It is said that by the time they are 3-years-old, children recognize up to 66% of major brands that they are exposed to on a regular basis. Studies show they even know which logo goes with which brand (“That’s McDonald’s;” “That’s Nike”) before they can identify their own name in print. Branding is a concept that’s been around since royalty and nobility had family crests, and likely before. The visual cue is a powerful tool, a fact that people in marketing know all too well.
Each year, the Best Retail Brands report, produced with the partnership of Interbrand Design Forum, ranks the world’s top retail brands by net worth or brand value, in U.S. dollars. For the first time in 2014, Canadian brands have been ranked alongside their U.S. counterparts, producing a comprehensive list for North America. Just three Canadian brands make the top 50: Shoppers Drug Mart at No. 28, Lululemon Athletica right behind them at No. 29, and Canadian Tire at No. 38.
Many people shop online today, and retailers are, by and large, acknowledging this with their evolution, including the new idea of the virtual fitting room, where you can see a particular item of clothing on a virtual “you”! Core business models are shifting as quickly as the rest of the business world must, with the rapid-fire pace of technological advancement. There is a marked disconnect between how we shop in-store and our online shopping habits, and retailers are mounting a tactical campaign to use new sales data to meet customer needs and wants faster than ever before.
Five brands fell off the Top 50 list in 2014: Radio Shack, Anthropologie, Guess, Big Lots and Rent-A-Center. Who are the ten retail brands worth the most in 2014? Most of us have shopped at (at least) some of them.
10 Publix: $10.2 billion
This American, employee-owned supermarket chain was started in Florida and has over one thousand stores in Florida, South Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee and Alabama. Founded in 1930 by George Jenkins, Publix Supermarkets Inc. is now headed by CEO William E. Crenshaw. The employees and CEO must be doing something right, because in a climate where things are financially tight for everyone, this retail brand’s net worth is up 2% in the past year. Publix is socially conscious, participating in a program called Upromise, which gives cash back for qualifying purchases to families with students. The money is kept in an account that can be used to pay student loans or invested in a college savings plan. It seems Publix cares about its public!
9 Coach: $11.6 billion
Although in the top 10, this store that specializes in designer handbags is down 21% from the previous year, likely in part due to the struggling economy. In this financial climate it is surprising people are buying such luxury items at all, but the fact that they do is a testament to the beauty not just of Coach’s products, but also of its stores. With a luxury of space and a rich, antique-type décor, shopping at Coach will make anyone feel rich, if even just for 20 minutes. Founded in Manhattan in 1941, their women’s handbags are considered to be works of art. Let’s hope so, at their prices! People all over the world buy their goods, with stores across North America as well as in seven South American nations, 11 Asian Pacific countries, Australia, the Middle East and Europe.
8 eBay: $13.2 billion
This company, founded in 1995, was among the first to offer the convenience of shopping from your own home. Customers can order new or used items in any category directly from the seller, bidding against others, which can work out well for the seller if the item is rare or hard to find. Obviously still doing well, eBay is up 20% from the previous year, illustrating significant and continuing growth. You really can get anything on eBay, as one recent offer shows. Six twigs (yes, we mean small sticks) were on sale recently on this online auction site. Offers started at 99 pence. The seller advertised them as being “travel-sized” and also as being somewhat exclusive, as they came from a London square where homes sell for a lot and even a sandwich “starts at £4.20, thus making these premium twigs and not everyday rubbish.” Offers for these sticks went to £25.00... If there's a market for anything, you'll find it on eBay.
7 Sam’s Club: $13.5 billion
Founded by Walmart’s Sam Walton just five months before Costco, this retail chain of stores is the original Costco. As evidenced by their presence on this list, the original is currently doing better than its contemporary, with membership also required to shop here, including annual fees and an ID card to identify shoppers at this warehouse-club. Business is steady, with neither an increase nor decrease in the chain’s net worth in the past year. However, perhaps to offset things or prevent loss, Walmart laid off around 2,300 Sam’s employees in January of this year. There are 633 stores in the U.S. and elsewhere (Puerto Rico, China, Brazil and Mexico).
6 Walgreens: $15.5 billion
Over a century old and up 8% in the last year, Walgreens is the largest drug retailer in the U.S., with 8,678 stores throughout the U.S. and also in Guam, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. CEO Gregory D. Wasson now runs this massive chain in place of the original founder from 1901, Charles Walgreen. The corporate giant is under a lot of pressure at present, being pressured by its shareholders to move its headquarters from Springfield, Illinois - where it’s been for 113 years - to Europe, to escape a 35% U.S. tax on profits. As the brand owns almost half of a Swiss pharmaceutical company, having a presence in Europe would not be anomalous, but would likely come with a political and possibly financial backlash; as the largest supplier to the program, a significant portion of their annual sales come from the government-run Medicare.
5 CVS/pharmacy: $17.8 billion
Founded in 1963 and up 12% in the last year, CVS is Walgreen's younger competitor. Although they do not have an international presence, there are 7,600 stores (CVS and Longs Drug Stores), throughout 45 of the 50 U.S. states. This company has been in the news significantly twice this year. In February, the corporation announced they would be pulling tobacco products from their stores and will no longer sell tobacco at all; they are the first store of their kind to make this bold, health-conscious move. The following month things were not so positive after news broke about an (alleged) enormous amount of missing hydrocodone pills in four California stores; the painkillers are thought to have been sold on the black market, and CVS may be fined up to $29 million.
4 Amazon: $23.6 billion
The world’s largest online retailer was founded in 1994, one year before eBay. Going stronger than ever due largely to the brand’s willingness to diversify while remaining competitive, their net worth rose 27% in the past year. Jeff Bezos, founder, clearly has vision, as eCommerce is no longer a thing of the future, but a necessity that has changed the face of shopping forever. Bezos’ reach is far, including the purchase of the iconic Washington Post. Most recently Amazon announced its new product, the Amazon Dash, a wand that includes a barcode scanner, microphone and speaker. Currently limited to a small market, the majority of people within North America and likely elsewhere will eventually be able to shop from home by scanning products in their own cupboards and by voice command, with same-day delivery service.
3 The Home Depot: $25.7 billion
This retail brand was founded in 1978, with the first two stores opening in Atlanta, Georgia in 1979. The company was one of the first of its kind, warehousing do-it-yourself hardware tools and materials at a scope far surpassing the average hardware store of its day. This company claims to be the fastest-growing retailer in U.S. history; it went public on NASDAQ in 1981 and moved to the NYSE in 1984. Home Depot now has stores throughout the U.S. and Canada as well as in Mexico, and even has representation in China with the 2006 acquisition of 12-store Chinese retailer The Home Way. Up 12% in the past year, this retailer is known for its heart: a New Jersey store was in the news for its tribute to a local handyman who recently lost his battle with cancer.
2 Target: $27.1 billion
Up 8% in 2013, this store targets savvy shoppers who want to get some bang for their buck. A competitor of Walmart’s, the first Target was opened in the early 1960s by the Dayton family (Minneapolis) of Dayton’s Department Store. The original founder was a philanthropist who worked with the precursor to the United Way, and Dayton’s was one of the first corporations to give back a percentage of pre-tax profits (5%) to the community. Target is run with the same philosophy, as they were a major benefactor in 1996 to the restoration of the Washington Monument. With stores throughout the continental U.S., Hawaii and Alaska, Target now also has stores in Canada. In 2010 they announced their decision to give $1 billion to education by 2015, making that promise almost complete!
1 Walmart: $131.9 billion
Although last year this giant was down 6%, this largest retail brand in the entire world still holds a net worth of more than $100 billion over its closest competitor, Target. The Walton family opened their first store in 1950, but founded the corporation Walmart in 1962, the very same year as Dayton’s first Target stores opened - founder Sam Walton must have done things more efficiently, or must have given back much less. Either way, this family’s success outstrips not just the Target brand, but every other top retailer in the world. With a reputation quite the opposite of Target’s in terms of ethics, is the message here that nice guys do finish last? Perhaps so; for the first time ever in an annual report, Walmart made the news by admitting much of their losses last year were due to a decrease in government food supplement assistance given to impoverished Americans (and paid by citizen tax dollars). This facts illuminates how the store relies on selling to the poor as well as on (indirect) government funding.