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General Merchandise Retail

General Merchandise Retail

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Executive summary

The Retail Trade sector comprises 12 diverse subsectors of the US economy, from food and beverage stores to motor vehicle and parts dealers. Retailers purchase merchandise from suppliers that is then sold through both brick-and-mortar establishments and nonstore outlets, including via mail-order, door-to-door sales, kiosks and internet mediums. While some products sold by retailers are staples, others are more discretionary in nature. Retail operators have benefited particularly from increases in per capita disposable income and consumer spending, which have enabled consumers to increase their purchases of discretionary goods. In 2020 alone, industry revenue increased 1.9% despite the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic, as e-commerce sales skyrocketed. Overall, sector revenue is anticipated to increase at an annualized rate of 3.5% to $6.9 trillion over the five years to 2022, including a 3.8% increase in 2022.
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Each report includes:

industry revenue;

industry profit;

industry margin;

industry employment;

industry major players;

industry key external drivers;

industry product & structure segmentation;

industry key trends;

industry Life Cycle;

industry Geographic Breakdown;

industry Key Success Factors;

industry Key statistics for previous years;

forecast of industry Key statistics for the next 5 years;

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Reference Wordlist

High barriers to entry mean that new companies struggle to enter an industry, while low barriers mean it is easy for new companies to enter an industry.

Compares the amount of money spent on capital (plant, machinery and equipment) with that spent on labor.
IBISWorld uses the ratio of depreciation to wages as a proxy for capital intensity. High capital intensity is more than $ 0.333 of capital to $ 1 of labor; medium is $ 0.125 to $ 0.333 of capital to $ 1 of labor; low is less than $ 0.125 of capital for every $ 1 of labor.

The dollar figures in the Key Statistics table, including forecasts, are adjusted for inflation using the current year (i.e. year published) as the base year. This removes the impact of changes in the purchasing power of the dollar, leaving only the "real" growth or decline in industry metrics. The inflation adjustments in IBISWorld’s reports are made using the US Bureau of Economic Analysis’ implicit GDP price deflator.

Spending on industry goods and services within the United States, regardless of their country of origin. It is derived by adding imports to industry revenue, and then subtracting exports.

Colloquial Terminology

Items that are similar among retailers, with little or no differentiation.

A large retail store that offers a wide range of product categories.

A hardware or software system that traces where a transaction occurs at a retail establishment or store.

A technology that tracks products from the time they leave the assembly line to the time they leave the store by releasing continuous signals from a chip.


Trends in the domestic economy and consumer behavior have a significant effect on the sector's performance. Over the five years to 2022, growth in per capita disposable income and consumer spending, which have increased at annualized rates of 1.7% and 2.4%, respectively, have driven consumers' purchases of retail goods and enabled them to be choosier when shopping, often opting for high-end and costlier products. An annualized decrease of 3.4% in the unemployment rate have also been beneficial to retailers over the five years to 2022, as additional consumers have been more easily able to make purchases of discretionary items. Consequently, industry profit, measured as earnings before interest and taxes, is anticipated to increase from 2.8% of industry revenue in 2017 to 3.2% in 2022.

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