Special Report

The Most Popular Stores in America

5. Walgreens (NASDAQ: WBA)
> Pct. of consumers visiting in April:
> Number of U.S. stores: 8,309
> Store category: Drug stores

Just over 30% of all American consumers Walgreens drug store in a given month. Only 23.4% of American consumers visited CVS, the second most popular drug store. Despite its wider customer base, Walgreens reported $76.4 billion in net sales in its fiscal 2014, considerably less than the $139.4 billion CVS reported in its fiscal 2014. This likely means CVS customers are spending more than Walgreens customers. CVS relies more on costly drug sales at its pharmacies than Walgreens.

Walgreens has been closing stores in recent years. The company’s store count dropped by 273 locations between fiscal 2013 and fiscal 2014. The drugstore chain’s advertising budget, on the other hand, increased. The company spent $266.8 million on advertising in 2014, up from $239.4 million in 2013.

4. Starbucks (NASDAQ: SBUX)
> Pct. of consumers visiting in April:
> Number of U.S. stores: 7,559
> Store category: Specialty eateries

The first Starbucks opened in Seattle in 1971, deriving its name from a character in Herman Melville’s novel “Moby Dick.” Since then, the chain has expanded rapidly, becoming the most popular coffee franchise in the country. In a given month, 31.2% of all Americans visit Starbucks, a larger share than all but a handful of other businesses. Like other stores offering food, the high frequency of visits to Starbucks helps increase unique foot traffic. The company also markets itself as a community gathering place, a venue for both meeting friends and conducting business. This may also further increase the frequency of visits. As of September, 2015, there were over 7,559 Starbucks locations in the United States.

3. Subway
> Pct. of consumers visiting in April:
> Number of U.S. stores: 26,960
> Store category: Restaurants

Subway has 43,945 restaurants worldwide, and 26,960 in the United States, more than any other restaurant. The sandwich chain’s popularity rose dramatically over the past several decades. Approximately 34% of Americans visit a Subway in a given month, trailing just two other stores for foot traffic.

According to industry research firm IBISWorld, amid the growing obesity epidemic, Subway has been able to attract increasingly health-conscious customers. However, due in part to rapid growth from competitors such as Chipotle Mexican Grill, Firehouse Subs, and other build-your-own-meal fast food chains, Subway sales have floundered in recent years. The sub shop, owned by holding company Doctor’s Associates, increased its advertising budget by 3.7% from $513.6 million in 2013 to $532.6 million in 2014 — the 20th largest U.S. advertising expenditure of any company.

2. McDonald’s (NYSE: MCD)
> Pct. of consumers visiting in April:
> Number of U.S. stores: 14,259
> Store category: Restaurants

Nearly half of American consumers visit McDonald’s in a given month, making the fast food chain the most visited restaurant in the United States and the second most popular store in the country. Nationwide sales at the burger chain have declined in recent years, falling from $27.4 billion in 2014 to $25.4 billion in 2015. While foot traffic may have declined at the same time, McDonald’s rank has not changed for several years. McDonald’s spends more on advertising than any other store on this list and more than all but three other U.S. companies. The fast food chain’s advertising budget was $935.1 million in 2014, down 4.2% from 2013, when the company spent $975.7 million.

1. Walmart (NYSE: WMT)
> Pct. of consumers visiting in April:
> Number of U.S. stores: 4,574
> Store category: Variety stores

A majority of American consumers visit Walmart in a given month. Walmart is by far the largest retailer in the United States and the world. The retail giant reported net sales of $478.6 billion in 2015, down from $482.2 billion the year before but still a larger revenue than the GDP of most countries. While foot traffic may have declined and will fluctuate over the course of the year, Walmart’s position at the top of this list has been undisputed for many years. According to the company, nearly 260 million people visit its 11,500 worldwide stores every week. In the United States, no retailer is more popular. Walmart is the only store where more than half of American consumers visit at least once in a given month.

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