An annual list of the top 100 of the largest retailers was released Monday with the usual suspects at the top, led by Bentonville, Ark.-based Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (NYSE: WMT), with its staggering $453.9 billion in global sales in 2011, a sum larger than the next four companies on the list who are themselves perennial members of the top 10: The Kroger Co. (NYSE:KR) from Cincinnati, Target Corporation (NYSE: TGT) from Minneapolis, Walgreen Company (NYSE: WAG) of Deerfield, Ill., and Costco Wholesale Corporation (NASDAQ: COST) of Issaquah, Wash.
This year's list, released by STORES Media of the National Retail Federation and global retail consulting firm Kantar Retail,shows Pleasanton, Calif.-based Safeway Inc. (NYSE: SWY) rejoining the top 10 list that it was dropped from in 2008, with global sales of $41.9 billion and 5.6 percent year-to-year growth.
But out of the list of 100 retailers, only eight have maintained double-digit sales growth since 2009, a time of jobless recovery and staggered consumer confidence:
Amazon.com Inc. (NASDAQ: AMZN) -- The Seattle-based online retailer, which is ranked No. 15 on this year's list, is the only company that has kept double-digit sales growth throughout the latest economic downturn. In its slowest year, 2009, the company's sales grew by a fourth. Last year Amazon saw global sales grow by 46.2 percent, or $47.7 billion.
Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL) -- Sales from Apple Stores/iTunes has grown robustly, led by strong growth in international online buys. The Cupertino, Calif.-based computer giant saw sales grow by 32.3 percent in 2010 and 36.9 percent last year, to $18.4 billion.
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Dollar General Corporation (NYSE: DG) -- The discount retailer from Goodlettsville, Tenn., has sliced out a huge piece of the discount-retailer pie. From nearly 10,000 stores in 39 U.S. states, Dollar General grossed $14.8 billion in sales, a 13.6 percent rise from the previous year, when sales grew by 10.5 percent.
Nordstrom Inc. (NYSE: JWN) -- Another retail titan from Seattle, this one with bricks and mortar, Nordstrom has managed to weather the economic uncertainties of recent years by generating sales growth from its 225 stores in 30 states, of 11.9 percent in 2010 and 12.7 percent in 2011, to $10.4 billion.
Whole Foods Market Inc. (NASDAQ: WFM) -- Sales in the natural and organic food supermarket chain headquartered in Austin, Tex., grew 11.9 percent in 2010 and 12.1 percent last year, to $10.1 billion. The retailer owns 311 stores, mostly in the U.S. (in 38 states and the District of Columbia) but also in Canada and the UK.
ALDI Group (privately held) -- One of two foreign chains on the list of top sales growers for the past two years, the German discount grocery store chain runs 1,135 stores in 30 U.S. states. It focuses on developing cheap land, usually in city outskirts, and selling a relatively small array of goods from warehouse pallets instead of display shelves. The company has seen sales growth in its U.S. operations based out of Batavia, Ill., balloon 12.1 percent in 2010 and 10.2 percent last year, to $9.2 billion. This represents just over one-fifth of the company's worldwide sales.
Alimentation Couche-Tard Inc. (Toronto: ATD.B) -- Operating in the U.S. under the Circle K brand, this Laval, Quebec-based convenience-store chain saw 10.7 percent sales growth two years ago and 16.6 percent in 2011, to $6.9 billion. The company's U.S.-based operations -- which generated about 70 percent of all of its sales -- are headquartered in Tempe, Ariz.
Tractor Supply Company (NASDAQ:TSCO) -- This Brentwood, Tenn.-based retailer serves the rural farm-and-ranching niche, selling a wide array of goods targeting this demographic from 1,085 stores, including agricultural maintenance equipment, horse supplies, and work clothing and footwear. The company saw sales growth of 13.5 percent in 2010 and 16.3 percent last year, to $4.2 billion.