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Retail Trade Industry
The United States has well-established distribution channels for all types of retail companies.

SelectUSA Retail Trade Industry

Retail Trade Industry

The retail services industry provides an openly competitive environment that fosters strong business operations and spurs innovations that increase efficiency and reliability. According to the National Retail Federation, the total GDP impact from 4.2 million retail establishments in the United States reached $3.9 trillion in 2018. The U.S. retail industry is the largest private-sector employer in the country, directly employing about 32 million people (16.0 percent of national total employment) and supporting more than 52 million jobs. (The National Retail Federation includes retail trade and food and beverage drinking establishments.) Numerous opportunities for growth exist in the U.S. retail market for retail providers of all sizes, including individual direct marketers or direct sellers, small- to medium-sized franchise unit owners, and large “big-box” store operators. In 2019, FDI in the U.S. retail industry reached $156.7 billion and employed 863,300 workers, 5 percent of total employment in the retail trade.


The store retail industry includes motor vehicle and parts dealers; clothing and clothing accessories stores; food and beverage stores; and gasoline stores. In 2019, foreign direct investment contributed $155.6 billion to the store retail industry, including $40.2 billion in food and beverage stores; $64.5 in health and personal care stores; and $12.8 in clothing and clothing accessory stores. In 2018, total employment by foreign-owned businesses in the store retail industry reached over 850,000 employees, representing 6 percent of employment in the store retail industry. The most recent employment figures estimated almost 14.7 employment in the store retail industry by the end of 2020. 

The most common occupation in the store retail industry is retail salespersons. As of 2019, almost 4 million workers were employed as retail salespersons, earning an average annual wage of $29,250 across all retail trade. The other most common occupations are cashiers (almost 3 million employees earning an average annual wage of $24,380) and stockers and order fillers (1.4 million employees earning an average annual wage of $27,350).


The nonstore retail industry includes includes electronic shopping, vending machine operators, and direct selling establishments. In 2019, foreign direct investment contributed $1.1 billion to the nonstore retail industry. According to the most recent employment figures, the industry employed an estimated 572,200 workers by the end of 2020. 

The most common occupations in the nonstore retail industry are customer service representatives (74,360 employees earning an average annual wage of $34,630 as of 2019); laborers and freight, stock, and material movers by hand (36,500 employees earning an average annual wage of $31,380); and shipping, receiving, and inventory clerks (24,060 employees earning an average annual wage of $33,150).


Franchising has provided business opportunities in the United States for more than 150 years. The model is widely embraced because it provides an established plan for business expansion and a means of spreading risk. Franchising also offers assistance and support for new business owners by passing on a proven business model, along with training and support, advertising programs, and accounting and payroll management.

Franchising offers products and services in over 300 business categories, including food and beverage, lodging, health and educational services, professional services, auto care, accounting and tax services, real estate, home services, IT services and retail products.  As a leading job creator in both the U.S. and abroad, franchising continues to prosper in markets all over the world, no matter their level of development or sophistication.

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Federal Interagency Investment Working Group

Learn about the more than 20 federal agencies and relevant bureaus that comprise the IIWG.

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Investor Guide

The Investor Guide is a high-level view of everything from taxes to immigration and workforce to business structures.

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SelectUSA Stats

SelectUSA has created several dashboards to help analyze key FDI data from a variety of sources.

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Industry Associations
A comprehensive list of associations in the retail trade industry.
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Browse this state incentives database developed by the Council for Community and Economic Research (C2ER).
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