Today, more than ever, retailers need to analyze the key solvency (liquidity) and efficiency financial ratio measures that affect how well their firms perform and to engage in long-term activities that will lead to improved results. Clearly, the recent ‘Great Recession’
has had a significant negative impact on retailers worldwide. Yet, an important question remains largely answered: Was the retail industry a major contributor to the events leading up to the economic crisis or was it an affected bystander shaken by the recession? This paper addresses the question
for US retailing, the largest retail economy in the world. Although there has been considerable research on some aspects of the performance of the industry and individual firms, no prior studies exist that comprehensively examine the financial ratio performance of the totality of US retailing
over time. Here, the financial performance of US retailers in 54 different sectors is analyzed for the 1982–2007 period using a model and data derived from Dun & Bradstreet's annual Industry Norms & Key Business Ratios. Results show that for many financial measures –
such as the current ratio, liabilities to net worth, return on sales (profit margin), return on assets, financial leverage, and return on net worth – US retailing's financial performance has been in a steady decline for decades. The model introduced here is largely validated.