Pureplays Catching Up to the World’s Largest Retailers

By Julian Thumm | 01 Jun 2016

Forbes’ 2016 Global 2000 list shows e-commerce players like Alibaba and Amazon rising fast through the ranks of the world’s most powerful companies.

Forbes has revealed its 2016 Global 2000 list of the world’s biggest and most powerful public companies and the list reveals some interesting trends across the global retail industry. In particular, the world’s largest e-commerce pureplays are rocketing up the list.

US retail giant Wal-Mart maintained its position as the world’s largest retailer, ranking at 15th overall with sales of more than US$482 billion.¹ Despite shuttering nearly 270 stores this year and investing heavily to strengthen its digital operations, Wal-Mart has comfortably maintained its mantle as world’s largest retailer.

CVS Health pharmacies took out the second place, ranking 62nd overall, while Walgreens Boots Alliances came in third, ranking 107th.

The big movers in this year’s list, however, were the e-commerce players. Amazon jumped more than 200 places since 2014 and is now listed as the world’s eighth-largest retailer according to Forbes’ metrics. While Amazon generates significantly more revenue — at $107 billion — than a number of higher placed retailers, its struggle to turn a substantial profit (at just $596 million) has weighed it down. However, Amazon’s ongoing investment in logistics assets has helped it rapidly climb the list.

Chinese e-commerce powerhouse Alibaba jumped 95 places on this year’s list to reach 174, posting US$15 billion in revenue and an impressive $11 billion in profit.

One unsurprising decline was eBay falling from 252 to 466 in this year’s list. PayPal’s split from eBay in mid-2015 significantly diminished the marketplace giant. PayPal, however, debuted on the list at 423.

While the world’s largest e-commerce players have been rocketing up the list, department stores have struggled. Macy’s for example fell 105 spots to 516th, while Marks & Spencer fell more than 100 places to 816. Department stores have been slow to adapt to the digital age and refine their offering to evolving customer demands.

While traditional department store retailers have struggled, fast fashion retailers have performed well, with brands like H&M (459) and Zara (310, under parent company Inditex) maintaining strong positions.

While shoppers have been reluctant to pour money into department stores, home improvement retail has been strong. Lowe’s and Home Depot have both jumped several spots suggesting that shoppers are still willing to invest in and around the home.

Visit Forbes for the full searchable list.

¹ Positions on the list are measured by a composite score of revenues, profits, assets and market value.

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