50 biggest retailers in America
It’s impossible to talk about retail in the United States without discussing the elephant in the room: Amazon. Though it hasn’t overtaken Walmart for the top slot, Amazon’s Prime Membership program and domination of the e-commerce sphere has caused ripple effects across the country. Borders Books & Music in 1994 generated more than $1.5 billion in sales: just one year before Amazon sold its first book. Now, Borders is but a memory while Amazon has become one of the most valuable companies on the planet.
Some companies have done better than others in adapting to the changing face of retail. Best Buy was singled out by several publications for adapting to the Amazon threat, implementing price matching and prioritizing customer relationships. Amazon, meanwhile, is pouring billions into Amazon Studios, hoping to establish a deeper connection with its consumers. J.C. Penney Co. Inc. and Macy’s, meanwhile, are just two examples of rapidly declining businesses, edged out of key markets by more shrewd competitors.
With "Searsageddon" happening in real time with new rounds of layoffs in August 2019, it’s important to take a periodic look at the companies dominating retail in the country, from auto parts stores to grocery and pharmacy chains. It’s also inspiring to hear about the humble origins of the world’s largest companies; many of them began as single stores, established with small loans, which were then able to diversify and franchise until they embedded themselves into American culture.
Stacker has compiled a list of the 50 biggest retailers in the country, using retail sales data from Kantar, displayed on STORES. Each retailer is ranked by its 2018 retail sales in billions, and the number of stores in 2018. The U.S. headquarters location is provided, as well.
Read on to find out which beloved grocery store operates in a single state, and which founder literally had “Cash” as a middle name.
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- 2018 retail sales: $9.46 billion
- Number of stores in 2018: 5,552
- U.S. headquarters location: Memphis, TN
Though its headquarters are located in Memphis, AutoZone operates more than 6,000 stores across the United States, Mexico, and Brazil, selling aftermarket car parts and accessories. Under the leadership of William C. Rhodes III, CEO and president since 2005 and chairman since 2007, AutoZone’s stock has increased more than 100% over the past five years.
#49. Southeastern Grocers (BI-LO)
- 2018 retail sales: $9.48 billion
- Number of stores in 2018: 654
- U.S. headquarters location: Jacksonville, FL
Southeastern Grocers is a portfolio of supermarket chains operating in the southeastern United States, including BI-LO, Harveys, Winn-Dixie, and Fresco y Más that was created in 2013. Before that, BI-LO faced financial challenges, declaring chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2009. The rocky period is far from over; in 2018 Southeastern Grocers again filed for Chapter 11, announcing 94 store closures in March 2018. Though it emerged from the bankruptcy reorganization process intact, the chain announced 22 more closures in February 2019.
#48. O’Reilly Auto Parts
- 2018 retail sales: $9.54 billion
- Number of stores in 2018: 5,219
- U.S. headquarters location: Springfield, MO
O’Reilly’s is the product of Charles F. O’Reilly, the son of an Irish immigrant who left Ireland in the aftermath of the potato famine, and his son Charles H. O’Reilly. From one store in 1957, O’Reilly Auto Parts now sells aftermarket car parts in over 5,000 stores in 47 states. Under the leadership of CEO and co-president Greg Johnson, O’Reilly’s in August 2019 announced it was acquiring Mexican auto parts chain Mayasa.
#47. Good Neighbor Pharmacy
- 2018 retail sales: $9.58 billion
- Number of stores in 2018: 2,962
- U.S. headquarters location: Chesterbrook, PA
A retailers’ cooperative network consisting of 4,500 brick-and-mortar pharmacies across the country, Good Neighbor Pharmacy was recently ranked #1 for customer satisfaction among similar chains by a J.D. Power survey. That’s good news at a time when the e-pharmacy business, by which consumers purchase pills online and have them shipped to their homes, is expected to grow significantly in the coming decade.
#46. Burger King Worldwide
- 2018 retail sales: $9.94 billion
- Number of stores in 2018: 7,362
- U.S. headquarters location: Miami, FL
Headquartered in Miami, Burger King ranks among the largest fast-food chains in the world. Originally founded as “Insta-Burger King,” the chain came out with its signature menu item, the Whopper, in 1957. In 2019, the franchise announced that its “Impossible Whopper,” a version of the Whopper made with a vegetable patty from the startup Impossible Foods, would be available nationwide, courting more health and environmentally conscious customers.
- 2018 retail sales: $10.00 billion
- Number of stores in 2018: 2,102
- U.S. headquarters location: Atlanta, GA
With more than double the sales of its nearest competitor in the chicken market, KFC, Chick-fil-A is far and away the biggest chicken chain in the United States and the third-largest restaurant brand overall. Chick-fil-A is known for its food and for the religious convictions of its founder, S. Truett Cathy, a devout Southern Baptist; the store is closed on Sundays. The chain is run by his son, Dan T. Cathy, who is president, CEO, and chairman; the family has courted controversy for its donations to anti-LGBTQ+ organizations.
- 2018 retail sales: $10.15 billion
- Number of stores in 2018: 250
- U.S. headquarters location: West Des Moines, IA
The second supermarket chain on this list, Hy-Vee caters to Midwestern America, operating in Iowa, Illinois, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, South Dakota, and Wisconsin. A contraction of the last names of its founders, Charles Hyde and David Vredenburg, Hy-Vee has been employee-owned since 1960, when the company established the Employees’ Trust Fund.
#43. Subway / Doctor's Associates
- 2018 retail sales: $10.42 billion
- Number of stores in 2018: 26,932
- U.S. headquarters location: Milford, CT
Out of all the corporations on this list, Subway has the most locations in the United States and is nearly 10,000 stores ahead of its nearest competitor, Yum! Brands Inc. Established in 1965, "Pete's Super Submarines” was organized under a new parent company, Doctor’s Associates, the following year; its name a reference to one of its founders' desire to go to medical school, and the other’s doctorate in physics. Despite the scandalous arrest of Jared Fogle, its former spokesman, on child pornography charges, the franchise continues to rank among the fastest-growing retailers in the world.
#42. Health Mart Systems
- 2018 retail sales: $10.62 billion
- Number of stores in 2018: 4,953
- U.S. headquarters location: Omaha, NE
Like Good Neighbor Pharmacy, Health Mart Systems is a network of nearly 5,000 brick-and-mortar pharmacies across the United States and is a subsidiary of McKesson Corp., a large pharmaceutical company. Health Mart is the nation’s fastest-growing pharmacy franchise and came in second to Good Neighbor Pharmacy in a customer satisfaction survey conducted by J.D. Power.
#41. Qurate Retail
- 2018 retail sales: $11.34 billion
- Number of stores in 2018: -
- U.S. headquarters location: Englewood, CO
Formerly known as Liberty Interactive, Qurate is a media conglomerate that has been run by chairman John C. “Cable Cowboy” Malone since 1998. The corporation is best known for QVC and HSN, television channels that sell products to its viewers.2018 All rights reserved.