Multiple retailers

Authored by: David Delbert Kruger

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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Multi-unit retailers clearly dominate the world of retail on both sides of the Atlantic, with their prominence all but solidified in the decades following World War II. However, the history of multi-unit retailers is complex. For one, the origins of multi-unit retailing date as far back as 200 B. C., to the Chinese trade empire of On Lo Kass. And prior to World War II, multi-unit retailers were still well behind their single-unit counterparts in terms of market share and total number of stores. Many multi-unit chains also began their existence as single-unit operations, with some, such as Macy’s, increasingly absorbing scores of previously autonomous department stores throughout the United States. The chapter explores notable firms in the development of multi-unit retailing, including A&P and J. C. Penney in the United States and Marks & Spencer in the United Kingdom, as well as the innovative men and women behind their innovation and expansion. The chapter also touches upon the anti-chain store movement that prominently opposed this “chain store menace” throughout the 1920s and 1930s. While the focus is largely on department stores, multi-unit operations of discount stores, hypermarkets and membership warehouses are also discussed.

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