Top 10 U.S. Retailers: Walmart, Kroger and Costco Lead List

It's no surprise that Walmart claims the top spot on a list of the largest U.S.-based retailers, but surprises come when you see who are the year's winners and losers within the mega-retailer class. How well did these big names do in 2009 compared to last year? As retailers approach 2010 with guarded optimism, here's a look at how the top U.S.-based retailers, including Kroger, Costco and CVS performed so far in 2009.

Most of the retailers cited on the mega-retailer list are in the pharmacy, mass merchant or grocery verticals. The only department store to make the list is Sears, which came in at the number 10 spot. Several retailers move their historical positions on the list (for better or worse). Home Depot, which was once the number two retailer behind Walmart is now the number 4 retailer, falling behind Kroger and Costco. Sears also drops down the list, continuing a decades-long trend, while Walgreens, CVS Caremark and Best Buy continue upward momentum.

Here's a look at the Top 10 largest U.S. retailers and how they performed in 2009:

1. Walmart: $404.54 Billion
Earning nearly five times more than the second largest retailer, Walmart won't relinquish its position as the number one retailer anytime soon. Its every-day-value-based prices continue to win customers in search of a bargain, especially in tough times. The retail giant is focusing on global expansion, green initiatives and a store refresh program called Project Impact to ensure it stays on top of the retail heap with solid growth.

2. Kroger: $75.35 Billion
In a year when consumers were forced to trade down and cut discretionary purchases, Kroger benefited by providing must-have grocery staples for the household. As the operator of more than 3,550 stores nationwide, Kroger maintains its strong comp-store sales and solid growth through use of sophisticated customer segmentation analytics and offering competitive prices and private label products.

3. Costco: 71.42 Billion
As the largest membership discount warehouse operator in the U.S. Costco is well positioned to maintain and even grow market share in a recessionary economy. Store openings continue to rise and profits remain healthy for this steadily growing giant.

4. Home Depot: 67.64 Billion
Although its market segment has taken a big hit since the heyday of the housing boom several years ago, the largest home improvement chain is still a retail force to be reckoned with. Revenue has steadily fallen since the $90-billion high point of 2007. Recent cost-cutting measures include shuttering its EXPO, THD Design Center and Yardbirds stores.
5. Target: 64.74 Billion
Although still famous for cheap chic clothing and general merchandise, Target's big move in 2009 was to expand shelf space for food and grocery, especially its private label brands Archer Farms and Market Pantry. Revenue has been steadily, although slowly, growing.

6. Walgreen: 63.34 Billion
In 2009 Walgreen acquired about a dozen Rite Aid locations and 30-plus stores from New Jersey-based Drug Fair and also hit a milestone when it opened its 7,000th drugstore. Like the other drug store chain on the list, CVS, Walgreen is well positioned to maintain its strong record of growth.

7. CVS: $56 Billion
An active acquisition schedule has greatly expanded the number of retail pharmacies for CVS and the range of services it offers. Most recently, it acquired Longs Drug Stores, which added 530 retail pharmacies to its store count. Like its rival Walgreen, CVS also recently opened its 7,000th drugstore. Note that the $56 billion figure only represents the company's retail segment and estimates its fourth quarter sales for 2009. The drug-store chain's Caremark division brings in another $41 billion for a total of $97, making it the second largest organization on the list.

8. Best Buy: $47.3 Billion
Discretionary purchases were down the past year, especially for big ticket items such as TV's and electronics, however Best Buy is still riding a winning streak, partly due to picking up a huge chunk of market share from the liquidated Circuit City chain. To continue its hot streak, Best Buy is developing smaller concept stores, debuting a 24-hour store in New York City, launching Best Buy mobile and expanding its Geek Squad business.

9. Lowe's: $47.04 Billion
Like its competitor Home Depot, Lowe's is in a retail segment under financial siege. However, unlike Home Depot it has maintained year over year revenue, although it has considerably slowed its pace of store openings. When the housing and home improvement market pick up again Lowe's appears to be in a very strong position to capture market share and continue on its stated goal of opening up 2,500 new stores.

10. Sears: $44.08 Billion
While Sears/Kmart is not likely to hit its 2007 peak of $53 billion any time soon, it is moving quickly into multi-channel retailing and taking a leadership position in mobile commerce and social media. Like others in the department store segment year-over-year revenue continues to fall, even as bright spots emerge from new initiatives.

For methodology, RIS evaluated public financial figures for the 12-month trailing period for each of the retailers cited on our list. By 12-month trailing period we mean the period for which a full-year of revenue figures is available. This list is made up only of U.S.-based retailers. Stay tuned next week for a ranking of the Top 10 Global Retailers.
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