2008 Top 100 Retailers by the USA's National Retail Federation

The who's who of US retailing

The USA's National Retail Federation's venerable retail trade publication, Stores magazine, announced the results of its 2008 Top 100 Retailers Study in July.

This study reflects many of the changes that will ultimately define this era. For the first time, the retailing of digital downloads and personal telecommunications devices by non-traditional retailers are included.

Technology companies such as Dell, Apple and its iTunes Store are represented, as are wireless communications providers and handset sellers AT&T and Verizon.

Wal-Mart remains the No. 1 retailer by sales — a position it isn't likely to lose soon, as it alone accounts for 22% of aggregate Top 100 sales. Change is afoot, however, as pharmacy chain CVS. has vaulted into the No. 3 spot as a result of its acquisition of Caremark.

This reflects the growth and evolution of the health and wellness industry as served by “drug”/pharmacy stores. Home Depot managed to hold on to the No. 2 spot despite the poor state of the US house market, while Kroger, the supermarket leader, slipped one place to No. 4.

Mass merchants are well represented in the Top 10, with warehouse club operator Costco Wholesale ranking fifth, Target sixth and Sears Holdings — parent of Sears, Kmart and several chains of hardware and home furnishings stores — in the eighth position.

No. 7 Walgreen has been overtaken as the volume leader among pharmacy chains, even, though it has been beefing up via acquisitions. Rounding out the Top 10 is SUPERVALU, which this year has its wholesale and distribution business included in total revenues.

Here follows a closer look at how the rankings panned out in the different retail categories:
Entertainment Stores

This is a new category this year, replacing the more narrowly-focused booksellers category. Though it might, at first glance, appear to be a mixture of diverse specialty stores, there is more overlap and convergence than the companies' traditional realms would indicate.

This is best demonstrated by national bookseller Borders. Their current concept stores, bring together digital and Internet options with the hands-on approach to books, CDs and DVDs. Borders is opening 14 of these prototype stores this year, combining 170,000 book, music and movie titles on the shelves with digital centers where customers can download e-books, mix and match songs on CDs, and create electronic photo albums and family histories.

Apple's iTunes Store is now the largest seller of music, surpassing Wal-Mart, Amazon.com, Best Buy and Target. In May iTunes broke the news that it would sell movie downloads, beginning the same day the titles are released on DVD.

Blockbuster, once viewed as a dinosaur lumbering toward extinction, has reinvented itself to the point where rentals constitute only half its revenues. Blockbuster's Total Access program enables it to compete with Netflix and other electronic retailers, while video games constitute a growth area for store merchandise. With the release of the highly-anticipated “Grand Theft Auto IV” earlier this year, for example, Blockbuster enjoyed a 4.5% share of the sales, compared with the 1% to 1.5% share it usually captures in game sales.
Large Format Retailers:

"The bigger they come, the harder they fall” is an axiom that has been ascribed to everything from trees to celebrities. Large-format value retailer power players are working hard to prevent it from being applied to them any time soon. In addition to keeping their finances in order, they all are polishing their altruistic credentials in order to show a beneficent side to the public, whether it is championing environmentalism, cutting prescription prices or espousing other forms of good corporate citizenship.

Non-Store Retailers:

Amazon is the standard-bearer for retailers without stores, but there is nothing standard about what the Seattle-based company has accomplished as it has grown into a $15 billion entity while operating in the black. Amazon is more about the future than last year's results or this year's performance, and it has blazed the e-commerce trail with operations so sophisticated that some observers view it as a technology company that happens to sell goods. Its potential is seen as larger that its accomplishments.

It's so cocksure and confident that it lets other merchants piggyback on its capabilities through its web services operation. On its own, Amazon sells jewellery, watches, housewares, consumer electronics, home goods and all kinds of general merchandise, although books, music and movies account for half the revenues.

QVC and IACI/HSN have e-commerce operations, but their main selling vehicle remains television. But just as online retailing has made a dent in the sales of bricks-and-mortar merchants, so has it impacted TV-reliant home shopping retailers. A recent Nielsen survey indicated that, worldwide, 85% of people with Internet access have used the Net to make a purchase.

HSN.com has been transformed into a dynamic stand-alone storefront with more than 40,000 products. The site provides shoppers with a wide range of unique features, including When-To-Watch e-mail reminders, an interactive Program Guide and Weekly Product Reviews. At QVC.com, improvements included a wish list, the ability to print pre-paid return labels and improved auto-delivery management. via bizcommunity

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