Miscellaneous General Merchandise Stores

SIC 5399

Companies in this industry

Industry report:

This industry classification includes establishments primarily engaged in the retail sale of a general line of apparel, dry goods, hardware, housewares or home furnishings, groceries, and other lines of limited amounts. Stores selling commodities covered in the definition for department stores, but normally having less than 50 employees, and stores usually known as country general stores are also included in this industry. Establishments primarily engaged in the retail sale of merchandise by television, catalog, and mail-order are classified in SIC 5961: Catalog and Mail-Order Houses.

Industry Snapshot

The U.S. Census Bureau subdivides the miscellaneous general merchandise stores industry into seven groups: miscellaneous general merchandise stores, country general stores, surplus and salvage stores, army and navy goods stores, catalog showroom stores, duty free stores, and warehouse club stores. Warehouse club stores generate over 95 percent of the industry's revenues; country general stores account for approximately 2 percent; and the remainder is spread among the other sectors. States with the highest number of establishments in this industry in the early 2010s were Texas, California, Florida, and New York. Total sales in the industry in 2011 exceeded $6.2 billion according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

A handful of major players dominate this retail industry segment in the United States. Arkansas-based retail giant Wal-Mart Stores Inc., the world's number one retailer, topped the list in fiscal year 2011, with sales of $421.8 billion and 2.1 million employees. In 2009 Wal-Mart operated 8,710 stores worldwide, about half of which were located in the United States. As of 2011, its U.S.-based establishments included 700 discount stores, 2,900 Walmart Supercenters (combination discount and groceries), and 610 Sam's Club warehouse stores.

Minneapolis-based Target Corp. followed Wal-Mart, with fiscal year 2011 sales of $67.3 billion and 355,000 employees. Target claimed a large share of the general merchandise market with approximately 1,750 stores. Located in 49 states, these included regular Target stores spanning about 126,000 square feet, as well as 145,000-square-foot Target Greatland stores and 175,000-square-foot SuperTarget stores. After years of struggling to turn around its department store division, Target sold its Marshall Field's stores to Federated, and Mervyn's department stores to an investment consortium for $1.2 billion in 2004. The company future was promising in the early 2010s as it sought to expand its grocery offerings, as well as expand into Canada in 2013.

Headquartered in Issaquah, Washington, Costco Wholesale Corp. was another industry leader, with 2011 sales of $88.9 billion and 164,000 employees. Costco was the nation's largest operator of warehouse clubs in the early 2010s. About 65 million club members frequented Costco's 590 stores in 40 states and several foreign countries, choosing from an array of roughly 4,000 products, many in bulk packaging.

Based in Grand Rapids, Michigan, family-owned general merchandise and grocery chain Meijer Inc. reported estimated sales of $14.2 billion in fiscal year 2011. The company operated more than 200 stores in several states in the Midwest, about half of which were in Michigan, with the others located in Ohio, Illinois, Kentucky, and Indiana. Meijer employed about 77,200 people in the early 2010s. Its stores, which were open 24 hours a day, 364 days a year, were between 200,000 and 250,000 square feet in size and offered patrons a selection of some 120,000 items.

The miscellaneous general merchandise stores industry also includes discount/closeout merchandisers like Dollar General Corp., with 2011 sales of $13.5 billion and 85.900 employees; Family Dollar Stores, with 2011 sales of $8.5 billion and 52,000 employees; Dollar Tree, Inc., with 2011 sales of $5.8 billion and 63,680 employees; and Big Lots Inc. (the nation's largest closeout retailer), with 2011 sales of $4.9 billion and 35,600 employees.

Despite the economic recession at the end of the first decade of the 2000s, mainstays in the discount and general merchandise industry maintained a stable, if not positive, bottom line. Wal-Mart reported a total net sales increase of 7.2 percent and 8.6 percent in fiscal years 2008 and 2009, respectively. Growth was based on global expansion efforts, increases in comparable store sales, and acquisitions. Wal-Mart experienced both an increase in customer traffic and average transaction size per customer in 2009. Similarly, Costco reported an increase of 12.5 percent in net sales between 2007 and 2008 and net income increased 18.5 percent to $1.28 billion from $1.08 billion in 2007.

The overall retail sector, however, experienced a decline during 2008 and 2009, with holiday sales very depressed. Discount stores fared better because shoppers were looking for inexpensive products and discounts because they had less disposable income. IBISWorld reported that between 2011 and 2016, "dollar and variety stores are expected to perform well by targeting low-income households and thrifty customer," while "Revenue will continue to grow, as operators capitalize on rising consumer sentiment and demand for one-stop-shops" for big box stores.

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