The consumer data analysis company Placed has created a list of the most popular stores in America, based on how often people visit them.The data came from surveying Americans to learn how many of them visited a given chain in the past year. Some of the results were surprising, but others were obvious. The main industries that have popular chains are discount retail, fast food, and drug stores. There are several reasons for this. Discount retail is popular because of its low prices for a wide variety of goods. Fast food places have less variety, but they are also cheap, so they attract a lot of people looking for an inexpensive meal. The presence of pharmacies or drug stores might be surprising, because these are not particularly cheap, but the key industry fact that leads to this result is the fact that just a few chains dominate the whole industry. So those chains get many visitors just by crowding out all other options.
The first entry on the list is Walmart. That is not surprising. What might be surprising is the dominance Walmart has - over half of all Americans have visited a Walmart in the last year. That is an amazing statistic, and no other store can match it. Walmart combines rock bottom prices with almost universal presence, so that just about every American lives near a Walmart.
In terms of fast food, McDonalds, Subway, Taco Bell, and Burger King are all major players, with that sweet spot combination of low price and many locations that lets them reach large proportions of the American public. Food tends to do very well in data like this, because people purchase food more often than most other products. That gives food a natural advantage over other industries in terms of how much traffic they get. Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts also have great presence for different reasons. Dunkin Donuts has locations all over the country and low prices for coffee and baked goods. Starbucks is similarly ubiquitous, but they offer high prices. Their popularity is rooted in their branding.
Branding and marketing are clearly important elements in having a lot of popularity. Five of the top ten most popular chains in America are also on the list of the country's biggest advertisers, spending more money on marketing and ads that anyone else. In one sense, this is counterintutive- after all, doesn't everyone know the names of the country's biggest chains? These stores use ads for two reasons. First, they advertise sales, deals, and new items. Next, they advertise so that customers don't stop thinking of them and spend more time thinking about their rivals. Even the most popular stores in America need to advertise to stay relevant.
Of course, having only a few chains in the industry is also a factor in popularity. Dunkin Donuts and Starbucks, McDonalds and Burger King, CVS and Walgreen's- the common factor is that these are industries with just a few major players controlling the whole country. So when so many Americans eat fast food and drink coffee, it is not surprising that the big chains are among the country's most popular brands- anyone who buys coffee probably has at least one Dunkin Donuts or Starbucks nearby. There just isn't much room for other coffee providers.
These big stores form interesting links between Americans - they are a major common element of the American experience because so many different Americans share the same shopping habits. The biggest chains have locations spread out across the country rather than being focused in a particular geographic area. They are able to draw in customers at a high rate all across the nation.