America’s Most Popular Stores

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5. Walgreens
> Index score, women: 105
> Index score, men: 94
> Store count: 7,821
> One-year stock-price change: +35.9%
> Store category: Department store

As with many retailers, Walgreens was more popular among women than men. Women were 11% more likely to visit Walgreens than men. The company expanded faster than many others recently, with the number of Walgreens locations growing by 2.2% between 2011 and 2012. Walgreen Co. (NYSE: WAG) — the largest pharmacy operator in the nation — was fined $80 million by the Food and Drug Administration last year for failing to properly control distribution of dangerous drugs. According to The New York Times, this was the largest fine ever paid by a pharmacy chain at the time.

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4. Starbucks
> Index score, women: 100
> Index score, men: 100
> Store count: 11,128
> One-year stock-price change: +18.2%
> Store category: Restaurant

Starbucks Corp. (NASDAQ: SBUX) has dominated U.S. coffee sales for years. Its sales have generally continued to grow since its initial public offering in the early 1990s. The coffee chain has changed its product lineup in recent years, introducing a range of foods, including a larger breakfast and lunch menu. The stores also continue to attract coffee drinkers with its free Wi-Fi. Unlike many other popular stores, Starbucks is less segmented by gender or age. As David Shim explains, “Everyone wants coffee.” However, unlike others in the food sector, shoppers making more than $100,000 were far more likely — 58% — to buy cup of coffee at Starbucks than those making less than $25,000.

3. Subway
> Index score, women: 95
> Index score, men: 105
> Store count: 25,900
> One-year stock-price change: N/A
> Store category: Restaurant

Among restaurants, Subway trails only McDonald’s in popularity. While more Americans visit the Golden Arches, by the end of 2010 Subway actually passed McDonald’s in the number of stores globally, at 33,749. Subway’s expansion continued in 2012, with the number of stores growing 3.5% that year, among the biggest increases nationwide among major chains. Subway spent nearly $545 million on advertising in 2012, up 6.1% from the year before, and more than most other U.S. companies.

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2. McDonald’s
> Index score, women: 97
> Index score, men: 103
> Store count: 14,146
> One-year stock-price change: -0.6%
> Store category: Restaurant

McDonald’s was by far the most visited fast-food restaurant in the nation in March. Although McDonald’s remains hugely popular, its U.S. same-store sales declined by 1.7% this quarter from the same quarter the year before, with reports citing slowing service times and heightened competition. Among the company’s plans to draw diners back to its stores is the recent unveiling of the newly redesigned Ronald McDonald, which attempts to make the icon more contemporary and less clown-like. Like several other popular stores, McDonald’s Corp. (NYSE: MCD) has among the nation’s largest advertising budgets, spending $1.4 billion on ads in 2012, up 4.2% from a year before.

1. Walmart
> Index score, women: 106
> Index score, men: 93
> Store count: 4,570
> One-year stock-price change: -0.9%
> Store category: Department store

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (NYSE: WMT) is far and away the nation’s largest retailer, with nearly $329 billion in U.S. retail sales in 2012. Unlike many other popular destinations, Americans earning more than $100,000 a year were far less likely to visit Walmart than the average American. Walmart continues to grow, having increased its U.S. store count 3.3% to 4,570 locations in 2012. Walmart spent $1.8 billion on advertising in 2012, effectively unchanged from the year before, but still more than all but a handful of companies.

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