Everyone has their favorite grocery store, but something about H-E-B inspires a fanatical devotion usually reserved for boy bands. (Full disclosure: I have a tattoo of store mascot H-E-Buddy on my left arm.) Now, that fandom helped propel it to become not only the top grossing retailer in Texas, but one of the top retailers in the nation.
On August 15, the National Retail Federation trade association released its annual list of the top 100 retailers in America. Based on 2017 stats, the San Antonio-based H-E-B landed at No. 20 on the list with a whopping $21.94 billion in sales, coming in ahead of powerhouses like Kohl’s, Starbucks, Nordstrom, and Wendy’s.
The ranking is even more impressive when you consider H-E-B’s number of stores. A handful of other grocers made the top 20, but H-E-B reached its figure with only 330 stores. Compare that to Florida’s Publix Super Markets (No. 15) who made $34.56 billion with 1,384 locations or Illinois-based discount grocer Aldi, who netted $25.86 billion with 2,250 outposts.
Here in Austin, H-E-B continues to dominate the market over competitors like Randalls and Whole Foods Market, not only because it offers more stores, but offers them in diverse neighborhoods across the city.
What inspired so many Texans to open up their wallets? The NRF didn’t offer any context, but in June, professional services firm KPMG LLP conducted a study asking U.S. consumers to rate their feelings on 250 national brands. H-E-B landed at No. 4 among those companies in large part due to its focus on local communities through programs that honor educators and invest in area nonprofits.
The grocery giant also endears itself to Texans by being a great place to work. In late July, Forbes ranked H-E-B as one of America’s 300 best workplaces for women, using data that covered everything from diversity to working conditions.
H-E-B was the only San Antonio retailer to make NRF’s power list, but the Lone Star State was well represented in the top 50 by Dallas-Fort Worth’s 7-Eleven (No. 32); AT&T Wireless (No. 35); and J.C. Penney Co. (No. 38). A handful of other Texas companies, ranging from Irving-based craft store Michaels (No. 88) to Dallas luxury legend Neiman Marcus (No. 93) cracked the top 100.