History of the department store

Authored by: Sarah Elvins

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:


 Download Chapter



The department store held a unique position of economic and cultural power from roughly the late nineteenth century until the end of the twentieth century. Its sheer size and early adoption of new practices like single pricing alarmed smaller retailers who viewed it as unfair competition. In urban centres, department stores opened up new spaces for women to be out in public. The dramatic displays, high levels of service and luxurious amenities of the store attracted shoppers of all class levels and established it as an arbiter of modern style. Sponsorship of events like parades or war bond drives further enhanced the reputation of these retailers as civic leaders. In the second half of the century, department stores moved out of the downtown to anchor suburban malls. Increased competition and consolidation ended the heyday of the independent store, and the idea of one store that was able to offer everything to every shopper now seemed anachronistic. No longer the force in retailing that it once was, the department store now struggles to survive in a changed retail landscape.

Search for more...
Back to top

Use of cookies on this website

We are using cookies to provide statistics that help us give you the best experience of our site. You can find out more in our Privacy Policy. By continuing to use the site you are agreeing to our use of cookies.