U.S. Retail Trade – 2017 $ales Update by Channel – Going for the Gold

The Total U.S. Retail Market in 2017 reached $5.75 Trillion dollars – up $235B (+4.3%). This is significantly better than last year’s (+3.2%). For this report, we will focus on the “Relevant Retail” Total – removing Restaurants, Auto and Gas Stations from the data. This segment totals $3.4 Trillion. We should also note that in 2017, Gas prices increased. As a result, for the first time since 2012, there was an increase in revenue in all these major segments

In a recent report we reviewed the 2017 sales performance of the Top 100 U.S. Retailers. That covered the “Headliners” but everyone can’t be a headliner. How are specific Retail Channels performing? We’ll start with a market overview and then work our way down.    (Base Data is from the U.S. Census Bureau Retail Trade Report)

Remember: This data is very relevant to the Pet Industry. According to the last Economic Census:

  1. Retailers other than Pet Stores generated 66.5% of all the Pet Products revenue in the U.S.
  2. Pet Products, on average, generated 1.94% of the total revenue of all non-pet stores that chose to stock them.

  • Restaurants (Food Service) – 11.8% of Total Retail – Up 2.7%, which was less than half of last year’s (+5.9%).
  • Automobile Sales – 20.7% of the Total – Revenue grew +4.3%, about the same as 2016 (+4.1%).
  • Gas Stations – 7.9% of the Total – Up 8.8% from 2016. Gas prices turned up in March of 2016 and in 2017 showed their first annual increase since 2012. The result was a sharp increase in revenue.
  • Retail, Less Food, Auto and Gas – Up 4.0% to $3.4 Trillion, better than last year’s +3.6% but less than the total market. This segment is 59.6% of the Total U.S. Retail market.

To put this year into perspective, let’s look at the overall performance in recent years.

The U.S. retail market has grown each year since 2012 but each segment has a different pattern. The low point for the total came in 2015 due to a precipitous drop in gas prices. However, with a big turnaround in gas prices the growth rate of the overall market has returned to more normal levels. Restaurant sales growth is an almost perfect pyramid. I wonder what 2018 will bring. Auto sales are still strong but the growth is definitely slowing. Our “Relevant Retail” Segment has been the most consistent. As expected, its 4.0% growth is below the 4.5% increase of the Top 100 Retailers. However, for the first time since 2012 it is lower than the total market. It will still serve as a benchmark as we review the individual channels. Above 4.0%, a channel is gaining market share. Below 4.0%, they are losing ground.

Now, we’ll slice up the U.S. “Relevant Retail” Channel “Pie”.

These are large slices of the U.S. Relevant Retail pie. Three divisions – General Merchandise Stores, Food and Beverage and Non-Store account for 59.3% of the total. This is up slightly from 58.8% in 2016. Once again, the increase is all due to Non-Store Retailers. The other two major segments continue to lose market share. All three are very important to the Pet Industry. Based upon the last U.S. Economic Census, these three major divisions produced 59.7% of total Pet Products sales. Consumers spend a lot of money in Pet Specialty Stores – 33.1% of their Pet Products $. However, they spend over 60% more in these 3 major retail channels. Pet products are “on the list” wherever the consumer shops.

Because they are so huge, major Divisions of the market generally don’t show much movement in market share in just one year so the changes in General Merchandise, Food & Beverage, Non-Store and Bldg Material are very significant. Each of the major divisions includes a number of sub segments. For example, General Merchandise includes Traditional Department Stores, Discount Department Stores, Supercenters and Clubs as well as $ and Value Stores. These specific retail channels can have even greater movement in share because this is the level that the consumer “views” when making their initial shopping choice. Change at this level is where any ongoing consumer shopping migration first becomes apparent.

Here is the Market Share change “Rule” for 2017: To gain 0.1% in Market Share your $ increase must exceed the amount generated by a 4.0% sales increase PLUS an additional $3.4B. Example: If a channel did $100B in 2016, they need to do $100 +$4.0 + $3.4 = $107.4B to gain just 0.1% in 2017 share. You will see channels with revenue increases that still lose share because the increase was less than 4.0%. It shows that even small changes in share are significant.

With that overview, we’re ready to drill deeper into the data. Let’s look at the 2017 performance of some of the specifically “Pet Relevant” Channels to see which are doing the best…and worst in gaining consumer spending. Eleven of the twelve were chosen because they generated at least 1% of the Total Pet Products (food & supplies) spending in the last Economic Census – 2012. I have also included Traditional Department stores on the list. Even though they have never truly embraced Pet Products, they have long been a fixture in the U.S. Retail Marketplace. Their continued decline, as consumers migrate to outlets which better fit their needs, has profoundly affected U.S. retail shopping as generally they were the “anchor” stores for the Shopping Malls across America.

We will use 2 separate graphs to illustrate the situation in these Pet Relevant Channels. The first will show the % change in sales in 2017 vs 2016. The next will “show us the money” by translating the percentages into $ gained or lost. Then we will have observations on each segment.

Remember, you must be up at least 4.0% or you’re losing market share!

The leader and #3 are big surprises. 9 of these pet relevant channels are showing increased sales. However, regarding market share, they are evenly split – 6 gaining, 6 losing. The market share losers include the traditionally largest channels. In the next chart, we’ll “show you the money!” Remember, the Total increase for the “Relevant Retail” Market was $132B and you must be up 4.0% PLUS $3.4B just to gain just 0.1% in Market Share.

The growth of the Internet is obvious. However, 3 channels are a bit of a surprise. The revenue from Home Centers has been growing in recent years, but Hardware and Garden/Farm Stores have been flat. What happened in 2017 to spur this growth? The answer is… bad weather. In 2017 we set a record for weather related property damage – over $300B. This “smashed” the old record of $200B set back in 2005. Consumers turned their time and resources to repairing their homes. The trend may be continuing into 2018 and even showed up online. Recently, Amazon Prime Day registered a 200% increase in sales of products in the Home Improvement category. We have seen that changes in the retail environment affect businesses. It turns out that changes in the actual environment can also have a major impact.


(Note: % of Total Business from Pet Products for stores that stock Pet)

  • Internet/Mail Order – $545.0B, Up $57.3B (+11.7%) – 43.5% of the total increase for the $3.4T Relevant Retail Market came from Internet/Mail Order. The Consumer Migration to this channel continues – gaining 1.1% in Market Share. They passed SuperCtrs/Clubs in 2016. Now, they have set their sights on Supermarkets. (1.2% Pet)
  • Super Markets – $609.6B, Up $11.3B (+1.9%) This largest sub-segment continues to lose ground as it is down 0.4% in Market Share in 2017 and 0.6% since 2015. The Internet/Mail order channel has recently put increased focus on grocery products and is pushing very hard to become the leading retail channel. (1.6% Pet)
  • Department Stores – $54.1B, Down $0.8B (-1.5%). Their decline is slowing but 50 years ago they “ruled” the GM category. However, they failed to adapt to the changing wants and needs of the consumer. One small example of this is their failure to address America’s growing relationship with our companion animals. (N/A Pet)
  • Discount Department Stores – $96.2B, Down $1.6B (-1.7%). The rise of this segment started the downhill slide of Department Stores but their tenure at the top of GM was relatively brief as the SuperCenters/Clubs offered true 1 stop shopping. Now, they have the Internet to contend with – not a good outlook. (2.3% Pet)
  • SuperCenter/Club Stores – $463.0B, Up $12.7B, (+2.8%). These outlets, with their broad mixture of grocery and general merchandise…at great prices, quickly became a dominant force in the retail market – second only to Supermarkets in Market Share for many years. In 2016 they were passed by the internet. Consumers still like them as their sales are still growing, but not enough. They continue to lose market share – Down 0.15%   (2.4% Pet)
  • $ & Value Stores – $78.6B, Up $5.2B, (+7.1%). – A Great Value and easy to shop – 2 of U.S. Consumers’ major “wants”. This segment has shown steady growth in recent years and got even stronger in 2017. (4.3% Pet)
  • Drug Stores – $276.9B, Up $5.0B, (+1.9%). There is a lot of turmoil in this segment. Intense competition has led to large mergers and acquisitions which have slowed growth. (0.3% Pet)
  • Sporting Goods – $44.7B, Down -$2.8B, (-5.9%). A Minor player in Pet. The turmoil in the category continues with mergers and store closings. (N/A Pet)
  • Home Centers – $287.3B, Up $17.8B, (+6.6%). These large, “project driven” outlets have never done a significant Pet Business. The top 2 retailers – Home Depot and Lowes, continue to drive the growth. (0.6% Pet)
  • Hardware – $26.1B, Up $2.5B, (+10.7%). Consumers seeking to repair weather damage had a huge impact on this channel, turning sales sharply upward after years of slow or even flat growth. (2.6% Pet)
  • Farm and Garden Stores – $51.0B, Up 6.4B, (+14.2%). This segment has been growing in recent years in both overall sales and in Pet but it was largely driven by Tractor Supply. The landscape weather damage that occurred in 2017 brought Garden Centers to the forefront of the increase in sales. (8.9% Pet)
  • A/O Miscellaneous Stores $78.1B, Up $3.6B, (+4.8%). Florists, Pet Stores, Art Dealers…are typical of the segments bundled into this group. Pet Stores probably account for over 20% of the $ in this segment. These stores, whether chain or independent, tend to be small to medium in size. Their increase slightly exceeded the market so these stores, which focus on another consumer trend – a more personalized shopping experience, are “holding their ground” against the large format retailers and the internet. (Pet Stores 91%)

The chart below puts the Market Share of each of these segments for 2017, 2016 & 2015 in a visual format so that it is easier to appreciate the relative sizes. Growth in share since 2015 is indicated by a green box, a decline is boxed in red.

Now we’ll wrap it up with a brief summary and a detailed chart for future reference.


Pet Stores remain the #1 channel for Pet Products. However, in the Overall Market, there are 3 Olympic Medalists. SuperCenters & Clubs are firmly entrenched with the Bronze medal. The big race is for the Gold. Two years ago in 2015 SuperMarkets led the Internet/Mail Order Channel by 4.83% in market share. In 2017 the lead was down to 1.89%. Barring a major turnaround, Internet/Mail Order should become the #1 retail channel in the U.S. no later than 2019 but perhaps as soon as 2018. One factor that could speed up the Internet/Mail Order victory is that Amazon, the largest retailer in the segment, has firmly set their sights on the fresh grocery business. They demonstrated this commitment very dramatically by their purchase of Whole Foods Market in 2017.

2017 had similarities, but also some distinct differences from 2016. The increase was 4%, up slightly from 3.6%. However, for the first time since 2012 the increase in the “Relevant Retail” market was less than the increase in the Total Retail Market. Once again the Internet/Mail Order Channel provided much of the excitement and 43.5% of the growth, but we also saw the effect of the physical environment, as record weather related property damage drove sales in all the Building Materials channels. Traditional and Discount Department stores continued their decline while sales in the easy to shop and save, $ Stores grew. The small to medium Miscellaneous Stores (Includes Pet) maintained their place in the market by appealing to consumers desiring a more personalized shopping experience.

The U.S. Retail Market continues to grow and evolve as the consumer migrates to the channels which best fulfill their current wants and needs. This is not a new phenomenon. It has always been that way. Currently, the “Channel of Choice” is Internet/Mail Order and their victory appears to be inevitable and may occur even sooner than expected. Traditional Brick ‘n Mortar stores will not go away but they must adapt to the new “electronic” environment.

Finally, the Chart below contains Detailed 2015 > 2017 Sales Performance Data for over 30 U.S. Retail Channels.


2017 Top 100 U.S. Retailers Sales: $2.2 Trillion, Up 4.4%; 142K Stores with Pet Products……plus the Internet!

The U.S. Retail market reached $5.75 Trillion in 2017 from all channels – Auto Dealers, Supermarkets, Restaurants, Online retailers and even Pet Stores. This year’s increase of $235B (+4.3%) topped last year’s increase of $172B and was twice the increase from 2014 to 2015. One factor is that rising fuel prices have put Gas station revenue back on the plus side. (Data courtesy of the Census Bureau’s monthly retail trade report.)

In this report we will focus on the top 100 Retailers in the U.S. Market. These companies are the retail elite and account for 38% of the total market. The vast majority also stock and sell a lot of Pet Products. The retail market is constantly evolving which produces some turmoil – mergers, acquisitions, closures. As you will see, the Top 100 are not immune. The report does contain a lot of data but we’ll break it up into smaller pieces to make it more digestible. All of the base data on the Top 100 comes from Kantar Research and was published by the National Retail Federation (NRF).

We’ll begin with an overview:


  • The total Retail Market grew $235B in 2017 (+4.3%). In 2016 it was +3.2% and in 2015 +2.3%. Growth is accelerating.
    • The Top 100 grew $90.9B (+4.4%). This is much better than last year’s +3.5% and slightly better than the market.
    • The Top 100 generates $2.2 Trillion in revenue, 37.7% of the total U.S. retail market.
  • Let’s make the data a bit more relevant. If you remove the revenue from Auto, Restaurant and Gas Stations, the “targeted” retail market for the Pet Industry is $3.4 Trillion – 60% of the total market. By the way, the slight drop in share is due to the 9% increase in Gas Station revenue.
    • If we also remove Restaurant & Gas Station $ from the Top 100, the remaining $2.0T is 34.7% of the total market.
    • … and 58.2% of the $3.4 Trillion “target” market.

The Top 100 is critically important and generally outperforms the overall market. However, in 2017 the difference was very slight. Remember, the Top 100 is really a contest. Every year companies drop out and new ones are added. This can be the result of mergers, acquisitions or simply surging or slumping sales. Here are some changes of note in 2017:

  • Supermarkets are still undergoing changes. We had 3 drop off the list and 1 addition. Stater Bros and Save Mart simply didn’t have enough revenue to make the list. Whole Foods is also not on the list because it was acquired by Amazon. In the opposite scenario Save-A-Lot is on the list because it was spun off from SuperValu.
  • There were 3 other companies in various categories that fell off the list because their numbers weren’t high enough.
    • Advanced Auto Parts
    • H & M Stores (apparel)
    • CKE Restaurants (Hardees, Carl ‘s Jr.)
  • Five additions, primarily due to surging sales are: ◦
    • Hobby Lobby
    • Sephora (cosmetics)
    • Discount Tire
    • Chipotle Mexican Grill (made it back after dropping off the list in 2016)
    • Bass Pro (They acquired Cabelas)

Now let’s start “drilling down” on the Top 100. Here’s a summary of Regular and Online Retailers versus the bundled total for Restaurants & Gas Stations.

  • Regular & Online Retailers have 58.7% of the stores but 91.9% of the business, virtually the same as last year.
  • Most of the increase (94.7%) is coming from Regular/online retailers. They are up 4.5% compared to +3.7% in 2016.
  • Restaurant sales were up $4.8B (3.0%) in 2017 but Gas Stations were down slightly, -$31M (-0.2%).
  • The biggest change is the -0.9% drop in store count. This contrasts sharply with a 1.5% increase in 2016. Most of the decrease is in restaurants/gas stations but regular retailers are down too. Could it be an impact of online shopping?

Now that we have an overview of the Top 100, let’s take a look at the “targeted” retailer segment. There are 82 total companies. How many are buying and selling Pet Products? This will reinforce how Pets have become an integral part of the American Household and how fierce that the competition for the Pet Parents’ $ has become.

  • Of 82 possible companies, 67 are selling some mixture of Pet Products in stores and/or online. (up from 66 in 2016)
    • Their Total Retail Sales of all products is $1.85 Trillion which is…
      • 93% of the total business for Regular & Online Retailers in the Top 100
      • 32.2% of the Entire $5.75T U.S. Retail market – from 67 Companies who sell Pet Products.
    • 57 Cos., doing $1.75T in sales are selling pet products off the retail shelf in 142,000 stores – 3500 more than 2016.
      • As you can see by the growth in both sales and store count, in store is still the best way to sell pet.
    • Online only is another story and the story gets complicated
      • Amazon bought Whole Foods, which has stores so the Amazon $ are now in the “Pet In Store” numbers.
      • Many traditional Retailers who only sell Pet Products online are closing stores and losing market share.

Pet products are an integral part of the strongest retailers and are widespread across the entire U.S. marketplace. Of the Top 100, 142,000 stores carry at least some pet items at retail. There are thousands of additional “pet” outlets including 20,000 Grocery Stores, 10,000 Pet Stores, 16,000 Vet Clinics, 5,000 Pet Services businesses and more. Pet Products are on the shelf in over 200,000 U.S. brick ‘n mortar stores… plus the internet.

Before we analyze the whole list in greater detail let’s take a quick look at the Top 10 retailers in the U.S.

  • They did $1.1 Trillion in Sales
    • 52.3% of the Top 100’s $ales
    • 19.7% of Total U.S. Retail $
  • It’s the same list as 2016 (and 2015) but 4 changed rank
  • Amazon acquired Whole Foods, broke $100B and moved up to 3rd
  • CVS had the only negative performance

In the next section we will look at the detailed list of the top 100. We’ll sort it by retail channel with subtotals in key columns. We’ll then break it into smaller sections for comments.

I have not done a lot of highlighting however:

  • Pet Columns ’17 & ‘16 – a “1” with an orange highlight indicates that products are only sold online
  • Rank Columns – Change in rank from 2016: (Note: Acquisitions, Divestitures and Corporate Restructuring can cause big changes in ranking.)
    • Up 4-5 spots = Lt Blue; Up 6 or more = Green
    • Down 4-5 Spots = Yellow; Down 6 or more = Pink

Let’s get started. Remember online sales are included in the sales of all companies


  • Drug is still in turmoil with acquisitions a big factor. Walgreens bought 1900 Rite Aid stores, but closed 600. CVS is in a similar situation. The turmoil may continue into next year as Albertson’s is offering to buy the remaining Rite Aids.
  • The Traditional Department store segment continues its overall decline. There are a couple of exceptions in some “high end” stores. However for most, the trend is down.
    • Sears (includes Kmart) and Macy’s remain the 2 big “red flags” and more store closings are planned.
    • Although all carry a few pet items, generally online, this channel has never fully embraced Pet Products.
  • Much of the growth in the Convenience Store Chains in the Top 100 in recent years has come through acquisitions. This continued in 2017 as Circle K acquired CST Brands.
  • Military Exchanges/Commissaries have added locations in recent years, which fueled the growth in sales. In 2017 they radically reduced the number of Army/AF Exchanges and opened no new Commissaries. Sales dropped.
  • Auto Parts Stores have been a mixed bag. In 2016 only Advance was underperforming in sales. In 2017 they dropped out of the Top 100 and were replaced by Discount Tire. Now this category is showing a big increase.
  • Among Apparel retailers, the value outlets continue to show strong growth. All three of these chains carry pet products. Cosmetics stores are also showing surprising strength. Unfortunately, they don’t carry any pet items…yet.


  • Amazon is fomenting the evolution of U.S. Retail. They broke the $100B barrier in 2017 and sales have doubled in 4 years. However, their business is also evolving. With the acquisition of Whole Foods they now have a brick ‘n mortar presence in the market place
    • The Phone People – Verizon and Apple, continue to grow, but another bad year for AT&T.
    • QVC acquired HSN which moved them up eighteen spots to #40.
    • 2017 was a bad year for Toys R Us as sales fell over $1 Billion. However, as we all know 2018 is much worse as they officially went out of business.
  • Signet Jewelry’s sales fell 3.9% after an 11% increase in 2016.
  • Mass Merchants have 2 of the 4 largest volume retailers in America – Wal-Mart and Costco. In recent years, these two companies have driven the growth in this channel and 2017 was no exception.
    • Wal-Mart had a 3.3 increase in sales which is slightly above recent years. Their business is mixed as SuperCenters continue to grow but “regular” Discount Department Stores are losing market share. This trend impacts the overall business in both Wal-Mart and Target.
    • Target sales turned around in 2017 after 3 years of flat or declining revenue.
    • Costco continues its strong growth (+8.5%), building new stores and increasing sales – both in store and online.
    • BJ’s has the only negative story in this channel. Their sales have slowly declined since 2013.
  • Home Improvement/Hardware is showing continued strong growth by all “players”. The 2 big guys – Home Depot and Lowe’s are both Top 10 retailers and are doing especially well. Their $9.5 increase in 2017 follows an $8.7B increase in 2016 – up $18.2B in just 2 years.
  • Home Goods Companies’ sales were all up slightly, except for Ikea. They restructured their business in 2016 which produced a $2B increase. However, 2017 saw Ikea’s sales fall almost $1B.
  • Tractor Supply’s strong growth rate slowed a little (+7.1%). Their average annual growth rate is 8.8% since 2013.


  • Supermarkets – $379B in Sales; 15 Companies; 16,000 stores; All Selling Pet Products. This is a very important group for the Pet Industry. With the highest frequency of consumer visits of any channel, the competition is fierce. The mergers and acquisitions continue. This year we also saw SuperValu begin its exit from the retail grocery business and Amazon’s acquisition of Whole Foods.
    • Most companies had slight increases in sales. The big drop correlates directly to SuperValu’s sale of Save-a-Lot.
  • Small Format Value Stores: Remember, this retail channel does more business than Traditional Department Stores.
    • Dollar General and Dollar Tree are in a virtual tie for Sales, Sales Increase and Store Count. However, it appears that Dollar General is more committed to store growth.
    • Dollar Tree’s 2015 acquisition of Family Dollar Stores has proven to be totally seamless.
    • Only Big Lots performance is subpar, but they now have 3 consecutive years with small increases.
    • This retail channel continues to grow in numbers and popularity. They are committed to Pet Products and their focus on value appeals to today’s ever more price conscious consumers. Plus, they are easy to shop.
  • Pet Stores – PetSmart’s huge growth is due to their acquisition of Chewy. Petco made big news last year by qualifying for the Top 100 for the first time at #98. This was evidence of the strength of the U.S. Pet Industry. They had a fair year in 2017 (+3.7%) but it’s a very competitive environment. They barely made the 2017 list at #100.
  • Office Supply Stores – This channel is under siege. Consumers are increasingly moving to online ordering.
  • Sporting Goods – Sports Authority closed in 2016 but Bass Pro bought Cabela’s. That again gave us 3 Sporting Goods companies in the Top 100. All of them are showing strong growth in both store count and sales.

Restaurants & Gas Stations and the Grand Total

Restaurant & Gas Station Observations

Although restaurants & gas stations aren’t relevant in terms of Pet Products Sales, they are relevant in our daily lives. Also, money spent on rising gas prices and eating out isn’t available to spend on our Pet Children.

  • Last year the revenue for Restaurants in the Top 100 was down -3.5%, but it was driven largely by a business re-structuring of Yum franchisees. That is in the past. In 2017 sales are up 3.0%, but the company results are mixed. The biggest “movers” were Chick-fil-A, up $2.6B and Burger King, down -$2.6B. McDonalds also had a good year and Chipotle increased sales enough to make it back in the Top 100.
  • Despite rising prices, Top 100 Gas Station sales are down slightly, primarily due a reduction in outlets.

Wrapping it up!

The Top 100 became the Top 100 by producing big sales numbers so it’s not surprising that their performance exceeds the overall market. In 2015 it was more than double – 4.9% to 2.3%. In 2016 it was only 10% better and in 2017 it was only 2.3% better. Today’s incredibly competitive retail market is impacting even many of the biggest retailers in America.

Pet Products are an important part of the success of the Top 100. Sixty-seven companies on the list sell Pet Food and/or Supplies in 142,000 stores and/or online. Let’s take a closer look at the fifty-seven companies that stock pet products in their stores. This group generated $1.75T in total sales. How much was from pet? Let’s “Do the math”. If we take out the $12.5B done by PetSmart and Petco and the remaining companies generated only 1.5% of their sales from Pet, we’re looking at $26B in Pet Products sales from only 55 “non-pet” sources! (Note: The 1.5% share for Pet items is a low end estimate based on data from the U.S. Economic Census.) The APPA reported $43B in Pet Food and Supplies sales for 2017. That means that 55 mass market retailers accounted for 60% of the Pet Products sold in the U.S. in 2017 and… it gets even more focused.

PetSmart & Petco, plus 15 Mass Market Retailers probably account for 75% of all the Pet Products sold in the U.S.

Pet Products are widespread in the retail marketplace but the $ are concentrated. Regardless of your position in the Pet Industry, monitoring the Top 100 group is important. This group also reflects the ongoing evolution in the retail market. We see the growing influence of the internet and importance of Value. The Intense competition is evident in the turmoil of mergers & acquisitions. In business, just like in biology, you must adapt to a changing environment or face extinction!

Finally, here is a link to download the 2017 Top 100 Retailer Excel file so you can do your own analysis.

[button link=”https://pmud8a.a2cdn1.secureserver.net/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/Top100-US-Retailers2017Ranked.xlsx” type=”icon” newwindow=”no”] Download 2017 Top 100 U.S. Retailers List(Excel)[/button]