3 Greatest Retailer Stocks of All Time

The emergence of big-box chain stores and the explosion of e-commerce have combined to wreak havoc on the landscape of modern retailing.

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The emergence of big-box chain stores and the explosion of e-commerce have combined to wreak havoc on the landscape of modern retailing. Storied names such as Sears and Kmart are struggling to survive; others, such as RadioShack and Circuit City, couldn't. But three retailers, in particular, have not only survived but thrived for decades in the cutthroat business, as evidenced by the stellar long-term performance of their stocks.

Hendrik Bessembinder of Arizona State University's W. P. Carey School of Business made this discovery when he analyzed the lifetime returns of 25,782 common stocks over a 90-year span. The finance professor found that 96% of all stocks collectively performed no better than risk-free 1-month Treasury bills. The remaining 4% – just 1,000 stocks – generated all of the nearly $32 trillion in wealth created by the stock market between July 1926 and December 2015. Even more striking, the top 30 stocks accounted for one-third of that amount. Three of the 30 top-performing stocks are retail stocks that are very familiar to even the casual shopper. See for yourself.

Stocks are listed in order of the dollar amount of lifetime wealth creation, which includes reinvested dividends, from lowest to highest. Current stock data as of August 28, 2017. Analysts’ ratings provided by Zacks (opens in new tab). For more details on Bessembinder’s study methodology and findings, download a copy of his paper, "Do Stocks Outperform Treasury Bills?" (opens in new tab)

Dan Burrows
Senior Investing Writer, Kiplinger.com

Dan Burrows is a financial writer at Kiplinger, having joined the august publication full time in 2016.


A long-time financial journalist, Dan is a veteran of SmartMoney, MarketWatch, CBS MoneyWatch, InvestorPlace and DailyFinance. He has written for The Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, Consumer Reports, Senior Executive and Boston magazine, and his stories have appeared in the New York Daily News, the San Jose Mercury News and Investor's Business Daily, among other publications. As a senior writer at AOL's DailyFinance, Dan reported market news from the floor of the New York Stock Exchange and hosted a weekly video segment on equities.


Once upon a time – before his days as a financial reporter and assistant financial editor at legendary fashion trade paper Women's Wear Daily – Dan worked for Spy magazine, scribbled away at Time Inc. and contributed to Maxim magazine back when lad mags were a thing. He's also written for Esquire magazine's Dubious Achievements Awards.


In his current role at Kiplinger, Dan writes about equities, fixed income, currencies, commodities, funds, macroeconomics and more.


Dan holds a bachelor's degree from Oberlin College and a master's degree from Columbia University.


Disclosure: Dan does not trade stocks or other securities. Rather, he dollar-cost averages into cheap funds and index funds and holds them forever in tax-advantaged accounts.