United States flag United States: Buying and Selling

The distribution network in the United States

Evolution of the Sector
The U.S. is the undisputed world leader of the retail industry: of the world's ten largest retail companies, five are based in the country. The industry’s total GDP impact was estimated at $4.583 trillion in 2021, accounting for 19.9% of US GDP (National Retail Federation - NRF). This represent an increase of 14% compared to 2020, the highest growth rate in more than 20 years. The NRF forecasts that 2022 retail sales will grow between 6% and 8% in 2022, totalling between $4.86 trillion and $4.95 trillion. The retail industry supports more than one in four US jobs, or 52 million working Americans, making it the largest private-sector employer in the country (NRF). Companies that were the less affected by the Coronavirus crisis include food retailers, e-commerce players such as Amazon, third-party delivery platforms and major food brands (Euromonitor). Retailers were among the biggest winners of the first complete rewriting of federal tax law in three decades. According to the NRF, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act has helped revive the economy by eliminating a wide range of tax benefits for businesses and using the money saved to lower rates for all businesses, large and small. The corporate tax rate has been reduced to 21% from 35%, and small business “pass throughs” have received a 20% deduction. The measure also provided relief for middle-class taxpayers.

The U.S. is the ultimate test market for exporters and is open to all kinds of new products and technologies. However, it is very spread out geographically and new products are subject to intense competition. The U.S. market is thus very demanding and requires a considerable amount of preparation, groundwork and long-term consistency. Numerous opportunities for growth exist in the U.S. retail market for retail providers of all sizes, including individual direct marketers or direct sellers, small- to medium-sized franchise unit owners, and large "big-box" store operators.
Market share
The supermarket and grocery stores industry reached USD 728.86 billion in 2020, growing at a rate of 10.1% compared to 2019 (Census Bureau, latest data available). Market segmentation is drawn along various lines, including age group, ethnic group and even social and religious groups, which has forced distributors to adapt their strategies to this situation. One of the most marked consequences of this absence of homogeneity is the emergence in the past few years of "Specialty Stores" (Home Depot, Best Buy, etc.). Specialty food stores represent 2.8% of total food and beverage stores sales (Census Bureau, latest data available). American consumers stand out for their demanding nature, the importance they attach to price and their product disloyalty. It is thus incumbent upon distributors to continuously adapt themselves to the market and to engage in well-targeted marketing efforts in order to win consumer loyalty. According to the latest figures by USDA, grocery stores, including supermarkets and smaller grocery stores (except convenience stores) accounted for the largest share of store sales (92.1%), followed by convenience stores without gasoline (4.6%). Specialized food stores, including meat and seafood markets, produce markets, retail bakeries, and candy and nut stores, accounted for the remaining 3.3% of the total.

According to NRF latest data (2022), the main retailers in US are:
•    Walmart, with a turnover of $538.15 billions in retail sales
•    Amazon.com ($330.20 billion)
•    Schwarz Group ($158.58 billion)
•    Aldi ($134.67 billion)
•    Costco ($187.16 billion)

Retail Sector Organisations
National Retail Federation
Convenience Distribution Association (CDA)
International Council Shopping Centres
The Association for Convenience and Fuel Retailing (NACS)

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Latest Update: November 2022

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