Over the past two decades in retail, the really big such as Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Kroger Co. got bigger, while Amazon seemingly emerged from dust to be a retail juggernaut. And retail brands such as Sears Corp. and Kmart Corp. have become significantly deflated.
In Telsey Advisory Group’s latest industry update report, researchers at the firm examined the impact of a border adjustment tax, which the company said continues to be top-of-mind with investors; the flow of tax refunds last month, which impact consumer spending, and the growth of the top retailers in the U.S.
Regarding the latter, the analysts compared the major retailers in 1996 versus 2015 and found that “Wal-Mart remains the leader, more than tripling its U.S. revenue since 1996 and widening the gap with the next closest company on the list,” said Dana Telsey, chief research officer of the firm.
Citing data from Chain Store Age magazine, Telsey said in 1996, Wal-Mart’s annual sales totaled $101.1 billion, which was more than $60 billion ahead of the number-two company, Sears, Roebuck & Co., at $38.2 billion. Third on the list was Kmart, with $31.4 billion, followed by Dayton Hudson Corp. at $25.4 billion and Kroger with $25.2 billion.
Citing data from the National Retail Federation, Telsey said in 2015, Wal-Mart had U.S. sales of $353.1 billion. At second was Kroger with $103.9 billion and Costco Wholesale Corp. with $83.5 billion. Fourth was Home Depot Inc. with $79.3 billion. In fifth was Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc., with $76.6 billion.
“Only four of the top 10 in 2015 were on the 1996 top 10 list,” Telsey analysts said in the report. The firm said the 19-year compounded annual growth rate of sales of those four companies was 6.8 percent for Wal-Mart, 7.7 percent for Kroger, 8 percent for Home Depot and 8.4 percent for Costco.
Founded in 1994, Amazon Inc. had U.S. sales of more than $60 billion in 2015, which would put it behind Walgreens Boots Alliance.
Comparing the two lists, Dayton Hudson is now known as Target Corp. and has annual sales of more than $74 billion. Sears Holdings Corp. now includes Kmart, and has about $25 billion in sales — which compares to combined sales of Sears and Kmart in 1996 of nearly $70 billion.
The Telsey analysts said looking at today’s top retailers made them wonder what retailing would look like in 2025. They speculated that “some form of Facebook, Instagram and/or Snapchat” might “initiate transactions and make the list.” Or that once pure-play e-tailers that are opening physical stores would join the list, while international retailers such as Inditex would “accelerate their expansion in the U.S.” to take a top spot.
Regarding any proposed border adjustment tax, the analysts said 2017 continues to be challenging for retailers — even with inventories in good shape — and that many companies have expressed concerns over the impact of a BAT. “Most retailers admit that the border tax would be detrimental (and that it would more than offset the benefits from a lower corporate tax rate), but continue to refrain from commenting on the financial impact, though several noted that the industry would lobby against it and that it would not likely pass in its current form,” Telsey said.
Regarding tax refunds, Telsey analysts said in the report that total returns received by consumers were down more than 24 percent in early February and nearly 11 percent in the back half of the month. As a result, the researchers said it has hurt retail sales for the month.