Selling to a Nation of Shoppers
Fuelled by 50 years of rising disposable incomes, the United States retail trade is an alluring market for exporters.
Americans enjoy one of the highest standards of living in the world. The United States ranks fifth in the World Bank’s International Comparison Database for GNI per capita in PPP. The GNI per capita in PPP in the United States in 2012 was $52,610.
GNI (GROSS NATIONAL INCOME) PER CAPITA, PPP (CURRENT INTERNATIONAL $)
|Hong Kong SAR, China||47,430||45,260||48,140||51,430||52,190|
Source: World Bank
This wealth is reflected in their willingness to spend. It’s possible to see exactly what Americans spend their money on from statistics provided by the United States Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Economic Analysis. Though they’re increasingly spending money on services, consumer goods still take a healthy share of their wallets.
PERSONAL CONSUMPTION EXPENDITURE BY TYPE OF PRODUCT (US$-BILLION)
|Personal consumption expenditures||10,005.5||9,842.9||10,201.9||10,711.8||11,149.6|
|Motor vehicles and parts||339.6||317.1||342.0||368.7||401.7|
|Furnishings and durable household equipment||268.7||244.3||250.4||260.1||275.1|
|Recreational goods and vehicles||329.3||303.8||312.7||321.1||334.5|
|Other durable goods||164.6||158.2||165.6||179.9||191.3|
|Food and beverages purchased for off-premises consumption||772.9||770.0||788.9||833.0||863.3|
|Clothing and footwear||319.5||306.5||320.6||338.3||354.6|
|Gasoline and other energy goods||389.1||284.5||333.4||408.9||417.0|
|Other nondurable goods||791.9||814.2||849.2||892.6||932.1|
|Household consumption expenditures (for services)||6,347.7||6,368.5||6,563.7||6,831.2||7,089.4|
|Housing and utilities||1,839.1||1,881.0||1,909.0||1,960.9||2,013.9|
|Food services and accommodations||612.5||600.3||617.7||658.7||701.7|
|Financial services and insurance||771.5||719.0||763.2||801.1||821.0|
|Final consumption expenditures of non-profit institutions serving households (NPISHs)||282.1||276.0||275.4||277.9||290.5|
Source: US Department of Commerce Bureau of Economic Analysis
Americans clearly love shopping, but what do they spend it on? Thirty percent of retail sales in the United States gets spent on motor vehicles and gasoline. Another 13% is spent in department stores, warehouse clubs and mass merchandise stores. Food services and drinking places take a healthy 11% share of wallet, followed by building materials (6%), health and personal care (6%) and clothing (5%).
ESTIMATED ANNUAL SALES OF U.S. RETAIL AND FOOD SERVICES FIRMS BY KIND OF BUSINESS (US$-MILLIONS)
|Kind of business||2008||2009||2010||2011||2012|
|Motor vehicle and parts dealers||787,079||674,002||746,120||818,703||894,798|
|Furniture and home furnishings stores||99,560||86,258||87,290||90,124||94,898|
|Electronics and appliance stores||108,663||98,030||99,128||100,792||102,998|
|Building mat. and garden equip. and supplies dealers||304,556||266,975||267,950||279,402||294,656|
|Food and beverage stores||569,735||569,314||581,929||611,006||631,486|
|Health and personal care stores||246,787||253,245||261,128||272,555||275,645|
|Clothing and clothing access. stores||215,776||204,813||213,720||229,327||241,386|
|Sporting goods, hobby, book, and music stores||84,037||81,040||81,657||82,466||85,190|
|General merchandise stores||596,358||591,682||607,989||630,557||649,754|
|Miscellaneous store retailers||111,589||103,384||106,540||111,256||112,966|
|Food services and drinking places||456,102||451,684||466,493||494,813||524,892|
Source: US Census Bureau
1. Non-store retailing includes door-to-door solicitation, portable stalls and vending machines
2. Miscellaneous store retailers include florists, office supplies, used goods, and gifts
The United States has some of the largest retailers in the world. The top five mass merchandisers – Wal-Mart, Target, Costco Wholesale, Meijer and BJ’s Wholesale – collectively generate nearly half a trillion dollars in annual sales. Mass merchandisers operate large stores, selling a variety of items including apparel, sporting goods, garden equipment and videos.
Other groups of retailers in the United States market are:
These are giant retailers that only sell one type of product — from pet food to electronic goods – at prices their competitors can’t match. Examples of category killers include Home Depot and Lowe’s in the home improvement industry, Barnes & Noble and Borders in the bookselling industry, and Best Buy in consumer electronics.
These retailers tend to sell products off pallets in a warehouse-like environment. Shoppers buy anything in bulk at discounted prices, from groceries to electronics and furniture. Examples of warehouse club stores are BJ’s Warehouse and Sam’s Club. Exporters thinking of selling to warehouse clubs will need to develop economies of scale, delivering high quality products at low prices.
These are businesses that concentrate on one type of merchandise and offer it in a manner that makes it special. They vary from fashion outlets like Louis Vuitton to home furnishing stores like Crate & Barrel. These stores are found in shopping malls all over the United States.
These large retail stores sell many different kinds of products, which could include clothing and household appliances, in separate departments. Famous department stores in the United States include Barneys New York, Bloomingdale’s, J.C. Penney and Macy’s, which vary from luxury to mid-priced chains.
Purely E-commerce Stores
Many retailers sell products online but some of the best known e-commerce only retailers are American companies, including Amazon, which now dominates e-commerce retailing in the USA and in many countries around the world. Amazon first sold only books, but later started selling everything from electronics to gardening equipment. They now act as a portal for “marketplace suppliers” who are able to use UPS marketplace shipping to process order information and ship products directly to customers, bypassing Amazon’s warehouses altogether.