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Walmart, Target, Home Depot top list of 50 most valuable U.S. retail brands

BY Marianne Wilson

Dayton, Ohio — Walmart takes the top spot on a ranking of the most valuable U.S. retail brands from branding consultancy firm Interbrand. The discounter’s brand value is put at a whopping $139 billion. By comparision, the second highest ranked U.S. brand, Target Corp., has a value of $23 billion.

The annual Most Valuable Retail Brands report ranks the top 50 U.S. retail brands by brand value, as well as the top retail brands from the U.K., France, Germany, Spain, and the Asia Pacific. The U.S. brands are valued for the fourth time in collaboration with Interbrand Design Forum, Dayton, Ohio.

With the exception of a couple of shifts in positioning, the top 10 U.S. brands remain almost unchanged from last year. The one exception: eBay made the top 10 for the first time, replacing Dell, which is no longer eligible for contention with its shift from branded stores to its enterprise business. The fastest-growing brand in the top 10 is Amazon.com, whose brand value increased by 32% over last year.

Here are the top 10 retail brands:

  1. Walmart (Brand value: $139,190 billion)
  2. Target ($23,444 billion)
  3. The Home Depot ($22.020 billion)
  4. CVS/pharmacy ($17,343 billion)
  5. Best Buy ($16,755 billion)
  6. Walgreens ($15,018 billion)
  7. Coach ($13,442 billion)
  8. Sam’s Club ($12,854 billion)
  9. Amazon.com ($12,758 billion)
  10. eBay ($9,805 billion)

"One of the most compelling lessons from the list is that the best brands didn’t stand idly by, waiting for further signs of recovery. They contributed to it by anticipating their customer’s desire to return — not to shopping as usual — but to something better," said Bruce Dybvad, CEO of Interbrand Design Forum. "For the most part, companies have invested in better store experiences and put more capabilities into the hands of their shoppers."

Looking beyond the U.S. list, Tesco (U.K.), Carrefour (France), Aldi (Germany), Zara (Spain), and Woolworths (Asia Pacific) are ranked as the number one retailer in their respective markets — all holding their top spots from 2011.

Visit BestRetailBrands.com to download the full report.

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Colliers: Nine trends to watch in retail

BY Marianne Wilson

Seattle — The marriage of brick-and-mortar with mobile e-commerce and the likelihood of more big-box stores moving into urban areas are among the nine trends to watch this year, according to commercial real estate services firm Colliers International.

The trends are detailed in Collier’s annual U.S. Retail Highlights: 2012 Outlook, an in-depth report that chronicles current retail conditions along with the trends that will shape the 2012 retail landscape.

1) A wild ride for equities in retail real estate investments: U.S. equities markets will continue to react to news on any and all economic indicators, including ongoing news of store closings.

2) U.S. manufacturing improvement accelerates: Look for sales of big-ticket items to improve as consumer optimism (and beat-up cars and fridges) releases pent-up demand for durables. In this environment of low interest rates, businesses and households may be more comfortable with — or more capable of — taking on new debt.

3) "Customer experience" will trump "price" in the value equation: Retailers increase value by either lowering their prices or increasing the quality of their "customer experience," which means removing every potential barrier that stands between converting a customer’s interest to purchase, into the intent to purchase. Innovation in improving the customer shopping experience whether online, or in the store, will be the key.

4) Retailers will roll out more limited editions, exclusives and mobile-device specials: 2011 retail sales piqued shopper interest through exclusives and limited editions (Missoni label at Target) or with "limited-time offers" (LTOs) that drove traffic. LTOs generate urgency in a shopper who must be "sold" before parting with her money, especially for a full-price item. Merchandise and deals only available online or via a mobile device are expected to increase this year.

5) More strategic acquisitions across brands, assets, property sectors, and technology platforms: Retailers are investing in smaller companies to enhance their multichannel integration. Strategic acquisitions allow the acquirer to extend their brand outside its core competency, such as Starbucks picking up juice bar concept Evolution Fresh.

6) Distressed retail property asset pipeline begins to move: Data shows that more than $350 billion in commercial real estate loans will mature both this year and in 2013. The opportunity for retail investment lies between the trophy assets still trading at low cap rates, and the large pool of marginal, low- or no-cash flow assets that can’t be refinanced, which will either default on maturing debt or be transacted in a "fire sale."

Also, more institutional players will be scouting around for retail portfolios (public REITs are sitting on huge capital reserves).

7) Foreign investors turn to retail in United States: Yield-seeking investors need places to park their money, and the stability of U.S. property markets still make them attractive destinations for "flight capital." Recent data confirms that the U.S. is still a leading destination for global capital flows. Among property types, foreign capital may now look to shopping centers or broken land deals in space-constrained or high-growth markets.

8) Expanded capacity, but still stringent underwriting: Non-performing real estate loans remain highly problematic for all banks, but stronger regional banks have slowly resumed commercial lending. As mortgage production ramps up, investors will see banks being more competitive, but with far more stringent underwriting standards. Properties need to demonstrate solid cash flow and real net operating income (NOI), assume conservative rent increases, and any loans approved will be recourse, except for the best customers.

9) Urban site-seeking retailers, including big boxes, are back in force: The economic crisis hit suburban communities much harder than their urban counterparts, so as retailers seek out lower-risk growth opportunities, underserved urban areas fall firmly within the crosshairs. Blocked out of urban areas in the past because their stores were too big, big-box retailers now have two options: 1) They can go in with their large-format stores, as renewed interest in urban locations coincides with municipalities’ worsening fiscal problems…or, 2) Retailers can test small-format store options, take infill space, and co-opt share from smaller local operators.

Mark Keschl, national director of retail for Colliers, expressed optimism about the overall state of retail.

“Even if economic indicators remain inconclusive for the next few quarters, the retail space is poised to generate a lot of headlines as the competition to win shoppers’ hearts and wallets grows ever more fierce. 2012 should be a promising year," he said.

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Christopher & Banks CEO resigns

BY Marianne Wilson

Minneapolis — Christopher & Banks Corp. said CEO Larry Barenbaum resigned from all his positions in the company, effective Friday.

The struggling retailer, which posted a $22.2 million loss in fiscal 2011, named president Joel Waller as interim CEO. It said it has formed a committee to search for a permanent CEO.

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