Big-box stores

Authored by: Stephen Halebsky

The Routledge Companion to the History of Retailing

Print publication date:  November  2018
Online publication date:  November  2018

Print ISBN: 9781138675087
eBook ISBN: 9781315560854
Adobe ISBN:


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Big-box stores, virtually unknown before the 1960s, have become the leading retail format in the US. Their lineage is uncertain, but they appear to have evolved out some combination of chain stores, variety stores and existing supermarkets. While some locate their ancestors in the early supermarkets, others find theirs in the large department stores that remain a fixture of downtown retailing long after their glory days. The emergence and growth of big-box stores reflect a number of favourable conditions, including a neoliberal political environment in which labour, broadly speaking, is disempowered. New technology, especially in communications, computing and logistics, has enabled large retailers to gain better control of their inventory, containerisation and the mega-ships designed to carry containers, highly automated distribution centres and logistics in general. Global big-box stores are prevalent in North America (US, Canada and Mexico), followed by Western Europe and then Eastern Europe, Asia and the developing countries.

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