Retail innovations in American economic history

The rise of mass-market merchandisers

Authored by: Art Carden

Routledge Handbook of Major Events in Economic History

Print publication date:  January  2013
Online publication date:  February  2013

Print ISBN: 9780415677035
eBook ISBN: 9780203067871
Adobe ISBN: 9781135080808


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Retail changed in the twentieth century as small, independent retailers gave way to national chains of massive general merchandise stores. In the late twentieth century, the retail sector was at the front of American economic change. This has been especially true of general merchandise retailers and Walmart specifically. In the twentieth century, the U.S. economy shifted toward services and away from agriculture and manufacturing. The late twentieth century saw a continuing structural shift away from independent single-establishment retailers (“mom-and-pop” stores) and toward national discount chains operating large stores that deliver broad arrays of goods to multiple markets. 1

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