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Whether you’re looking for household cleaning supplies or 2% milk, you’ve likely stepped foot inside a grocery store. Grocery stores are shops primarily engaged in selling a general range of foot products, both fresh and packaged.
The term grocery store is synonymous with the term ‘supermarket’ which refers to stores that sell things beyond food including clothing, household items, and more.
Depending on your location, there are also grocery stores that specialize in certain foods of different countries or regions including Chinese, Italian, Middle Eastern, or Polish markets.
Grocery stores popped up as early as the 14th century when purveyors began selling dry goods like spices, peppers, sugar, tea, and coffee.
Because these items were typically bought in bulk, they were named after the French word for wholesaler, “grossier,” which is where the word “grocery” and “grocer” are derived from. The first modern grocery store, Piggly Wiggly, opened in 1916 in Memphis Tennessee.
Grocery stores operate in a variety of different styles including family-owned operations (IGA), boutique chains (Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s), to larger supermarket chains (Walmart, ShopRite, Kroger).
During the COVID-19, grocery stores were prompted to make online ordering and delivery available to their customers, prompting many of the larger chains to offer shopping both in physical stores and electronic stores, if they hadn’t already.
The top grocery stores in the United States are:
The Kroger Co.
Walgreens Boots Alliance
Publix Super Markets
C&S Wholesale Grocers
A Closer Look at the Top Grocery Stores in the US
Year-End Sales (USD millions in 2020): $341,004
Walmart is an American retail corporation that operates chains of hypermarkets, discount department stores, and grocery stores. Headquartered in Bentonville, Arkansas, Walmart was founded by Sam Walton in 1962 and officially opened in 1969.
The organization also has ownership of all Sam Club’s stores across the country. Walmart U.S. is the company’s largest division, making up about 65% of Walmart’s total sales for 2019.
In June 2016, Walmart and Sam’s Club announced that they would launch a grocery delivery service. The initiative was successful, leading Walmart to expand its services to 100 metropolitan regions across the country.
In October of 2019, Walmart announced that customers in 29 states could use its grocery service for adult beverage purchases as well.
Year-End Sales (USD millions in 2020): $154,581
Amazon is the fastest-growing grocery store retailer with a year-over-year percentage gain of 24.52% in sales. Although they don’t have physical stores, consumers are so reliant on other necessities on Amazon, providing groceries makes the user experience an all-in-one shop.
Amazon Fresh, the subsidiary of Amazon.com, is a grocery delivery service available in most major U.S. cities. The company’s model is innovative, allowing customers to ship, reserve times to pick up groceries, have them loaded into their cars at the store, or delivered to their home.
Year-End Sales (USD millions in 2020): $122,286
The Kroger Company, also known as Kroger, is an American retail company headquartered in Cincinnati, Ohio. Kroger is ranked #23 on the Fortune 500 largest US corporations, based on revenue.
The organization owns and operates 2,750 supermarkets and department stores in 35 states across the country. Their stores include supermarkets, hypermarkets, superstores, department stores, and jewelry stores.
In addition, they operate food processing and manufacturing facilities, supermarket fuel centers, pharmacies, and in-store medical clinics.
Walgreens Boots Alliance
Year-End Sales (USD millions in 2020): $104,532
Walgreens Boots Alliance is an American holding company that owns Walgreens, Boots, and a handful of pharmaceutical manufacturing, wholesale, and distribution companies.
This organization is divided into three divisions: Retail Pharmacy USA, Retail Pharmacy International, and Pharmaceutical Wholesale, which incorporates Alliance Healthcare. This business operates globally in over 25 countries.
Year-End Sales (USD millions in 2020): $103,694
This American multinational corporation operates a large chain of membership-only warehouses. Headquartered in Issaquah, Washington, the company first opened in 1983 in Seattle.
As of 2019, Costco owned and operated a total of 803 warehouses and employed 254,000 full and part-time employees. In 2020, Costco boasted 105.5 million members. Costco was the first company in history to grow from zero to $3 billion in sales in under six years.
The company carries less distinct products than typical wholesale distributors and is picky about what products it stocks, typically refusing items they feel are priced too high. The company also has no public relations department and has never bought outside advertising to promote their stores or products.
Year-End Sales (USD millions in 2020): $86,608
CVS Health is a healthcare company that owns CVS pharmacies so many of us are familiar with it. Headquartered in Woonsocket, Rhode Island, Consumer Value Stores (CVS) was founded in 1963.
The company offers several over-the-counter private label brands including grocery brands, household products, and beauty and skin products. In 2017, CVS acquired Aetna, completing the acquisition in November 2018.
Year-End Sales (USD millions in 2020): $77,130
This American retailer was founded in 1962, expanding heavily in the 1980s. The company introduced new store formats in the 1990s and has found success in the industry as a cheap but chic player.
As of 2019, Target owned and operated 1,844 stores across the country. They have stores that are the typical Target as well as hypermarkets called “SuperTarget” and small-format stores.
Year-End Sales (USD millions in 2020): $62,455
This American grocery company is headquartered in Boise, Idaho, and operates 2,253 stores as of 2020. The organization grew extensively following its 2015 merger with Safeway for $9.2 billion and smaller acquisitions following.
Albertsons operates stores including Acme Markets, Albertsons and Albertsons Market, Amigos, Andronico’s, Carrs, Haggen, Jewel-Osco, Lucky, Market Street, Randalls, Safeway, Shaw’s, United Supermarkets, Vons, and more.
Year-End Sales (USD millions in 2020): $58,792
Sam’s Club is the second membership-only retail warehouse on our list and is owned and operated by Walmart Inc. It was founded in 1983 and named after founder Sam Walton. As of late 2020, Sam’s Club owned and operated 599 membership warehouses across the United States.
In 2018, Sam’s Club opened a mobile-first retail store where customers could use their mobile apps to scan and pay for products, as well as ordering ahead of time with same-day pickup.
Year-End Sales (USD millions in 2020): $38,116
Most commonly known as Public, this employee-owned supermarket is headquartered in Lakeland, Florida. Publix is a private corporation operating in the southeastern United States as far north as Stafford, Virginia, and as far south as Key West, Florida.
As of the end of 2019, Publix had 1,239 retail locations, cooking schools, corporate offices, grocery distribution centers, and manufacturing facilities.
Year-End Sales (USD millions in 2020): $28,500
This American wholesale distributor of food and grocery store items is headquartered in New Hampshire. C&S Wholesale Grocers owns the Piggly Wiggly grocery brand and the Best Yet private label brand.
The organization provides products and services to Giant-Carlisle, Giant-Landover, Stop & Shop, Safeway, Winn-Dixie, and Target stores.
Year-End Sales (USD millions in 2020): $27,753
The Dollar General Corporation was founded in 1939 and is currently headquartered in Goodlettsville, Tennessee. As of January 2020, the company owns and operates 16,278 stores. Over the years, the company has become one of the most profitable stores in the rural United States.
Their stores sell products from familiar name brands like Clorox, Energizer, Procter & Gamble, Hanes, Coca-Cola, Mars, and more. They also carry a store brand called “DG” which offers inexpensive household products through their stores.
Year-End Sales (USD millions in 2020): $26,300
This privately held supermarket chain is based out of San Antonio, Texas with over 340 stores throughout Texas and northern Mexico.
Their products include general groceries as well as services such as auto health, fuel, ticket sales, utilities, and licenses. H-E-B was ranked #12 on Forbes’ 2019 list of America’s Largest Private Companies. The organization is philanthropic, donating 5% of its pre-tax profits to charities.
Year-End Sales (USD millions in 2020): $21,928
This American drugstore chain is based in Camp Hill Pennsylvania and boasts almost 2500 locations across the country as of 2020. Its first store was based in Scranton, Pennsylvania, and was called Thrift D Discount Center.
It debuted as a public company in 1968 and has since acquired several companies to help their growth, including Muir Drug, Remes Drug, Lippert Pharmacy, Read’s Drug Store, People’s Drug, Hook’s Drug Stores, Thrifty PayLess, Eckerd Pharmacy, Brooks Pharmacy, and more.
In 2015, Walgreens announced that it would acquire Rite Aid, merging two of the United State’s three largest pharmacy chains. However, after meeting several antitrust issues, the merger was canceled, resulting in Walgreens’ purchase of 1,932 Rite Aid stores.
Year-End Sales (USD millions in 2020): $20,350
This American supercenter chain is headquartered in Michigan and serves the midwest. Founded in 1962 as a supermarket chain, Meijer is the pioneer of the modern supercenter concept.
It is one of the largest privately-owned companies in the United States and offers regular grocery items, clothing, footwear, gasoline, bedding, furniture, jewelry, health and beauty products, sporting equipment, toys, housewares, electronics, and pet supplies, among other things.
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