What Is the Meaning of Retail Sector?

Image of a supermarket.
Image of a supermarket. (Image: adisa/iStock/Getty Images)

The retail sector includes all the shops that sell goods to the ultimate customer, who buys them for personal and not business use. It encompasses all kinds of shops, from kiosks and small groceries to supermarket chains and large department stores. In addition to traditional bricks-and-mortar shops, the retail sector includes mail-order and online businesses.

Largest Retailers

Supermarket chains are usually among the largest retailers in the world. Wal-Mart continues to top the global list in 2014, followed by the UK supermarket Tesco, according to the Global Powers of Retailing report by Deloitte. There are four more U.S. names among the top 10 -- Costco, Kroger, Home Depot and Target.

Retail Sales

The level of retail sales is an important indicator of the health of a country’s economy. Rising retail sales indicate that consumers have more disposable income and confidence. In the United States, retail sales are monitored and reported monthly by the Census Bureau. The retail sales report is watched closely by the investors.

U.S. Retail Sector

According to Plunkett Research, the retail sector employs more than 15 million people in the United States. This equates to 1 in 10 workers. In 2013, retail sales totaled an estimated $5.1 trillion, but U.S. retailers will face challenges in 2014. For example, high unemployment is likely to reduce retail spending, and consumers are focusing on saving and debt repayment rather than spending. Consumers are also predicted to be relatively conservative, looking for bargain prices and value.

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