Special Report

10 Most Popular Stores in America

Walmart is the most popular store in America. More than half of all shoppers in the country visited a Walmart location in March. No other U.S. store could claim a majority of Americans as customers that month.

America’s most-visited stores are popular for a variety of reasons. According to Placed, a data service that monitors the behavior of more than 500,000 American consumers in March, the most popular brands are primarily in the fast-food, discount retail and pharmacy segments.

Click here to see the most popular stores in America. 

Half of the most-visited retailers are fast-food chains. Placed founder and CEO David Shim explained that while you don’t need household supplies every day, you need to eat every day, so people are generally more likely to visit restaurants than many other types of stores. The lower prices at fast-food chains also helps them to attract consumers, Shim noted.

Consumers also regularly shop at the country’s biggest drugstore chains and big-box retailers. In addition to selling widely purchased goods, these retailers have the most locations in the country. Walgreens and CVS Caremark (NYSE: CVS) each had more than 7,500 U.S. locations in 2014, among the most stores nationwide. Food chains were even more numerous. Subway, McDonald’s (NYSE: MCD) and Starbucks (NASDAQ: SBUX) each had well over 11,000 U.S. locations.

Many of the most popular stores with consumers tended to have large advertising budgets. According to Shim, “From our perspective, [advertising] dollars do matter in terms of driving traffic in the store.” In fact, five of the 10 most popular stores were among the top spenders on advertising nationwide in 2013, according to Advertising Age, a magazine providing market and industry data.

To determine the nation’s most popular stores, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed data from Placed, which calculated the percentage of American shoppers who visited various stores in March 2015. We also reviewed fiscal 2014 U.S. sales and store count data came from recent company financial documents, as well as advertising expenditure figures from AdAge in 2012 and 2013.

These are the most popular stores in America.

10. Dollar Tree (NASDAQ: DLTR)
> Pct. of Americans visiting in March: 18.90%
> Number of U.S. stores: 5,157
> Store category: Shopping

Nearly 19% of American consumers visited a Dollar Tree in March, making the discount retailer the 10th most visited store in the country. As opposed to many other discount variety stores, Dollar Tree boasts a price tag of literally one dollar for a substantial portion of its merchandise. While Dollar Tree is not a restaurant, about half of its merchandise is consumable, which may help increase the volume of the store’s customers. Since food is generally purchased more frequently than other goods, stores selling consumable products like food usually have more visitors, independent of their popularity. There are 5,157 Dollar Tree stores in the country. Since its acquisition of Family Dollar in January, however, the company’s total store count has increased dramatically. Dollar Tree now controls more than 8,100 Family Dollar stores.

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9. Taco Bell
> Pct. of Americans visiting in March: 19.52%
> Number of U.S. stores: N/A
> Store category: Food & beverage

Taco Bell is one of five restaurant chains among the most popular stores in America. As David Shim explained, food is consumed much more regularly than many other products, which partly accounts for the popularity of restaurants over stores operating in other industries. Taco Bell is one of three major subsidiaries, including KFC and Pizza Hut, controlled by Yum! Brands (NYSE: . There were about 6,200 Taco Bell restaurants worldwide in 2014, and the Mexican-inspired food chain reported total revenues of $1.9 billion, and operating profits of $480 million. According to Shim, Taco Bell’s popularity improved slightly from last year. Shim attributed Taco Bell’s improvement to aggressive advertising in the past year.

8. Burger King
> Pct. of Americans visiting in March: 19.90%
> Number of U.S. stores: N/A
> Store category: Food & beverage

Burger King is a subsidiary of Restaurant Brands International, a Canadian holding company that also controls Tim Hortons. The merger of the two restaurant chains in 2014 was intended to reduce future U.S. tax payments. As part of the holding company, Burger King is now headquartered in Canada. There are approximately 13,960 Burger King restaurants worldwide, one of the highest store counts of any company in the world. With so many locations, it is perhaps not surprising that 19.9% of all American consumers visited a Burger King in March, making it the eighth most popular store in the country.

7. CVS
> Pct. of Americans visiting in March: 21.85%
> Number of U.S. stores: 7,775
> Store category: Health & medicine

CVS, the massive retail pharmacy chain based in Woonsocket, Rhode Island, has roughly 200,000 employees in approximately 7,800 stores located around the country. In March, 21.85% of American shoppers visited one of the locations. Last year, the company made headlines by deciding to cease all tobacco sales, citing the paradox of being a health services provider and selling products like cigarettes. Larry J. Merlo, president and CEO, explained, “Put simply, the sale of tobacco products is inconsistent with our purpose.”

6. Target (NYSE: TGT)
> Pct. of Americans visiting in March: 23.83%
> Number of U.S. stores: 1,790
> Store category: Shopping

While Target’s investment in Canadian markets in 2011 ended in failure — the company took a $5.4 billion writedown on the international venture — the retailer is still among the most popular stores in the U.S. Nearly 24% of American consumers visited a Target at least once in March. Large advertising spending may help keep the retailer’s visitation volumes high. Target spent roughly $1.7 billion on advertising in 2013, one of the 100 largest annual marketing budgets of all U.S. companies.

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5. Walgreen Co.
> Pct. of Americans visiting in March: 28.53%
> Number of U.S. stores: 8,188
> Store category: Health & medicine

Walgreen Co. is one of several drug retailers among the most popular stores in America. Pharmaceutical drug use has been on the rise in recent years, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects health-related jobs to grow faster than almost any other occupation. As one of the world’s largest health products retailers, Walgreen Co. will likely continue to benefit from its position in the industry. The company spent roughly $526 million on advertising in 2013 — among the 100 largest such expenditures nationwide — which also likely helped maintain the store’s popularity.

4. Starbucks
> Pct. of Americans visiting in March: 31.81%
> Number of U.S. stores: 11,962
> Store category: Food & beverage

As a testament to how well established the company brand is, Starbucks is the fourth most popular store in the country. As of last year, however, the company wasn’t even in the top 100 for advertising dollars spent. While the coffeehouse chain does not outspend its peers on advertising, its customers outspend those frequenting other chains. Starbucks’ visitors tend to have higher incomes than the clientele of many other popular fast-food restaurants. In fact, the areas with the most Starbucks restaurants are also among the nation’s most affluent regions. Over the past decade, researchers have observed a close relationship between rising real estate prices and growing concentrations of Starbucks stores.

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3. Subway
> Pct. of Americans visiting in March: 37.41%
> Number of U.S. stores: 26,985
> Store category: Food & beverage

Doctor’s Associates, Subway’s parent company, invested more than $573 million in marketing in 2013. Like several of the most popular stores, this advertising expenditure was among the 100 largest in the U.S. and likely contributed to the restaurant’s popularity. Subway has far and away the highest number of stores compared to other fast food chains, with over 25,000 locations worldwide. While Subway is a privately held company and does not generally publish its U.S. sales, a recent report from research firm Technomic placed the sandwich chain’s nationwide annual sales at about $12 billion, trailing only Starbucks and McDonald’s.

2. McDonald’s
> Pct. of Americans visiting in March: 48.40%
> Number of U.S. stores: 14,350
> Store category: Food & beverage

There are roughly 16,000 McDonald’s restaurants nationwide, and the fast-food chain is more popular than every U.S. store, except for Wal-Mart. More than 48% of American consumers visited a McDonald’s in March. McDonald’s reported sales by company-operated stores of $18.2 billion in 2014, down from the previous year. Revenues from franchised restaurants, on the other hand, at $9.3 billion, were up slightly from 2013. Like many other popular stores, McDonald’s is among the 100 top advertising spenders. In 2013, the company spent $1.4 billion on marketing, up from the previous year.

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1. Walmart (NYSE: WMT)
> Pct. of Americans visiting in March: 51.91%
> Number of U.S. stores: 4,516
> Store category: Shopping

More than half of all American consumers visited a Walmart in March, the highest such share among all U.S. companies, and the only store to command a majority of American shoppers’ business. Walmart spent more than $1.8 billion on advertising in 2013, which has likely helped bolster visitation rates. While this expenditure was the 13th largest nationwide, it was only a fraction of the retail behemoth’s total revenues. In its fiscal 2015, Walmart reported revenues of $485.7 billion, by far the largest revenue figure of any company in the world.

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