As consumers across North America searched, often desperately, for essential items during the COVID-19 outbreak, they—not surprisingly—turned first to the best-known retailers. These mostly large merchants also tended to have the most inventory, which became a crucial differentiator as factory shutdowns created shortages of many in-demand products. Both factors helped the biggest retailers in the 2021 Digital Commerce 360 Top 1000 grow the fastest.
Just the 12 largest retailers by web sales in this year’s ranking of North America’s leading web merchants accounted for 71.4% of the growth in Top 1000 sales from 2019 to 2020, growing collectively by 56.3%. Amazon.com Inc., No. 1 in the Top 1000, was a big part of that growth—but by no means most of it.
In fact, Amazon’s robust growth, which includes its commissions from sales by marketplace sellers and other seller fees as well as sales of its own merchandise, of 41.4% by Digital Commerce 360’s estimate was not sufficient to keep the leading e-retailer from losing market share to some of its biggest competitors. For example, Walmart Inc. (No. 3) grew online by 79.0%, Best Buy Co. Inc. (No. 5) by 144.4% and Target Corp. (No. 6) by 145.0%.
Eight of the top 12 retailers in the Top 1000 operate physical stores, demonstrating that at least some store-based merchants can survive amid the shift to online shopping.
Overall, the Top 1000—all companies based in the United States, Canada or Mexico—increased their global online sales by 45.8% in 2020 over the prior year. Just within North America, their online sales increased by 45.6%, well above the 34.2% growth in online retail sales in the three countries of North America. Counting all retailers and not just the Top 1000, the online share of total North American retail revenue increased to 16.8% from 13.1% in 2019.
The online share of retail sales jumped to 19.6% in 2020 from 15.8% a year earlier. And that’s a far cry from the 7.1% share of retail sales in 2011. These percentages exclude items like vehicles, gasoline and fuel oil that are rarely purchased online.
Growth was concentrated among the top internet retailers
The gains made by the larger Top 1000 retailers stand out when you divide the Top 1000 by sales into 10 groups of 100. The fastest growth was among those ranked 1-100, as those large merchants increased their online sales by 50.9% in 2020 over 2019. The second-fastest growth was among the companies ranked 101-200, at 38.0% growth.
Together, the top 200 retailers in the Top 1000 increased web sales by 48.1% to $795.13 billion in 2020 from $536.80 billion in 2019. And they accounted for 90.1% of Top 1000 sales in 2020, up from 88.7% a year earlier. The 100 largest merchants alone generated 84.4% of Top 1000 sales in 2020 versus 82.6% in 2019.
And, while in recent years the midsized retailers in the bottom half of the Top 1000 grew almost as quickly as their bigger rivals, that wasn’t the case in 2020. The top half of the Top 1000 increased their online sales by 50.9% in 2020 over 2019, compared with only 23.5% for the retailers ranked Nos. 501-1000. And this was a rare case where Amazon’s growth of only 41.4% dragged down the growth rate of the Top 500—without Amazon the other 499 top e-retailers grew by 63.9%.
It was quite a different story in 2019, when the retailers in the bottom half of the Top 1000 grew by 15.7%, not far below the 16.3% for the Top 500 merchants. And, when taking Amazon out of last year’s totals, the other 499 leading online retailers grew by only 14.9%, a bit slower than the retailers ranked Nos. 501-1000.
In short, online sales growth in 2020 was concentrated among the biggest retailers to an extent we haven’t seen in recent years.
Here is what’s included in the 2021 Digital Commerce 360 Top 1000 report:
- 60+ charts and graphs detailing the state of ecommerce, fastest-growing retailers online and a full list of all Top 1000 retailers
- Data on important developments from 2020, such as bankruptcies and acquisitions, ecommerce penetration, consumer insights and more
- Key trends that emerged from the 2021 Top 1000, including the ecommerce reality behind the GameStop social media frenzy, the biggest e-retailer winners and losers on Wall Street, and Amazon’s continued domination of the market
- Insights into each merchandise category and merchant type Digital Commerce 360 tracks
For more information about the 2021 Digital Commerce 360 Top 1000 Report click here.