Retail is the catch-all phrase for the sale of final goods to consumers; a retail transaction is considered an "end" and is not intended for resale. The retail sector may be the most diverse industry in the United States, encompassing everything from agriculture to automobiles to clothing. There are two major types of retailers, traditional and franchises, and hundreds of possible subsectors. Major retailer companies include Wal-Mart, Kroger, Costco, Target, Home Depot and Amazon.

Defining a Retail Sale

Some goods and services are sold to other businesses or for the use of achieving another economic end. For instance, lumber may be sold to a construction company and used to build a house. These types of sales are not considered "final" in the economic sense.

Other sales are made to nonbusiness customers with the ultimate purpose of being consumed. If lumber is purchased by a family to add to a deck on its home, the family does not expect to then sell the deck and make a profit on the lumber purchase. This sale is considered final and is therefore considered retail.

Size of the Retail Sector

The retail sector is enormous. In every year since 2012, total retail sales in the United States has exceeded approximately $5 trillion in total revenue. In 2014, global retail sales exceeded $22 trillion, with the largest countries including the United States, Japan, the United Kingdom and Germany.

Online Retail

The fastest-growing subsector in the retail world lives online. Amazon blazed the trail for Internet-based "e-commerce," and total retail sales exceed $300 billion in the United States alone. Online retailers also benefit enormously by avoiding most sales taxes.

In 2013, total consumer retail spending grew by less than 7%. By comparison, online retail spending grew by 14%. Consumers are increasingly able to purchase retail items from their mobile devices and have goods delivered directly to their homes.

  1. What portion of the global economy is represented by the retail sector?

    Learn the size of the global retail sector and how fast e-commerce is catching up; find out how close China is to overtaking ... Read Answer >>
  2. What profit margin is usual for a company in the retail sector?

    Find out the typical profit margin for a major retail company, and learn how it compares to the profit margins for other ... Read Answer >>
  3. What factors are the primary drivers of share prices in the retail sector?

    Find out which factors investors need to consider when evaluating companies in the retail sector, including the basic fundamentals. Read Answer >>
  4. How does stock evaluation of an electronic retailing (e-tailing) business differ ...

    Learn how stock evaluation of an Internet retailer differs from a brick-and-mortar retailer. Since 2005, online commerce ... Read Answer >>
  5. How does government regulation impact the retail sector?

    Learn about the types of federal agencies and regulations that retail businesses have to deal with, including inconsistent ... Read Answer >>
  6. Why is the strategy of 'always be closing' (ABC) popular in retail sales?

    Understand how the term ''always be closing'' is related to retail sales. Learn about the benefits and drawbacks of selling ... Read Answer >>
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