Sunday, July 26, 2015

Top 10 Retailers, With $954.7B in Sales, Miss The Mark on Books

As Amazon celebrated its 20th anniversary with blowout deals on July 15th, Walmart didn’t stand by and let the world’s biggest digital retailer eat its lunch. Walmart, the No. 1 US retailer that’s 3.5 times its nearest competitor, dropped prices on its products and shipping, seeking to be the dominant force that it’s been for decades.  Where was Barnes & Noble, the No. 1 book retailer for brick and mortar sales, in all of this?

B&N was busy selling two colossal blockbusters - the debut of Go Set A Watchman, the long-awaited follow-up from Harper Lee and Grey, the latest installment to the 50 Shades of Grey erotica by E L James.  But Barnes & Noble is not anywhere near the top 10 retailers in the United States.  Surprisingly, neither is K-mart, Sears, Macy’s, Gap, Apple, or any toy companies, pet supply companies, or sporting goods stores.

No. 1   Wal-Mart         334 billion dollars in annual sales in 2014
No. 2   Kroger             $103B
No 3    Costco             $79.7B
No 4    Home Depot    $74.2B
No 5    Walgreen         $72.7B
No 6    Target              $72.6B
No 7    CVS                 $68B
No 8    Lowes              $34.8B
No 9    Amazon           $49.4B
No 10  Safeway           $36.3B

Amazon is the fastest-growing company of the Big 10, seeing sales jump 22.8% last year.  Only Kroger earned double-digit growth (10.1%) last year, the only other of those 10 companies to do so.  Safeway was the only one to go backwards, losing 2.1% of its revenues.

Compared to a decade ago, seven of today's top 10 were in the top 10 then as well, but everyone’s shifted spots except for Walmart.  Surely in a decade forward Amazon, based on current growth patterns, will surge as high as No. 2 – barring a total collapse by Walmart.  Further, you’ll see a continued consolidation of dominance between Walmart and Amazon, as they each continue to get in everyone’s business and sell every possible product.

Bookstores collectively, if acting as a singular entity, would fail to crack the Top 10 spots for retail. That’s a shame.  Books should be a force and a leading retail contender.

Maybe the real question is: How can we get each of the top retailers to carry more books, sell more copies, and grow the reading public?  Some, like CVS and Walgreens, sell some books.  Target and Costco too.  Walmart and of course Amazon do as well.  Home Depot needs to join in and sell more books beyond a random gardening guide.

As the retail landscape grows and changes, books must remain a vibrant part of the economy.


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Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at He feels more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog © 2015

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