Last week, Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) announced that it sold 35.1 million iPhones worldwide in the latest quarter. The figure is large, but not extraordinary. Some consumer products and consumer electronics companies sell their products to a considerably larger number of customers — in the U.S. alone. 24/7 Wall St. examined the corporations operating in the largest U.S. consumer-based industries to find the largest companies based on customer count.
The customer bases of many of these companies are in the tens of millions. Each company operates in an industry that provides a product or a service to an extremely wide spectrum of American consumers. The leader in each sector reached its position through innovation, longevity or some combination of the two.
Each of the industries on this list serves a very large base of customers. For example, there are thousands of retailers, serving pretty much the entire population, but only Costco is the leader in membership with over 65 million members. Founded in 1983, Costco (NASDAQ: COST) is a relatively new company. It became a success largely because it charges customers a membership fee for access to its stores and in exchange offers extremely low prices that are never marked up more than 15% above the price Costco pays.
Some industries are huge, but only have a small number of competitors. While there are only a handful of national wireless carriers, there are over 330 million wireless subscriptions in the U.S. — more than the population itself. But there are only four competitors of any size — AT&T (NYSE: T), Verizon Wireless, Sprint-Nextel (NYSE: S) and T-Mobile. Each company has to battle for a share of a market that is no longer growing. The weapons the companies use to gain market share are products, customer service and price. AT&T is the leader. Its share of the market is based to some extent on history. It is a descendant from the original AT&T phone monopoly. But without strong products and intelligent pricing there is no assurance it can stay ahead of number two competitor Verizon Wireless.
24/7 Wall St. examined 10 of America’s largest consumer industries and the customer counts for the biggest two or three companies in each sector. We then reviewed the history of each industry in an attempt to find how the top company in each reached its leadership position. To rank the companies, 24/7 Wall St. took each leader and compared it in size to the leaders in the other industries chosen. We used company and industry data to confirm customer counts. Each company in this ranking is the largest company in its industry, based on customer count.
These are the American Companies with the Most Customers.