2024 Top 100 Retailers

NRF’s annual review of the best-performing U.S. retailers based on sales rankings
Sandy Smith
NRF Contributor
2024 Top 100 Retailers List

NRF's Top 100 Retailers ranks the industry’s largest companies according to sales.

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When it comes to retail trends, NRF’s annual list of the Top 100 Retailers shows that the pandemic and pandemic-era spending are starting to ease.

That’s what David Marcotte, senior vice president of global retail and technology for Kantar, terms the “big trend” out of the National Retail Federation’s annual ranking of the industry’s 100 largest retailers by domestic retail sales. Kantar compiles the data and explores the Power Players in a variety of categories.

Below, Marcotte explores some other details from the data.

Top 20 shows stability thanks to deep pockets

As with the 2023 list, there is not a lot of change at the top of the 100, particularly in the top 20. In fact, it is virtually identical to the previous year, with the exception of CVS and Target switching places at Nos. 6 and 7, and some minor reshuffling in the lower teens. That stability comes from sheer size, Marcotte says.

Walmart, the perennial leader, topped $533 billion in U.S. sales. 7-Eleven, No. 20 on the list, still raked in a cool $27.88 billion. Only five of the top 20 — The Home Depot, Target, Lowe’s Companies, Apple Stores / iTunes and Best Buy — saw losses, and those were minimal (at least for those at a scale at which losing a couple of billion is “minimal”).

“These companies are huge, and they have deep pockets, the existing capital and credit to maintain their position with ease,” Marcotte says.

For the larger winners, discount grocer Aldi, which also owns Trader Joe’s, had the second-largest percentage of U.S. sales growth in 2023 at 17%.



Mergers and acquisitions

The only retailer to grow at a faster pace than Aldi was Overstock.com, which increased a whopping 135.1% compared with 2022, thanks exclusively to its acquisition of the rights to Bed Bath & Beyond’s online operations.

“They bought an existing business and that bought their numbers up,” Marcotte says. “I think the jury’s out on whether that’s a successful acquisition.”

Still, mergers and acquisitions are one way that top retailers grow and that is reflected in the Top 100 list.

DICK'S Sporting Goods

Dick’s Sporting Goods moved up two notches on the Top 100, increasing its sales from $12.28 billion in 2022 to $12.91 billion in 2023.

Walmart is the only company that can grow by shedding companies, selling off Moosejaw, women’s plus-sized fashion brand Eloquii and menswear company Bonobos, while increasing its sales.

Marcotte expects more M&As to continue for two reasons: “A lot of companies have money or access to money and are going through ‘I’m not big enough. I need to have volume to deal with vendors’ and at the same time, opportunity.”

That was apparent among smaller companies, particularly in grocery. Raley’s Supermarkets acquired Bashas’ in late 2021 and stayed firm at No. 77 with a modest 0.3% growth. Tops and Price Chopper/Market also combined to bring “scale and efficiency,” as the company said when announcing the deal in 2021. Parent company Northeast Grocery also hung tight at No. 58 but saw a 3.6% growth.

Grocers growing: Inventory, inflation or both?

Speaking of grocery and acquisitions, the Kroger and Albertsons merger — announced more than 18 months ago — is still tied up in the courts. That has left both companies — which rank at No. 4 and No. 10 on the Top 100 list respectively — in a bit of “suspension,” Marcotte says. “If you’re in the middle of a merger, you’re not going to invest into the company too much.”

Those companies have been focused on shedding stores, hoping to win Federal Trade Commission approval. Kroger saw modest growth of 1.3% while Albertson’s notched up 2.2%. Both grew at a somewhat smaller pace than other grocers.

Competing grocers, however, have been expanding. Marcotte cites Royal Ahold Delhaize USA, No. 12 on the list, which operates Giant, Food Lion and Hannaford, as “keeping pace.”

Publix Supermarkets grew its store count by about 2.3% and its sales by twice that, ranking it at No. 13 on the list, followed closely by Aldi. H.E. Butt Grocery, No. 18, also saw strong sales growth, up 12.7%. “It is exciting when they grow, but it is slow growth,” Marcotte says.


Grocery shows up strong in the Top 20, holding down six spots. That number does not include Walmart, Costco, Target, Dollar General or 7-Eleven, all of which have food as a part of their assortment. Though food costs were up in 2023 — the federal government estimates at-home food costs increased 5% — Marcotte does not believe inflation is the reason that grocery shows up so strongly in the Top 100.

“You see inventories picking up. The outages that you saw during the pandemic have largely disappeared and there were greater things to buy,” he says. “Some of that may be related to inflation, but not all.”

If inflation shows up anywhere on the list, it is hidden deeply in two retailers that most shoppers have probably never visited: Army and Air Force Exchange Service, No. 52, and Defense Commissary Agency, No. 87.

These both serve active and veteran service members and “do very well when inflation starts to creep up because their pricing is much more predictable,” Marcotte says. While they operate under very different business models than a typical retailer, “they merchandise and operate like retailers. If you go into one of the stores, you would think you were in a regular mass merchandiser.”

As a result, the Defense Commissary jumped up eight spots, from No. 95 last year, and saw sales increase from $4.4 billion to $4.9 billion. The Army and Air Force Exchange Service increased two spots, to No. 52, and increased sales from $7.88 billion to $8.10 billion.

Post-pandemic requires retailers to change

While the Top 100 may reflect much of a return to normal, for some retailers, there has been a bit of a shakeup and a required adaptation to new patterns.

Convenience is one such area, Marcotte says. This industry has ridden several waves, first adjusting to work-from-home.

“It had slid out of the daily routine that was prevalent for so many people. You stop every morning for coffee, every third day to get gas,” he says. “It really suffered when people started to work from home, but it has picked up the contractor trade. Convenience stores had to find a somewhat different way of approaching the business, which strategically led to more food service to make up the difference.”

Some of these shifts will cycle out. Best Buy saw similar pandemic-era investments in TVs and computers. Dell also took a significant hit, thanks to major investments in computers in 2020 and 2021 when work and school both went into the home. “That’s part of the problem you have with consumer electronics,” Marcotte says. “It goes in cycles. You don’t need to buy a PC every year. You see the same thing with printers and smartphones. The average purchase rates might be every five or six years.”

Dell has had it particularly tough, dropping 20.3% in 2022 and another 28.01% in 2023.

Smaller retailers store counts signal growth

While sales growth can be an important indicator, U.S. store growth is another sign to watch. Marcotte says to keep an eye on Sprouts Farmers Market, “a grocer with extended natural and vitamin departments with competitive pricing to mainstream supermarkets,” he says. Sprouts saw its store count increase by 5.4% in 2023 to 407 and sales increase 6.8% to $6.84 billion, putting it at No. 65 on the Top 100.

Marcotte believes Sprouts “has long-term growth” though it was not the fastest expanding on the list. That belongs to Harbor Freight Tools, which added 8.5% to its store count, bringing the total to 1,410, and ranked No. 62 on the Top 100 in sales. “They’ve had very dynamic store growth,” he says. “Their model works very well with the contractor and pro side.”

Dollar General also had robust store growth, adding 5.5% to land at 20,583 stores and ranking at No. 17 on the list based on its $38.68 billion in sales. Marcotte expects store growth to slow as hiring difficulties may catch up.

Top three retailers provide lessons to follow

There are lessons to be learned from the top players — Walmart, Amazon and Costco — all of whom have grown steadily by setting a course and sticking to it, Marcotte says.

Costco Wholesale

“Costco does very, very well outside of the U.S. There is always that question of whether they should invest in Japan, China or the U.S.,” he says.

“Amazon has decided that with ongoing investments into special projects, and moonshots and everything else, they’re going to make money. It’s a very stable approach to the market, focused very hard on margin.”

As for Walmart, the focus is on a “chain-wide remodeling to new standards in their stores, which is overdue,” Marcotte says. The company also is expanding into financial services, “which is interesting to watch.” Walmart Mexico is leading the way with a portfolio of financial services “so they can see that and bring it into the U.S.”

All three giants are “looking at retail media as being a large part of the bottom line.”

There is plenty to learn from these Top 100, in how they grow, in spite of — and sometimes because of — the trends that surround them.

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