The globe's biggest retailers saw growth slow last year, according to a new survey.

US-based consulting and research firm Retail Forward found that the world's top 100 retailers saw average sales expansion drop to under 4% in 2002. The report blamed "an unstable business environment, weak economic growth and nervous consumers."

With 2002 sales of $229.6 billion (€194.7bn; £137.2bn), Wal-Mart remains by far the world's biggest retailer, a position it has held since 1990. Retail Forward warned that the group's relentless global expansion will "steal share away from conventional food, drug and mass retailers at an alarming pace."

The top ten in full (with home market in parentheses) was as follows:

1. Wal-Mart (USA) $229.6bn
2. Carrefour (France) $64.8bn
3. Home Depot (USA) $58.2bn
4. Kroger (USA) $51.8bn
5. Metro (Germany) $48.1bn
6. Royal Ahold (Netherlands) $47.1bn
7. Target (USA) $42.7bn
8. Tesco (UK) $39.5bn
9. Costco (USA) $38.0bn
10. ITM (France) $36.2bn

American firms dominate the list, but 2002 saw the number of US operators in the top 100 fall for the first time since 1986.

The report also found higher-than-average growth among regional players (retailers expanding beyond their home market but not their geographic region). These saw sales rise 4.5% last year, compared with the 3.7% growth of global operators.

Data sourced from: Retail Forward; additional content by WARC staff