No Boundaries

The annual State of the Industry Report takes the spotlight in this issue of Chain Store Age, and it makes for some terrific — and illuminating — reading. It’s chock full of great insights and fascinating updates from around the globe. 


Prepared by the brand and design experts at Interbrand Design Forum, this year’s report is entitled “Retail Without Boundaries.” It’s a theme that is pervasive throughout the industry today, as technology and economic realities combine to bring down barriers between retail channels, retail segments and trading countries. Overnight, it seems, a landscape in which boundaries were blurred has been transformed into one where there are none. 


The report’s subtitle, “Innovation from Around the Globe,” is equally timely. It speaks to the energy and creativity that drives and inspires industry. 


From Tesco’s virtual supermarket in a subway station (page 4A) to a groundbreaking drug store (page 12A) to fitting rooms that play music to match the style of clothes being tried on (page 6A), retailers are looking for new ways to engage and connect with customers. As the report so aptly puts it: “The landscape is fairly bursting with innovation.”


The report also contains the Chain Store Age Top 100, our definitive listing of the largest U.S. retailers based on total annual revenues for their most recently completed fiscal year. The list not only speaks to the key role that retail plays in driving the U.S. economy, but also to the resiliency of the industry itself. 


There are no big shake-ups on the Top 100. Wal-Mart Stores is still No. 1 by a mile. No other U.S. retailer comes close to the Bentonville, Ark., retailer in annual revenue. But don’t be fooled. From digital innovation to physical store reinventions to brand extensions, many of the individual players on the list are in the midst of profound transformations. 


In terms of store growth, this past year has seen many of the Top 100 retailers start to push forward again with expansion. Canada and international locales from London to China are the new hot spots for everyone from Target to Gap Inc. 


At the same time, however, there is plenty of growth going on here at home as well. The most active retailers on the list when it came to North American expansion in 2010 were the extreme value players: Dollar General added 544 stores, Dollar Tree another 295, and Family Dollar came in at 200. Those same chains have all committed to ambitious expansion for this year also. 


Other retailers that expanded their U.S. portfolios by a significant number included GameStop, AutoZone, O’Reilly Automotive, Advance Auto and Best Buy (with its freestanding Mobile format). 


The Interbrand report and Top 100 list reinforce one of the industry’s oldest and most basic truisms: Retailing is always changing, always evolving, and it is how individual retailers respond to those changes that will determine their future. 


PS: Just as technology has transformed retail, the same can be said for publishing. Many of the articles in the Interbrand report are accompanied by an icon , which means there is more to see online. To access the bonus content, just snap a photo of the QR code on page 3A with your mobile phone. Or visit interbranddesignforum.com/category/retail-innovation.


mwilson@chainstoreage.com