer’s ship-from-store option bypasses online distribution center costs, while curbside pickup and buy-online-pick-up-in-store allow shoppers to make their purchases at home or on the go and have their items waiting when they arrive. In-house brands such as A New Day, Ava & Viv and Good & Gather serve as both a draw for customers (since they can’t find the labels anywhere else) and a gross margin booster.
9. Lowe’s Companies $72.1 billion
Across the U.S. and Canada, 18 million customers a week visit Lowe’s for their home-improvement needs. While the company has tough competition in Home Depot, it has made strategic investments in operational efficiency, merchandising, and e-commerce that could give it the push it needs. In the second quarter of 2020, Lowe’s comparable-store sales were up 34% year-over-year (compared with Home Depot’s 23%), while its digital sales surged 130% (to Home Depot’s 100%).
10. Albertsons Companies $62.5 billion
With a portfolio that includes grocery chains such as Safeway, Albertsons and Vons, Albertsons Companies has 2,252 stores across the U.S serving more than 30 million customers per week. Among its biggest investments in recent years has been in growing its array of owned brands, which together accounted for $13.1 billion in sales during fiscal 2019.