Amidst supply chain issues and inflated shipping costs, global trade continued to grow last year, reaching an estimated $28 trillion in 2021—a 23% increase compared to the year prior.
Which countries are the central nodes of the global trade network? While China is currently the world’s largest trading partner, this hasn’t always been the case.
This series of graphics by Anders Sundell outlines the history of the world’s biggest trade hubs, showing how the landscape has evolved since 1960. Using netgraphs, each visual connects countries to their primary trading partner, using data that includes both imports and exports.
1960: A Period of U.S. Trade Dominance
International trade has existed for millennia, and had previously been accomplished through famous trade routes like the Silk Road, which transported luxury goods from China to Europe since the first century BCE.
However, our story begins in the 1960s—just before containerization spread from the United States around the world, transforming global trade forever.
View the full-size infographic
In the 1960s, the U.S. was experiencing its post-war economic boom. Consumer spending was driving swift economic growth, and a rising middle class led to increased demand for luxury goods like TVs and cars. In response to this rising demand, U.S. factories that had been essential to the war effort swooped in quickly, and domestic production began to thrive.
Around the same time, legislation that encouraged international trade was being passed through Congress. In 1962, President John F. Kennedy signed the Trade Expansion Act into law, allowing the American government to negotiate massive tariff cuts with other countries. This ultimately led to the Kennedy Round two years later, which was a series of trade negotiations that resulted in lower tariffs and reduced barriers on exports for developing countries.
Across the pond, Europe was going through its own series of changes in the 1960s. While Britain was the most important player in trade in Europe at the time, the country was also struggling to recover from the financial burden of the two world wars.
Simultaneously, European countries were also banding together in an attempt to balance power and eliminate hegemony within Europe. In 1960, the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) was created, creating free trade agreements between Austria, Denmark, Norway, Portugal, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom.
1990: The Emergence of China
By 1990, the world’s international trade landscape was on the cusp of dramatic change.
View the full-size infographic
For starters, Britain’s global trade dominance had dwindled further, and a newly united Germany had stepped up to pick up the slack. Germany’s automobile industry started to expand rapidly around this time. In 1990, Germany exported 2.6 million cars worldwide, which was fewer than Japan shipped that year, but still enough to make Germany one of the most important trade hubs at the time.
1990 was also around the same time that China was starting to emerge as a global leader. The country’s economy had been picking up steam over the previous decade, thanks to a series of reforms brought on by then-leader Deng Xiaoping that were created to encourage foreign investment and boost international trade.
This new focus on economic growth in China spurred the rapid expansion of free trade zones in the country, which granted certain areas special liberties on importing and exporting goods.
Throughout the 1990s, China’s economic prosperity continued, and its role in international trade became increasingly significant. Finally, at the end of the decade, China became a member of the World Trade Organization, giving the country an unparalleled opportunity to establish itself further as a major global trading partner.
2020: A New World Order
By 2020, China had overtaken the U.S. as the world’s biggest trade partner. But as the country’s influence grew, so did tensions between the U.S. and China.
View the full-size infographic
In 2018, the Trump administration set tariffs on more than $360 billion in goods, in an effort to encourage Americans to purchase domestic products. In response, China set its own tariffs on more than $110 billion worth of U.S. goods.
The conflict is still ongoing, and so far, there’s no clear winner in sight. The tariffs and trade barriers have hurt both countries, and with bilateral trade sputtering, many are left wondering if the peak of globalization is well behind us.
This article was published as a part of Visual Capitalist's Creator Program, which features data-driven visuals from some of our favorite Creators around the world.
Ranked: The 20 Best Franchises to Open in the U.S.
Considering factors like the cost of investment and number of locations, this graphic breaks down the best franchises in the U.S.
Ranked: The 20 Best Franchises in the U.S.
The U.S. is famous for chain restaurants, franchised shops, and brand name hotels. One thing these franchises aim for is consistency in store feel, customer service, product offerings, and prices, no matter which state you’re in.
This visualization uses Entrepreneur’s annual Franchise 500 Ranking to showcase the best franchises in the U.S. worth owning, from Dunkin’ Donuts to Snap-on Tools.
The Best and How They Were Selected
The report assessed five broad categories to score the country’s famous chains:
- Costs & fees: including franchise fee, total investment needed to open one store, and royalty fees
- Support: including training times, marketing support, operational support, franchisor infrastructure, financing infrastructure, and litigation
- Size & growth: including open & operating units, growth rate, and closures
- Brand strength: including social media, system size, years in business, years franchising
- Financial strength & stability: including franchisor’s audited financial statements
A franchise was only considered if it was actively seeking new franchisees and must have already had at least 10 units operating.
Here’s a closer look at the top 20:
|Rank||Franchise||Initial Investment Needed||Global Units 2022|
|#1||Taco Bell||$576K - $3.4M||7,900|
|#2||Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen||$384K - $3.5M||3,851|
|#3||Jersey Mike's Subs||$194K - $955K||2,402|
|#4||The UPS Store||$122K - $508K||5,464|
|#5||Dunkin'||$438K - $1.8M||12,957|
|#6||Kumon||$67K - $146K||26,527|
|#7||Ace Hardware||$292K - $2.1M||5,746|
|#8||Culver's||$2.3M - $5.8M||871|
|#9||Hampton by Hilton||$12.3M - $22.8M||2,824|
|#10||Wingstop||$315K - $948K||1,873|
|#11||Tropical Smoothie Cafe||$277K - $584K||1,142|
|#12||Arby's||$629K - $2.3M||3,561|
|#13||KFC||$1.4M - $3.2M||26,498|
|#14||McDonald's||$1.4M - $2.5M||39,696|
|#15||Wendy's||$330K - $3.7M||7,049|
|#16||Servpro||$217K - $271K||2,050|
|#17||Smoothie King||$264K - $1.2M||1,373|
|#18||7-Eleven||$125K - $1.3M||81,887|
|#19||Budget Blinds||$141K - $212K||1,378|
|#20||Snap-on Tools||$201K - $465K||4,771|
The number one franchise, Taco Bell, has been in business since 1964 and has 7,900 locations as of 2022, spanning beyond the U.S. to Canada, Australia, Europe, and other regions of the world. The average cost of investment to be a franchisee is between $576,000 to $3.4 million.
While most of the top 20 are in the food service industry, there is also one hotel, one shipping company, and a few hardware and home goods stores that make the list.
Ace Hardware (#7), for example, which specializes in home improvement goods, is actually an international franchise with close to 6,000 units. Kumon (#6) is an education center and is the only non-U.S. franchise on the list.
The Feasibility of Being a Franchisee
To get a better sense of the costs needed to start a franchise, let’s take a look at one of the most famous convenience stores in the world. Here’s a sample of the different fees involved in 7-Eleven’s initial franchisee process:
|Initial Franchise Fee||$0 - $1,000,000|
|Initial Investment||$125,250 - $1,333,500|
|Cash Requirement||$50,000 - $250,000|
|Veteran Incentives||10-20% off franchise fee, up to $50,000; preferred interest rates and special financing|
|Ad Royalty Fee||1%|
|Term of Agreement||15 years|
|Is franchise term renewable?||Yes|
In terms of low-cost franchises, 7-Eleven is among one of the cheapest to open, according to Entrepreneur, sometimes costing less than $150K. Other franchises with lower cost barriers of entry include UPS ($122K – $508K) and Cinnabon ($112K – $547K).
There is more to consider than cost, of course, and some franchises provide better support than others in aspects such as financing, industry training, or legal support. Popeye’s, for instance, provides in-house financing for their franchise fee, as well as connections with third-party sources to help cover equipment, inventory, payroll, and other expenses.
Looking at feasibility in regards to opportunities, some of the fastest-growing franchises include chains like Jersey Mike’s Subs and Wingstop. Here’s a closer look at the Franchise 500’s fastest growing list:
- #1 Stratus Building Solutions
- #2 Jersey Mike’s Subs
- #3 Goosehead Insurance
- #4 Signal
- #5 Wingstop
In total there are almost 800,000 franchises in the U.S. The franchise market in the country has an economic output of over $825 billion and employs over 8.4 million people. With many of these franchises continuing to grow and seek new franchisees, there is ample opportunity in the market.
Markets2 weeks ago
The 25 Worst Stocks by Shareholder Wealth Losses (1926-2022)
Precious Metals9 hours ago
200 Years of Global Gold Production, by Country
Jobs4 weeks ago
Charted: Youth Unemployment in the OECD and China
Technology2 weeks ago
Visualizing Google’s Search Engine Market Share
Markets3 weeks ago
The Monthly Cost of Buying vs. Renting a House in America
Money2 weeks ago
Visualized: How Long Does it Take to Double Your Money?
Misc3 weeks ago
Ranked: The World’s Largest Stadiums
Maps2 weeks ago
The Incredible Historical Map That Changed Cartography