Remarkable Consistency Among Top Retailers In 2020, Despite Disruption.


For a year with as much turmoil as 2020, the National Retail Federation’s list of last year’s top retailers shows remarkable consistency. Walmart remains firmly ensconced at the top of the tally and Amazon continues in second place.


The Top 100 roster, based on sales rankings for 2020, includes both winners and losers with pandemic disruption the biggest contributing factor. Grocers including Publix, Aldi and H-E-B all moved up in the rankings, as did The Home Depot and Target, the NRF says in a blog post. Those taking a hit included retailers like TJX Companies and Macy’s.


“Companies that invested heavily in buy online, pick up in store in 2018 and 2019 were losing money on it then,” says David Marcotte, Senior VP for Kantar, which compiled the list. “In 2020, it all paid off. If you didn’t have that capability, you had to scramble to build it.”


While the marketplace has begun to normalize a bit from the darkest days of the pandemic, retailers aren’t out of the woods yet. “Our economists refer to 2021 as the upside-down year,” says Marcotte. “Everything you thought you knew, you don’t. It’s not 2020, where everything was confusing.”


Yet despite two years of upheaval, Marcotte isn’t surprised by the stability in 2020’s top retail rankings. “The companies don’t move that quickly,” he says. “That’s the reality.”


He points to Walmart’s ecommerce growth as a strong factor behind its stability at the top of the list. “They are the other online choice now, which is a big change. It’s really Amazon and Walmart.com, with Best Buy.com and Target.com also coming up. Walmart.com is nowhere as large as Amazon, but it is a legitimate alternative, one that nontraditional Walmart shoppers are checking out.”


At $430.8 billion, Walmart had more than double the retail sales of No. 2 retailer Amazon at $187.2 billion. The Kroeger Co. was third at $131.6 billion with The Home Depot ($121.3 billion) and Costco Wholesale ($121.2 billion) rounding out the top five.


But not every retailer soared in 2020. “Working from home meant less of a need for apparel and makeup,” NRF says in the blog post. “Sephora saw its revenues drop more than 15 percent, while Ulta Salon, Cosmetics and Fragrance was down 16.8 percent.”


More time at home caused Americans to take a closer look at their surroundings and spot their shortcomings. Furniture and other home goods retailers were among the benefactors. Wayfair sales shot up 54.6 percent, followed by Amazon, which grew by 33.7 percent. Tractor Supply Company (26.8 percent), Ace Hardware (25.5 percent), Lowe’s Companies (23.8 percent) and The Home Depot (21.3 percent) had some of the largest growth in 2020.


The NRF list includes plenty of radio-using retailers, including The Home Depot at No. 4 and Lowe’s at No. 9.Both were also among radio’s top 10 advertisers for 2020.Macy’s, Kohl’s Menard’s, O’Reilly Auto Parts, Auto Zone, JC Penney and Staples are all found in the top 75 of both lists.

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