U.S. Retail Trade – 2015 $ales Update by Channel – Going for the Gold!

The Total U.S. Retail Market in 2015 reached $5.3 Trillion dollars – up $119B (+2.3%). The Market was significantly slowed by a precipitous drop in Gasoline prices resulting in a -$103B decline in revenue. For this report we will concentrate on the “Relevant Retail” Total – removing Restaurants, Auto and Gas Stations. This still leaves us with $3.2 Trillion to “divvy up”.

In a recent report we reviewed the 2015 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)

First, Please Take Note: As you are reviewing this detailed data and wondering exactly how does all this relate to Pet Products sales, consider these 2 facts from the 2012 U.S. 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 2% of the total revenue of all non-pet stores that chose to stock them.


  • Restaurants (Food Service) – 12% of Total Retail – had an exceptional year, up↑8.1%.
  • Automobile Sales – 20% of the Total – also did well, up↑6.5%.
  • Gas Stations – 8% of the Total – ↓Down 19.2% from a year ago. Motor Fuels account for over 80% of the total revenue of gas stations. Gas prices are down 27% from 2014. (CPI from USBLS)
  • Retail, Less Food, Auto and Gas – Up 3.5% to $3.2 Trillion. This is 59.8% of the total U.S. Retail market and it is growing 50% faster than the Total but at only half the rate of Restaurants and Auto.

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


Gas prices had a huge impact on the overall market. The Auto and Restaurant segments have maintained strong growth rates. In fact restaurant sales growth is accelerating. In our “Relevant Retail” Segment, growth has slowed by 19% to 3.5%. This is also significantly below the 4.8% growth rate of the Top 100 Retailers. As we look at the individual channels, the 3.5% growth rate will serve as a benchmark. – Above 3.5%, a channel is gaining market share; Below 3.5%, they are losing share.

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 58.6% of the total. If you look back at our post on the channel migration of Pet Products Sales, you will see that in the 2012 these three divisions produced 59.7% of total Pet Products sales. Consumers spend a lot of money in Pet Specialty Stores but Pet Products are also “on their shopping list” in the outlets where they spend most of their money.

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 the General Merchandise Stores and Non-Store “Divisions” are very significant. Each of the major divisions includes a number of subsegments. 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 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 migration first becomes apparent.

Here is the Market Share change “Rule” for 2015: To gain 0.1% in Market Share your $ increase must exceed the amount generated by a 3.5% sales increase PLUS an additional $3.2B. Example: If a channel did $100B in 2014, they need to do $100 +$3.5 + $3.2 = $106.7B to gain just 0.1% in 2015 share. It’s not easy!

Enough “overview”! Let’s look at the 2015 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 made the list by generating at least 1% of the Total Pet Products (food & supplies) spending in the last Economic Census. Traditional Department Stores are also included although they have never embraced Pet Products. They have long been a fixture in the U.S. Retail Marketplace. Their slow fade, as the consumers migrated to outlets which better fit their needs, has profoundly affected U.S. 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 2015 vs 2014. The next will “show us the money” by translating the % into $ gained or lost.

Remember, you must be up at least 3.5% or you’re losing market share!


The leader comes as no surprise. However, there are some huge channels that are losing ground. Now, I’ll “show you the money!” For your reference, the Total increase for the “Relevant Retail” Market was $108B and you must be up 3.5% PLUS $3.2B to gain just 0.1%!


The growth in the Internet/Mail Order is even more pronounced when you look at the change in $ spent!


Look for: (% of Total Business from Pet Products for stores that stock Pet – 2012 Economic Census)

  • Internet/Mailorder – $432B, Up $46.6B (+12.1%) – 43% of the total increase for the $3.2T Retail Market came from Internet/Mailorder. The Consumer Migration to this channel is accelerating – gaining 1.1% in Market Share in just a year. (1.2% Pet)
  • Super Markets – $588.3B, Up $14.4B (+2.5%) This largest subsegment is barely holding its ground as it lost over 0.1% in Market Share. Right now the major competition is from SuperCenters/Clubs. However, the Internet is positioning itself to also become a factor. (1.6% Pet)
  • Department Stores – $58.4B, Down $2.2B (-3.6%). As stated, this segment is not particularly relevant to Pet but they are part of the best “visual” example of the channel migration of the U.S. consumer. 50 years ago they “ruled” the GM category. Then they started to slide as 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 – $106.3B, Down $1.2B (-1.1%). 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. (2.3% Pet)
  • SuperCenter/Club Stores – $440.1B, Up $6.8B, (+1.6%). These outlets with their broad mixture of grocery and general merchandise…at great prices quickly became a dominant force in the retail market. They are second only to Supermarkets in Market Share. However, they “needed” to be up $15B in 2015. A Sales increase of $7B and they lost -0.3% in Market Share. (2.4% Pet)
  • $ & Value Stores – $68.8B, Up $3.3B, (+5.0%). – A Great Value and easy to shop. The recent steady growth in this segment is proof that American consumers want Value AND Convenience. (4.3% Pet)
  • Drug Stores – $263.3B, Up $11.5B, (+4.6%). 60+% of the revenue comes from Rx Drugs. The growth in this segment mirrors a 4.6% Increase in Rx Prices over 2014. (0.3% Pet)
  • Sporting Goods – $47.1B, Up $2.4B, (+5.4%). Minor player in Pet, had a strong first ½ in 2015.(N/A Pet)
  • Home Centers – $254.0B, Up $13.4B, (+5.6%). These “project driven” outlets have never done a significant Pet Business for their size. Two Top 10 U.S. Retailers are driving the growth. (0.6% Pet)
  • Hardware – $23.4B, Up $0.8B, (+3.5%). A strong first half – up 7.1%, then flat in the second half – the result – no gain…or loss in market share. (2.6% Pet)
  • Farm and Garden Stores – $44.6B, Up 0.4B, (+0.8%). This segment has been growing in recent years in both overall sales and in Pet. However, in 2015 it appears that 100% of the segment’s small sales growth came from Tractor Supply who reported a $0.4B increase in our Top 100 Post. (8.9% Pet)
  • A/O Miscellaneous Stores $70.4B, Up $3.6B, (+5.4%). Florists, Pet Stores, Art Dealers…are segments bundled into this group. Based upon the 2012 Economic Census data, Pet Stores probably account for almost 25% of this segment. In 2015, they held their ground against the big segments. (Pet Stores: 91% of Total revenue is from the sale of Pets & Pet Products)

The chart below puts the Market Share of each of these segments for 2015 & 2014 in a visual format so that it is easier to appreciate the relative sizes. Growth in share 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 are still #1 for Pet Products. In the Overall Market, there are 3 Olympic Medalists. There is no change for the Gold. Supermarkets remain the largest Retail Channel. However, the race for the Silver is heating up. SuperCenters & Club Stores are growing….but losing Market Share. The Internet/Mailorder segment is growing even faster than anticipated. Gaining 1.1% in Market Share in a $3T annual market in 1 year is definitely fast. In an upcoming report we’ll revisit and update this race between these three…which right now is focused on the Silver. However, you have to wonder what will happen when the internet turns its attention to grocery items.

Overall, 2015 was somewhat disappointing. The $ales increase was 19% less than in 2014 and without the incredible increase by the Internet/Mail Order Channel, there was little excitement or growth. There were a couple of good small points that relate to the Pet Industry – the continued growth of the $/Value Stores and the better than average increase in the A/O Miscellaneous Channel. (Pet Stores included).

Bottom Line: The U.S. Retail Market is growing and evolving as the consumer migrates to the channels which best fulfill their current wants and needs. Today, the “Channel of Choice” seems to be Internet/Mail Order and the movement is accelerating. As always, to survive and prosper, you must identify consumer needs and adapt.

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