As research began on the 2019 TWICE Top 100, the biggest question around the water cooler was whether Amazon would finally overtake Best Buy for the No. 1 spot on the retail sales charts.
The notion is hardly far-fetched. Despite Best Buy’s recent return to growth mode under soon-to-be former CEO Hubert Joly, Amazon has been busy pole-vaulting its way up the rankings, cracking the top 25 in 2002, and the top 10 in 2008.
After leapfrogging the once seemingly invincible Walmart for the second-place perch, the e-tailer has been stubbornly shadowing Best Buy, with only about $2 billion in sales, or roughly 6 percent of Best Buy’s annual tech take, standing between the two. Even last year’s revenue gains were in lockstep, with Best Buy up 1 percent and Amazon ahead by 0.8 percent.
So while Best Buy retained the crown in 2018, the question now becomes, can it keep it going forward? Clearly Amazon’s CE juggernaut has slowed, as it becomes increasingly difficult to lap past gains once market share nears saturation. At the same time, Best Buy is undergoing a major management transition, with turnaround architect Joly about to pass the chief executive torch.
A wild card in all this is third-place Walmart, which remains a formidable merchandising force and has been throwing all kinds of money at online operations and in-store innovations. Though $10 billion behind Amazon and down 2 percent in CE sales last year, the discounter is the sole U.S. retailer with the resources and clout to take on its two top tech competitors.
Honorable mention must also go fourth-ranked Apple, which, with $15.4 billion in sales, completes the eight-figure revenue club. The largely proprietary tech business blew the socks off its Top 100 brethren with an 11.5 percent sales gain last year, compared to the aggregate 0.9 percent increase, thanks to its elegant products, hyper-productive showrooms and retail price hikes.
Together the fearsome foursome — Best Buy, Amazon, Walmart and Apple — accounted for a staggering 71 percent of all sales across the Top 100, which itself represents better than 90 percent of total U.S. consumer tech sell-through.
See also: Top 100 CE Sales Top $140 Billion
Rounding out the Top 10 are:
Costco (No. 5) and Target (No. 6), each with finite CE assortments but the national presence to be a force in the industry. Costco’s tightly edited good-better-best offering earned it a 1.5 percent sales gain last year, while Target’s more amorphous merchandising approach (limited TV selection, heavier focus on gaming) cost it a 2 percent decline.
GameStop (No. 7) won a brief reprieve with last year’s release of “Call of Duty: Black Ops 4,” which helped boost U.S. comps nearly 4 percent during the critical holiday selling season, and drove a 2.7 percent sales gain for the year. Nonetheless, the shift to direct downloads from console makers and game developers, and the growing popularity of PC gaming, have left the company in an existential bind, and following the death last year of CEO and chief strategist Paul Raines, GameStop began shedding its ancillary mobile businesses and searched unsuccessfully for a buyer.
As mentioned, PCs were a hot category last year, particularly gaming and other super-amped varieties, and major proponents Dell and Micro Center were among the chief beneficiaries. Dell’s outstanding 6 percent sales increase on direct-sale orders pushed it up a notch from ninth to eighth place on the Top 100, while that curious egg, Micro Center, a multiregional chain built around the personal computer, garnered a 7 percent increase in sales and the ninth slot on the rankings, up from 10th place the prior year.
Speaking of eggs, Newegg — which rose from the ashes of the great dot-com crash of 2000 to become the largest CE-specific e-tailer — was displaced on the Top 100 by Dell and Micro Center. But its 2 percent sales gain, and nearly $2.8 billion in sell-through last year, helped preserve its place among the top 10.