The United States and China are the world's largest and second-largest retail markets, respectively, by total retail sales. This is nothing particularly new; the U.S. has been the leading retail market for decades, but some forecasts show China overtaking it by 2018 to 2020. China already has the largest e-commerce sales in the world; the U.S. comes in second. Rounding out the top five retail sectors are the United Kingdom, Japan and Germany.

It is not very surprising that these five countries represent the largest retail sectors. Japan, Germany, the U.K. and the U.S. are historically great industrial powers with very high standards of living. China makes up for its relatively low standard of living of $13,000 PPP per capita versus $54,000 PPP per capita in the U.S., with an overwhelmingly large consumer base.

Mobile Retailing

Mobile retailing is the fastest-growing segment of the retail sector. The National Retail Federation, or NRF, estimates that by the end of 2015, some 65% of the world's population will have mobile phones. It also estimates that an astonishing 83% of Internet usage will work through handheld devices.

China and the U.S. account for more than 50% of the mobile retail market. However, mobile retail saturation is highest in the U.K. where nearly 15% of all retail sales take place through an Internet connection.

The U.S. Retail Sector

The U.S. retail sector has gross annual sales in excess of $5 trillion at 2014 figures, which accounts for more than 20% of the entire global market. Not only do Americans buy the most retail, but American companies dominate the global retail space.

According to the NRF, half of the top 10 retailers are from the U.S., and nearly 100 of the top 250. Walmart is the undisputed king of retail, with total global revenue figures about 4.5 times as high as second place Carrefour.

  1. What has the retail sector evolved to its current structure?

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  2. How does the long-term outlook of the retail sector compare to the broader economy?

    Find out why the retail sector is primed for strong growth moving forward, especially online retail, and learn why it outperforms ... 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. What are the primary risks an investor should consider when investing in the retail ...

    Learn about the primary risks of investing in the retail sector, such as bad economic conditions, regulation, competition ... Read Answer >>
  5. 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 >>
  6. How attractive is the retail sector for a growth investor?

    Learn how retail's volatile nature makes it attractive to growth investors, and discover the strategies these investors employ ... Read Answer >>
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