Inside This Issue - Opinion
Top chains part of business elite
July 23rd, 2012
by David Pinto, Editor
Early in 1963, when Civil Rights had finally emerged as a major issue during the Kennedy administration, the White House invited the executives who headed America’s 100 largest retail companies to Washington to assess their feelings and employment policies surrounding this suddenly volatile issue.
Unhappily, the list of those invitees appears to be lost forever, but one can’t help wondering who was on it, which retailers they represented, and indeed whether it was possible to even compile a list of 100 major American retail corporations 50 years ago.
Today, no such difficulties exist — and if any help is needed in identifying the largest U.S. retailers, the just-issued annual Fortune magazine list of America’s largest corporations could be enlisted to further simplify the task.
Fortune’s May 21 issue includes no fewer than 34 retailers among its list of the country’s 500 largest companies. Walmart, of course, leads the list at No. 2, with fiscal year 2012 sales of $447 billion on a 6% sales gain. Despite this performance, however, Walmart’s ranking slipped a peg. The retailer led the list last year.
The only other retailer among the first 20 is CVS Caremark, at No. 18, with annual sales of some $108 billion for its most recent fiscal year, on a 12% increase. The performance was strong enough to put the health care retailer into the top 20 for the first time.
Looking at the second 30, Kroger, Costco, Walgreens (before its stunning alliance with Alliance Boots was announced in late June), Home Depot and Target qualify, with Best Buy, Lowe’s and Amazon just outside the top 50. Of particular note here are these facts:
• Amazon, a company that, according to some analysts, will become the nation’s No. 2 retailer in volume by decade’s end, moved up 22 places on Fortune’s 2012 list, to No. 56.
• Both Home Depot and Lowe’s lost ground last year, the former dropping five places to No. 35, the latter dipping four points to No. 54.
• Costco cracked the top 25 last year, finishing at No. 24, while Target lost ground in dropping five places, to No. 38.
Looking more closely at the second 50 yields such retailers as Safeway (No. 63, down from 60) and Supervalu (75th, down from 61st a year earlier).
After the first 100, which includes 12 retailers, the number of retail companies drops dramatically. There’s Macy’s (at 110), Rite Aid (113), Staples (114), TJX (125) and Kohl’s (148), each of which saw its position in the Fortune 500 decline last year.
J.C. Penney made the list at 153 (a slip of seven places), while Dollar General came in at 183 (a gain of five places) and Toys ‘R’ Us, though plummeting 18 places, was included on the list at 194. That brings us to 200, with just 20 retailers, 10% of the list, represented. More significant, Toys ‘R’ Us, at 194, recorded sales of just $14 billion in its most recent fiscal year. More significant still, most of the 20 retailers among the first 200 on Fortune’s list lost ground to non-retail companies in 2011.
So if the Obama administration plans on inviting 100 U.S. retailers to the White House anytime soon, the challenge might well prove a difficult one. But wait …
Starbucks is No. 227 on the Fortune list (up from 229 a year earlier), while eBay (certainly a retailer) is No. 228 (up from 269 a year earlier) and Office Depot, despite a disappointing year, is No. 233 (down from 211 a year ago).
Nordstrom is No. 242 on the Fortune list, while Whole Foods, No. 273 a year ago, jumped to 264 this past year. Bed Bath & Beyond is No. 294 on this year’s list (a 10-point jump), while Family Dollar falls just outside the first 300, at 301.
For argument’s sake, then, let’s move Family Dollar up a notch, to No. 300. That means that 27 of the Fortune 300 companies are retailers. Hardly the 100 we’re looking for, but …
A&P is No. 317 on this year’s Fortune list, a precipitous fall from the 278th position it held last year. AutoZone comes in at No. 320, while OfficeMax is No. 354 and Barnes & Noble is No. 360 (from 395 a year earlier). Winn-Dixie makes the list at No. 363. Dollar Tree is at 373 (up from 390 a year earlier), Dillard’s is listed at 383, PetSmart is No. 400. That rounds out the first 400, with 35 retailers represented.