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20 Most Popular Stores in America

Thomas C. Frohlich and Samuel Stebbins

Walmart is the most popular store in America. More than half of all shoppers in the country visit a Walmart location in a given month. Apart from the discount store, only McDonald’s can claim a majority of Americans as customers.

24/7 Wall St. reviewed foot traffic figures at major U.S. stores provided by data service company Placed Insights. According to Placed Insights, which monitors on a monthly basis hundreds of thousands of American consumers, the most popular stores are primarily fast food, discount retail, and pharmacy chains. There are two gas stations on the list, Shell and 7-Eleven.

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The nation’s most-visited stores are popular for a range of reasons. One of the main reasons is likely the sheer size of some of these companies. With 14,155 McDonald’s restaurants and 13,429 Dollar Tree locations nationwide, the two chains are virtually ubiquitous. Similarly, Walmart, the world’s largest retailer, has enough stores in every state to be widely accessible to most Americans.


20. Best Buy (BBY)
> Pct. of consumers visiting in April: 15.0%
> Number of U.S. stores: 1,335
> Latest annual revenue: $39.4 billion
> Net income: $1.2 billion
> Store category: Consumer electronics retail

Best Buy’s revenue has steadily declined from a long-term high of $50.7 billion in fiscal 2012. By fiscal 2017, revenue declined to $39.4 billion, a 22% drop from five years prior. Despite the increased competition from online retail giant Amazon.com, Best Buy remains one of the most popular stores with American consumers. An estimated 15% of the U.S. population visited at least one of the electronics retailer’s 1,335 locations across the 50 states last month alone.

Best Buy, like many brick-and-mortar retailers, has struggled as a result of customers coming into stores to try out products, only to later buy them online. Some of Best Buy's foot traffic may be people who are engaging in this “showrooming.”

19. Rite Aid (RAD)
> Pct. of consumers visiting in April: 15.2%
> Number of U.S. stores: 4,536
> Latest annual revenue: $32.9 billion
> Net income: $4.1 million
> Store category: Drug retail

Rite Aid is the third largest retail drugstore in the United States by number of stores, revenue, and the number of American visitors each month. Rite Aid has some 4,536 locations across 31 states and Washington D.C. Like the other pharmacies on this list, prescription drug sales comprise the majority of Rite Aid’s annual sales. Prescription medication accounted for 68.3% of total fiscal 2017 sales, while beauty aids and general merchandise accounted for about 21.5% of all sales. An estimated 15.2% of Americans visited a Rite Aid location last month.

18. Dollar General (DG)
> Pct. of consumers visiting in April: 15.3%
> Number of U.S. stores: 13,429
> Latest annual revenue: $22.0 billion
> Net income: $1.3 billion
> Store category: General merchandise stores

As is generally the case for discount stores, Dollar General, one of two dollar stores on this list, thrives during recessions when more consumers are pressed for money and look for cheaper options. While Dollar General (and investors pessimistic about the economy) flourished during the recent recession, it seems the demand for cheap goods has remained strong well into the recovery -- based on the dollar store’s ongoing business success. Dollar General posted net sales of $21.99 billion in its fiscal 2017, up from $20.37 billion the previous year, and from $18.91 billion the year before.

17. United States Postal Service
> Pct. of consumers visiting in April: 16.8%
> Number of U.S. stores: 12,000
> Latest annual revenue: $71.5 billion
> Net income: -$5.6 billion
> Store category: Air freight and logistics

While by no means a guarantee of financial success, high foot traffic often indicates a business is doing well. It is no coincidence that many of the companies on this list are among the largest in the nation by both revenue and profit. The United States Postal Service is the exception. USPS reported losses of close to $5.6 billion in its latest fiscal year.

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16. Dunkin' Donuts (DNKN)
> Pct. of consumers visiting in April: 17.1%
> Number of U.S. stores: 8,828
> Latest annual revenue: $828.9 million
> Net income: $195.6 million
> Store category: Restaurants

Coffee is very popular in the United States. This partially accounts for the large number of Americans who regularly visit Dunkin’ Donuts -- 17.1% of people nationwide went to the coffee and donut chain in April. According to the National Coffee Association, 62% of Americans drink coffee every day, up from 57% in 2016. In 2017, out-of-home coffee consumption reached a record high of 46%, according to the NCA.

15. 7-Eleven
> Pct. of consumers visiting in April: 17.2%
> Number of U.S. stores: 8,500
> Latest annual revenue: N/A
> Net income: N/A
> Store category: Food retail

The Japanese conglomerate Seven & i Holdings announced this spring that its convenience store chain 7-Eleven would acquire approximately 1,100 stores and gas stations from petroleum company Sunoco. The acquisition is expected to complete this August. The company’s stated plan is to increase its U.S. store count to over 10,000 from the current 8,500 locations. If the company’s aim to expand 7-Eleven’s U.S. presence is successful, the convenience store’s popularity will likely increase. In April, approximately 17.2% of Americans went to a 7-Eleven.

14. Lowe's (LOW)
> Pct. of consumers visiting in April: 17.8%
> Number of U.S. stores: 2,129
> Latest annual revenue: $65.0 billion
> Net income: $3.1 billion
> Store category: Home improvement retail

Home prices and demand for home improvement supplies have a major impact on business at Lowe’s, one of two hardware retailers among the most popular stores in America. With the ongoing housing and economic recovery, Lowe’s reported a profit of $3.09 billion in its fiscal 2017 on revenue of $65.02 billion -- both up from the year before. In another display of both the store’s popularity and perhaps business success, Lowe’s announced in June its acquisition of Maintenance Supply Headquarters, a distributor of repair and operations products operating in the multifamily housing industry, for $512 million.

13. Wendy's (WEN)
> Pct. of consumers visiting in April: 19.9%
> Number of U.S. stores: 6,537
> Latest annual revenue: $1.4 billion
> Net income: $129.6 million
> Store category: Restaurants

Most people do not eat out every day. Still, because people generally eat several times a day, restaurants and stores in the food retail category have an inherent edge competing for foot traffic. Like the other popular fast food restaurants reviewed on this list, Wendy’s is nearly ubiquitous in the United States, further boosting frequency of visits. As of January, there were over 6,000 Wendy’s locations in the 50 states and D.C. -- the vast majority of which operated as franchises. Nearly one in every five Americans went to Wendy’s in April.

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12. Shell (RDS-A)
> Pct. of consumers visiting in April: 20.2%
> Number of U.S. stores: 14,000
> Latest annual revenue: $233.6 billion
> Net income: $4.6 billion
> Store category: Integrated oil and gas

Americans drove a total of 3.1 million miles in 2015, more than in any previous year and more than double the total vehicle miles driven in 1980. In recent years, lower gasoline prices have made driving more affordable for motorists again, and Americans are more likely to fill up at Shell than at any other gas station. In a given month, about one in every five Americans goes to one of Shell’s 14,000 locations across the United States.

11. The Home Depot (HD)
> Pct. of consumers visiting in April: 20.5%
> Number of U.S. stores: 1,977
> Latest annual revenue: $94.6 billion
> Net income: $8.0 billion
> Store category: Home improvement retail

The U.S. housing market has recovered substantially since the height of the Great Recession. New housing starts bottomed out at only 478,000 in April 2009. In April 2017, there were 1.2 million new housing starts, a level of residential construction not seen for over seven years. Home improvement retail giant The Home Depot has benefitted tremendously from improved economic conditions and the resulting construction boom. About 20.5% of Americans visited a Home Depot location last month, and the company reported $94.6 billion in revenue in fiscal 2017, up 6.9% from the previous year and up 13.7% from fiscal 2015.

10. Burger King
> Pct. of consumers visiting in April: 21.8%
> Number of U.S. stores: 15,738 (worldwide)
> Latest annual revenue: $1.1 billion
> Net income: $815.9 million
> Store category: Restaurants

Though it is slightly less popular than some competitors such as McDonald’s and Taco Bell, Burger King is one of the most popular destinations for American consumers. According to the fast food company, more than 11 million people eat every day at Burger King's 15,738 locations worldwide, and last month alone, 21.8% of Americans visited a franchise location in the United States.

9. Taco Bell (YUM)
> Pct. of consumers visiting in April: 22.4%
> Number of U.S. stores: 6,604 (worldwide)
> Latest annual revenue: $2.0 billion
> Net income: $593.0 million
> Store category: Restaurants

Louisville, Kentucky-based Yum! Brands, Inc. is the company behind fast food restaurants such as Pizza Hut, KFC, and Taco Bell. Within five years of its founding in 1962, Taco Bell opened its 100th location. Today, there are 6,604 Taco Bell locations, primarily in the United States, visited by some 22.4% of the U.S. population in the last month -- a larger share than any other Yum! Brand property. However, because KFC is more popular globally than Taco Bell, the fast food chain accounts for less than a third of the parent company’s revenue, while KFC accounts for about half.

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8. Dollar Tree (DLTR)
> Pct. of consumers visiting in April: 22.5%
> Number of U.S. stores: 14,108
> Latest annual revenue: $20.7 billion
> Net income: $321.8 million
> Store category: General merchandise stores

Popularity rankings among U.S. stores do not tend to change significantly. Dollar Tree moved from 10th place in foot traffic in April 2016 to eighth place this last April -- one of the only shifts in year-over-year ranking out of the 20 most popular stores.

Compared to other most-frequented businesses, Dollar Tree reports the lowest share of male visitors and highest share of female visitors, at 38.6% and 61.4%.

7. CVS (CVS)
> Pct. of consumers visiting in April: 26.7%
> Number of U.S. stores: 9,709
> Latest annual revenue: $177.5 billion
> Net income: $5.3 billion
> Store category: Drug retail

More than one in four Americans visited at least one of CVS’s 9,709 locations nationwide last month. CVS has over 90 million pharmacy plan members and is the largest pharmacy in the United States by total revenue. In addition to drug sales, the company also has a retail segment, which, while accounting for a smaller share of revenue than prescription drugs, is more profitable.

6. Target (TGT)
> Pct. of consumers visiting in April: 28.5%
> Number of U.S. stores: 1,802
> Latest annual revenue: $69.5 billion
> Net income: $2.7 billion
> Store category: General Merchandise Stores

With locations in every state except for Vermont, an estimated 28.5% of Americans visited at least one of the 1,802 Target shopping centers last month. While Target is primarily known as a brick-and-mortar retailer, in keeping with current consumer trends, online sales are accounting for a growing share of the company’s revenue. Some 4.4% of Target’s 2016 sales were online, up from 3.4% in 2015 and 2.6% in 2014.

5. Walgreens (WBA)
> Pct. of consumers visiting in April: 35.1%
> Number of U.S. stores: 8,184
> Latest annual revenue: $117.4 billion
> Net income: $4.2 billion
> Store category: Drug retail

Pharmacy and convenience store chain Walgreens has some 8,184 retail locations nationwide. Most of Walgreen’s annual sales, $83.8 billion, came from its retail pharmacy operations in the US. The pharmacies in Walgreens stores accounted for 67% of the sales in the segment, and its retail pharmacy department, the sales of health-related over-the-counter goods, accounted for the remaining 33%. Walgreens also fills prescriptions for Medicaid assistance programs in many states. Revenues from these programs accounted for 4% of 2016 sales in the segment. More than one in three Americans set foot in a Walgreens last month.

4. Starbucks (SBUX)
> Pct. of consumers visiting in April: 35.5%
> Number of U.S. stores: 13,172
> Latest annual revenue: $21.3 billion
> Net income: $2.8 billion
> Store category: Restaurants

U.S. consumers spent an estimated $74.2 billion on coffee in 2015 -- and Starbucks is one of a few companies on this list that benefitted. Starting with a single store in 1971, the Seattle-based coffee company is now one of the most popular stores in the country, attracting some 35.5% of the U.S. population in the last month. Starbucks has some 13,172 U.S. locations and thousands more around the world.

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3. Subway
> Pct. of consumers visiting in April: 39.0%
> Number of U.S. stores: 26,362
> Latest annual revenue: N/A
> Net income: N/A
> Store category: Restaurants

With about 41,500 stores worldwide, including over 26,000 U.S. locations, there are more Subway restaurants than any other restaurant chain. Domestically, the sandwich shop is quite popular, attracting 39% of Americans in a April, up from 34% in the same month last year. With increasingly health-conscious customers concerned about the growing obesity epidemic, Subway’s popularity grew dramatically from 5,000 locations in 1990 to 30,000 less than 20 years later. The strategy may be weakening, as Subway closed approximately 359 U.S. locations in 2016, the largest number of closings by the company in its history.

2. McDonald's (MCD)
> Pct. of consumers visiting in April: 54.8%
> Number of U.S. stores: 14,155
> Latest annual revenue: $24.6 billion
> Net income: $4.7 billion
> Store category: Restaurants

Nearly half of American consumers visit McDonald’s in a given month, making the fast food chain the most visited restaurant and the second most popular store in the United States. Popularity is usually a strong indication of business success, but while McDonald’s remains one of the most successful companies in the U.S., sales have been flat in recent years. Nationwide sales at the burger chain have declined in recent years, falling from $27.4 billion in 2014, to $25.4 billion in 2015, and to $24.6 billion in 2016. While foot traffic likely declined over the same period, McDonald’s rank has not changed for several years. According to a recent American Consumer Satisfaction Survey, the fast food chain provides the worst service compared to 16 other limited-service restaurants.

1. Walmart (WMT)
> Pct. of consumers visiting in April: 56.4%
> Number of U.S. stores: 4,672
> Latest annual revenue: $481.3 billion
> Net income: $13.6 billion
> Store category: Hypermarkets and Supercenters

Most American consumers visit a Walmart location in a given month. Walmart is by far the largest retailer both domestically and globally. The retail giant reported net sales of $481.3 billion last year, up from $478.6 billion in 2015 -- a larger revenue than the GDP of most countries. While foot traffic tends to 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, more than 260 million people visit its 11,695 worldwide stores every week. No U.S. retailer is more popular than Walmart.

Detailed Findings and Methodology:

As the nation’s most popular stores, these companies also tend to dominate their respective markets. By revenue, Walmart is the largest retailer; McDonald’s is the largest fast food chain; CVS is the largest pharmacy; and Shell is one of the world’s largest oil and gas companies.

The popularity of these stores may be due in part to the nature of their businesses. Restaurants, convenience stores, and pharmacies are businesses that sell goods consumed with relative frequency. People must eat on a daily basis. Some Americans go to McDonald’s more than once per day. Discount clothing and drugs are also needs that Americans can potentially purchase with regularity.

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Price also appears to be a factor in popularity, as more than half of the 20 most trafficked stores are either fast food chains or discount retailers. Placed Insights CEO David Shim has stated that restaurants dominate the list of popular stores primarily not just because of the high frequency of visits, but also because the product is very affordable.

To determine the nation’s most popular stores, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed data provided by data service company Placed Insights, which calculated the percentage of Americans 13 and older who visited various stores in April 2017. The shares of men and women visiting these stores also came from Placed Insights. We also reviewed U.S. sales and store count data reported in recent company financial documents. Revenue, profit, and store count figures for Dollar Tree include Family Dollar.

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