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Great Lakes Economy: Examining the Cross-Border Supply Chain

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If the region surrounding the Great Lakes was its own country, it would be the 3rd largest economy in the world with a GDP of $6 trillion. That’s bigger than Japan or Germany, and certainly a force on the global stage.

However, this highly-integrated Great Lakes economic engine is different than many others – that’s because it has an international border right down the middle of it. The area’s five massive freshwater lakes are actually nestled right between eight U.S. states and two Canadian provinces, making frictionless trade a necessity to stay competitive in global markets.

How This Supply Chain Works

Today’s infographic comes to us from the Council of the Great Lakes Region, and it details the integration of the cross-border supply chain that helps the region make goods that are competitive in international markets.

The Great Lakes Economy: The Cross-Border Supply Chain

In today’s extremely competitive and borderless global economy, many goods that get produced are ultimately the result of a group effort.

Both large and small companies rely heavily on highly specialized suppliers from all parts of the globe to get what they need to build the best product. Luckily, in the Great Lakes economy, one does not have to go far to find goods or services to fill these gaps.

Goods of the Great Lakes

1. Manufacturing

Both the automotive and aerospace industries are incredibly important to the United States and Canada – and within the Great Lakes region, these industries are highly integrated to compete on a global level.

In the auto sector, supply chains rely on parts to come from multiple companies in both the U.S. and Canada. In some cases, automobiles may contain components that have crossed the border up to 18 times before the finished product reaches the final car lot.

The aerospace supply chains between the United States and Canada are also highly interdependent. In 2016, for example, Canada was the fifth largest foreign market for U.S. aerospace exports, valued at approximately $8.3 billion. Meanwhile, the United States is also Canada’s largest aerospace market, receiving 60% of all Canadian aerospace exports.

2. Mining and Energy

Manufacturers in the Great Lakes don’t have to look far for the raw materials needed to manufacture autos and airplanes. These can be found nearby, along with other key metals and minerals.

Some key examples? Pennsylvania produces important met coal, which is used to produce steel, while Minnesota is the largest producer of iron ore in the United States. North of the border, Quebec’s aluminum is becoming more important for auto and aerospace producers in both Michigan and Ontario. As a whole, the Great Lakes region produces billions of dollars worth of minerals every year.

Although the Great Lake states are not known for their crude oil production, they are home to three of the country’s 10 largest refineries. Processing oil from the U.S., Canada, and other international sources, these refineries make sure fuel is abundantly close for Great Lakes industry.

3. Food and Agriculture

While goods vary greatly from place to place, the food industry is also very interconnected in the Great Lakes. For example, Pennsylvania benefits from selling chocolate products to Canada, while Minnesota and Ohio both sell animal feed.

Every year, Great Lake states ship $8.4 billion of exports to Canada, receiving $8.9 billion of imports in return.

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Which Retailers Operate in the Most Countries?

From fast-fashion giant H&M to Apple, we show the top retailers globally with the largest international presence.

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This treemap shows the top retailers operating in the most countries in 2023.

The Top Retailers Operating in the Most Countries

This was originally posted on our Voronoi app. Download the app for free on iOS or Android and discover incredible data-driven charts from a variety of trusted sources.

Today, international expansion is a key growth strategy for the world’s top retailers as companies target untapped markets with the highest potential to drive revenue and profit streams.

While traditional retailers have sought out digital strategies as the industry evolves and consumer behaviors change, physical storefronts continue to be a dominant driver of retail sales. In 2023, brick-and-mortar sales comprised 81% of retail sales globally.

This graphic shows the top retailers operating in the most markets worldwide, based on data from the National Retail Federation.

Global Retailers With the Largest International Footprint

Here are the global retailers with the widest-reaching presence around the world in 2023:

RankingRetailerNumber of Countries of First-Party OperationHeadquarters
1H&M68🇸🇪 Sweden
2IKEA51🇳🇱 Netherlands
3Inditex45🇪🇸 Spain
4Decathlon34🇫🇷 France
5Carrefour32🇫🇷 France
6Sephora (LVMH)31🇫🇷 France
7Schwarz Group30🇩🇪 Germany
8Fast Retailing27🇯🇵 Japan
9Euronics International25🇳🇱 Netherlands
10Apple25🇺🇸 U.S.

Notably, eight of the top 10 companies with the widest market reach hail from Europe.

Fast-fashion giant H&M ranks first overall, with 4,454 stores across 68 countries last year. In 2023, the Swedish company earned $21.6 billion in revenues, with its largest markets by number of store locations being the U.S., Germany, and the UK. This year, it plans to open 100 new stores in growth markets, along with shutting down 160 stores in established locations, ultimately decreasing its global store count.

In second is IKEA, with a presence in 51 countries. Last year, the company expanded its footprint in India, launching its first store in the tech hub, Hyderabad. While the company has a broad international reach, its number of storefronts is a fraction of H&M, at 477 total stores worldwide.

Looking beyond the continent, Japan’s Fast Retailing is the top retailer in Asia, operating in 27 countries globally. As the parent company to fashion brand Uniqlo, it also stands as the seventh most valuable listed firm by market capitalization in the country.

Additionally, Apple is the sole American company to make this list, with storefronts in 25 countries. Overall, the company operates four types of retail stores: regular, AppleStore+, flagships, and flagship+. Regular stores often earn $40 million annually, while flagship+ stores typically earn more than $100 million.

By 2027, the company plans to build or remodel 53 stores globally, with the majority located in the U.S. and China.

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