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Department store

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Interior of Le Bon Marché in Paris

A department store is a retail establishment offering a wide range of consumer goods in different areas of the store, each area ("department") specializing in a product category. In modern major cities, the department store made a dramatic appearance in the middle of the 19th century, and permanently reshaped shopping habits, and the definition of service and luxury. Similar developments were under way in London (with Whiteleys), in Paris (Le Bon Marché) and in New York (Stewart's).[1]

Today, departments often include the following: clothing, cosmetics, do it yourself, furniture, gardening, hardware, home appliances, houseware, paint, sporting goods, toiletries, and toys. Additionally, other lines of products such as food, books, jewellery, electronics, stationery, photographic equipment, baby products, and products for pets are sometimes included. Customers generally check out near the front of the store in discount department stores, while high-end traditional department stores include sales counters within each department. Some stores are one of many within a larger retail chain, while others are independent retailers.

Since the 1980s, they have come under heavy pressure from discounters, and have come under even heavier pressure from e-commerce sites since the 2000s.

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Sokos department store building in Multimäki, Kuopio, Finland

Department stores can be classified in several ways:

Some sources may refer to the following types of stores as department stores, even though they are not generally considered as such:


Origins in England, 1700s

One of the first department stores may have been Bennett's in Derby, first established as an ironmonger (hardware shop) in 1734.[7] It still stands to this day, trading in the same building. However, the first reliably dated department store to be established, was Harding, Howell & Co., which opened in 1796 on Pall Mall, London.[8] (The oldest department store chain may be Debenhams, which was established in 1778 and closed in 2021. It is the longest trading defunct British retailer.) An observer writing in Ackermann's Repository, a British periodical on contemporary taste and fashion, described the enterprise in 1809 as follows:

The house is one hundred and fifty feet in length from front to back, and of proportionate width. It is fitted up with great taste, and is divided by glazed partitions into four departments, for the various branches of the extensive business, which is there carried on. Immediately at the entrance is the first department, which is exclusively appropriated to the sale of furs and fans. The second contains articles of haberdashery of every description, silks, muslins, lace, gloves, &etc. In the third shop, on the right, you meet with a rich assortment of jewelry, ornamental articles in ormolu, French clocks, &etc.; and on the left, with all the different kinds of perfumery necessary for the toilette. The fourth is set apart for millinery and dresses; so that there is no article of female attire or decoration, but what may be here procured in the first style of elegance and fashion. This concern has been conducted for the last twelve years by the present proprietors who have spared neither trouble nor expense to ensure the establishment of a superiority over every other in Europe, and to render it perfectly unique in its kind.[9]

This venture is described as having all of the basic characteristics of the department store; it was a public retail establishment offering a wide range of consumer goods in different departments. Jonathan Glancey for the BBC writes:

Harding, Howell & Co was focused on the needs and desires of fashionable women. Here, at last women were free to browse and shop, safely and decorously, away from home and from the company of men. These, for the main part, were newly affluent middle class women, their good fortune – and the department store itself – nurtured and shaped by the Industrial Revolution. This was transforming life in London and the length and breadth of Britain at a dizzying pace on the back of energetic free trade, fecund invention, steam and sail, and a seemingly inexhaustible supply of expendable cheap labour.[10]

This pioneering shop was closed down in 1820 when the business partnership was dissolved. All the major high streets in British cities had flourishing department stores by the mid-or late nineteenth century. Increasingly, women became the main customers.[11] Kendals (formerly Kendal Milne & Faulkner) in Manchester lays claim to being one of the first department stores and is still known to many of its customers as Kendal's, despite its 2005 name change to House of Fraser. The Manchester institution dates back to 1836 but had been trading as Watts Bazaar since 1796.[12] At its zenith the store had buildings on both sides of Deansgate linked by a subterranean passage "Kendals Arcade" and an art nouveau tiled food hall. The store was especially known for its emphasis on quality and style over low prices giving it the nickname "the Harrods of the North", although this was due in part to Harrods acquiring the store in 1919. Harrods of London can be traced back to 1834, though the current store was built between 1894 and 1905. Liberty & Co. gained popularity in the 1870s for selling Oriental goods.[13] In 1889 Oscar Wilde wrote "Liberty's is the chosen resort of the artistic shopper".[14]

Origins in Parisian magasins de nouveautés

Au Bon Marché

The Paris department stores have roots in the magasin de nouveautés, or novelty store; the first, the Tapis Rouge, was created in 1784.[15] They flourished in the early 19th century. Balzac described their functioning in his novel César Birotteau. In the 1840s, with the arrival of the railroads in Paris and the increased number of shoppers they brought, they grew in size, and began to have large plate glass display windows, fixed prices and price tags, and advertising in newspapers.[16]

A novelty shop called Au Bon Marché had been founded in Paris in 1838 to sell items like lace, ribbons, sheets, mattresses, buttons, and umbrellas. It grew from 300 m2 (3,200 sq ft) and 12 employees in 1838 to 50,000 m2 (540,000 sq ft) and 1,788 employees in 1879. Boucicaut was famous for his marketing innovations; a reading room for husbands while their wives shopped; extensive newspaper advertising; entertainment for children; and six million catalogs sent out to customers. By 1880 half the employees were women; unmarried women employees lived in dormitories on the upper floors.[17]

Au Bon Marché soon had half a dozen or more competitors including Printemps, founded in 1865; La Samaritaine (1869), Bazaar de Hotel de Ville (BHV); and Galeries Lafayette (1895).[16][18] The French gloried in the national prestige brought by the great Parisian stores.[19] The great writer Émile Zola (1840–1902) set his novel Au Bonheur des Dames (1882–83) in the typical department store, making it a symbol of the new technology that was both improving society and devouring it.[20]

First Australian department stores

Australia is notable for having the longest continuously operating department store, David Jones.[21][22] The first David Jones department store was opened on 24 May 1838, by Welsh born immigrant David Jones in a "large and commodious premises" on the corner of George and Barrack Streets in Sydney, NSW, only 50 years after the foundation of the colony. Expanding to a number of stores in the various states of Australia, David Jones is the oldest continuously operating department franchise in the world.[21] Other department stores in Australia include Grace Brothers founded in 1885, now merged with Myer which was founded in 1900.[23]

First American department stores (1825–1858)

Arnold Constable was the first American department store. It was founded in 1825 as a small dry goods store on Pine Street in New York City. In 1857 the store moved into a five-story white marble dry goods palace known as the Marble House. During the Civil War, Arnold Constable was one of the first stores to issue charge bills of credit to its customers each month instead of on a bi-annual basis. The store soon outgrew the Marble House and erected a cast-iron building on Broadway and Nineteenth Street in 1869; this "Palace of Trade" expanded over the years until it was necessary to move into a larger space in 1914. Financial problems led to bankruptcy in 1975.[24]

In New York City in 1846, Alexander Turney Stewart established the "Marble Palace" on Broadway, between Chambers and Reade streets. He offered European retail merchandise at fixed prices on a variety of dry goods, and advertised a policy of providing "free entrance" to all potential customers. Though it was clad in white marble to look like a Renaissance palazzo, the building's cast iron construction permitted large plate glass windows that permitted major seasonal displays, especially in the Christmas shopping season. In 1862, Stewart built a new store on a full city block uptown between 9th and 10th streets, with eight floors. His innovations included buying from manufacturers for cash and in large quantities, keeping his markup small and prices low, truthful presentation of merchandise, the one-price policy (so there was no haggling), simple merchandise returns and cash refund policy, selling for cash and not credit, buyers who searched worldwide for quality merchandise, departmentalization, vertical and horizontal integration, volume sales, and free services for customers such as waiting rooms and free delivery of purchases.[25] In 1858, Rowland Hussey Macy founded Macy's as a dry goods store.

Innovations 1850–1917

Marshall Field's State Street store "great hall" interior around 1910

Marshall Field & Company originated in 1852. It was the premier department store on the busiest shopping street in the Midwest at the time, State Street in Chicago.[26] Marshall Field's served as a model for other department stores in that it had exceptional customer service.[citation needed] Marshall Field's also had the firsts; among many innovations by Marshall Field's were the first European buying office, which was located in Manchester, England, and the first bridal registry. The company was the first to introduce the concept of the personal shopper, and that service was provided without charge in every Field's store, until the chain's last days under the Marshall Field's name. It was the first store to offer revolving credit and the first department store to use escalators.[citation needed] Marshall Field's book department in the State Street store was legendary;[citation needed] it pioneered the concept of the "book signing". Moreover, every year at Christmas, Marshall Field's downtown store windows were filled with animated displays as part of the downtown shopping district display; the "theme" window displays became famous for their ingenuity and beauty, and visiting the Marshall Field's windows at Christmas became a tradition for Chicagoans and visitors alike, as popular a local practice as visiting the Walnut Room with its equally famous Christmas tree or meeting "under the clock" on State Street.[27]

In 1877, John Wanamaker opened what some claim was the United States' first "modern" department store in Philadelphia: the first to offer fixed prices marked on every article and also introduced electrical illumination (1878), the telephone (1879), and the use of pneumatic tubes to transport cash and documents (1880) to the department store business.[28]

Aerial view of Anthony Hordern & Sons in Sydney, Australia (1936), once the largest department store in the world.
Selfridges, Oxford Street in London, 1944

Another store to revolutionize the concept of the department store was Selfridges in London, established in 1909 by American-born Harry Gordon Selfridge on Oxford Street. The company's innovative marketing promoted the radical notion of shopping for pleasure rather than necessity and its techniques were adopted by modern department stores the world over. The store was extensively promoted through paid advertising. The shop floors were structured so that goods could be made more accessible to customers. There were elegant restaurants with modest prices, a library, reading and writing rooms, special reception rooms for French, German, American and "Colonial" customers, a First Aid Room, and a Silence Room, with soft lights, deep chairs, and double-glazing, all intended to keep customers in the store as long as possible. Staff members were taught to be on hand to assist customers, but not too aggressively, and to sell the merchandise.[29] Selfridge attracted shoppers with educational and scientific exhibits; in 1909, Louis Blériot's monoplane was exhibited at Selfridges (Blériot was the first to fly over the English Channel), and the first public demonstration of television by John Logie Baird took place in the department store in 1925.

Utagawa Hiroshige designed an ukiyo-e print with Mount Fuji and Echigoya as landmarks. Echigoya is the former name of Mitsukoshi named after the former province of Echigo. The Mitsukoshi headquarters are located on the left side of the street.

In Japan, the first "modern-style" department store was Mitsukoshi, founded in 1904, which has its root as a kimono store called Echigoya from 1673. When the roots are considered, however, Matsuzakaya has an even longer history, dated from 1611. The kimono store changed to a department store in 1910. In 1924, Matsuzakaya store in Ginza allowed street shoes to be worn indoors, something innovative at the time.[30] These former kimono shop department stores dominated the market in its earlier history. They sold, or instead displayed, luxurious products, which contributed to their sophisticated atmospheres. Another origin of the Japanese department store is from railway companies. There have been many private railway operators in the nation and, from the 1920s, they started to build department stores directly linked to their lines' termini. Seibu and Hankyu are typical examples of this type.

Innovation (1917–1945)

In the middle of the 1920s, American management theories such as the scientific management of F.W. Taylor started spreading in Europe. The International Management Institute (I.M.I.) was established in Geneva in 1927 to facilitate the diffusion of such ideas. A number of department stores teamed up together to create the International Association of Department Stores in Paris in 1928 to have a discussion space dedicated to this retail format.

Expansion to malls

The U.S. Baby boom led to the development of suburban neighborhoods and suburban commercial developments, including shopping malls. Department stores joined these ventures following the growing market of baby boomer spending.

Expansion worldwide

Current situation

Around the world

Largest flagship stores

Table of largest department store flagship or branch stores by sales area

Incomplete list, notable stores of 50,000 m2 (538,196 sq ft) or more. Individual department store buildings or complexes of buildings. Does not include shopping centers (e.g. GUM in Moscow, Intime "Department Stores" in China) where most space is leased out to other retailers, big-box catetgory killer stores (e.g. Best Buy, Decathlon), hypermarkets, discount stores (e.g. Walmart, Carrefour), markets, or souqs.

closed open
Company Branch City Country Sq m Sq ft Opened** Closed
Shinsegae Centum City Busan S. Korea 293,905[31] 3,163,567 Jun 26, 2009 open
  • Largest in the world according to Guinness
Macy's Herald Square
(see article)
New York U.S. 232,258 2,500,000[32] 1902 open
Hudson's Downtown Detroit Detroit U.S. 197,355 (1983) 2,124,316 (1983)[33] 1891[33] Jan 17, 1983[33]
  • 25 floors, 2 half-floors, 1 mezzanine, 4 basements. 410 ft (125 m) high, tallest department store in the world at the time.
Marshall Fields,
now Macy's
State Street store
(see article)
Chicago U.S. 185,806 (1912) 2,000,000 (1912)[34] 1902 open
  • Largest in the world in 1912[34]
now Macy's
1300 Market St., Center City Philadelphia U.S. 176,516 (1995) 1,900,000 (1995)[35]
1876 open
  • As of 2020, retail space has been reduced to 435,000 sq ft (40,413 m2).[36]
Rich's Downtown Atlanta U.S. 115,886 1,247,382 1924 1994
Kaufmann's 400 5th Ave., Downtown Pittsburgh U.S. 111,484[37] 1,200,000 1887[38] Sep 20, 2015[39]
  • from 2005-2015 operated as Macy's
Hankyu Umeda
(see article in Japanese)
Osaka Japan 102,758[40] 1,106,078 Apr 15, 1929[41] open
  • Includes Main Store and adjacent Men's Store (16,000,2) - by which measure, the largest department store complex in Japan. Japan's first railway station department store. Original store opened 1929, was dismantled and new store opened (part of it on the old site) in 2005.
Le Bon Marché 7th arrondissement Paris France 102,360 1,101,794 Apr 2, 1872[42] open
May Company
Broadway, Downtown
(see article)
Los Angeles U.S. 102,193 1,100,000 [43] 1906 1986
Harrods Knightsbridge London U.K. 102,193 1,100,000[44] 1849 open
  • Largest in Europe
Kintetsu Abeno Harukas
(see article in Japanese)
Osaka Japan 100,000[45][46] 1,076,391 Mar 2014[45] open
  • Largest in Japan in a single building
Intime Ningbo General Ningbo China 96,000 1,003,335[47] open
Gimbels Herald Square New York U.S. 92,903 1,000,000[48] Sep 29, 1910 Sep 27, 1986[49]
Takashimaya Minami (Namba-Shinsaibashi) Osaka Japan 78,000[46] 839,585 open
Daimaru Shinsaibashi
(see article in Japanese)
Osaka Japan 77,000 828,821 1922 open
Sears Canada
Eaton Centre Toronto Canada 76,809 816,000[50] Feb 10, 1977[51][52] Feb 9, 2014 [51]
  • 9-story Eaton's flagship. Converted to Sears 2002, closed 2014. Space divided, converted to Nordstrom (2016-2023) and offices.[50]
Bullock's Broadway at 7th, Downtown Los Angeles U.S. 75,809 806,000[53] 1907 1983
The Bon Marché Downtown
see article
Seattle U.S. 74,322 800,000[54] 1929 2020
Galeries Lafayette Boulevard Haussmann Paris France 70,000[55] 753,474 1912[55] open
Isetan Shinjuku
(see article in Japanese)
Tokyo Japan 64,296[56] 692,080 Sep 28, 1933[56] open
Daimaru Umeda
(see article in Japanese)
Osaka Japan 64,000[46] 688,890 open
KaDeWe Tauentzienstraße Berlin Germany 60,000[57] 645,835 Mar 27, 1907 open
J. W. Robinson's 7th St. Downtown Los Angeles U.S. 57,940 623,700[58] Sep 7, 1915[59] Feb 1993
Selfridges Oxford Street London U.K. 55,742 600,000[60] Mar 15, 1909[61] open
El Palacio de Hierro Polanco Mexico City Mexico 55,200[62] 594,168 2016 open
Hanshin Umeda
(see article in Japanese)
Osaka Japan 54,000[46] 581,251 open
Isetan JR West Ōsaka Station
(see article in Japanese))
Osaka Japan 50,000 538,196 May 4, 2011 Jul 28, 2014[63]

*store has no branches **opened at this location (may have expanded significantly in the years after initial opening)

See also


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  2. ^ "Off Price Is The New Black For Retailers". Investor's Business Daily. 8 September 2015.
  3. ^ McKeever, James Ross (1977). Shopping Center Development Handbook. University of Michigan. p. 81. ISBN 9780874205763. Retrieved 2 July 2020.
  4. ^ Moriarty, John Jr. (12 July 1981). "Change in Philosophy, Direction Is Behind McCain's Move to Mall". The Post-Crescent (Appleton, Wisconsin). Retrieved 2 July 2020.
  5. ^ "Off Price Is The New Black For Retailers". Retrieved 29 August 2021.
  6. ^ "Hypermarket", Investopedia
  7. ^ Natalie Loughenbury (6 January 2010). "Bennetts Irongate, Derby Celebrates Its 275th Anniversary". Derbyshire Life. Bennets. Retrieved 6 September 2021.
  8. ^ "Regency England shopping arcades exchanges and bazaars".
  9. ^ Ackermann, Rudolph (3 August 1809). "The Repository of arts, literature, commerce, manufactures, fashions and politics". London : Published by R. Ackermann ... Sherwood & Co. and Walker & Co. ... and Simpkin & Marshall ... – via Internet Archive.
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  12. ^ Parkinson-Bailey, John (2000). Manchester an architectural history. Manchester: Manchester University Press. pp. 80–81. ISBN 0-7190-5606-3.
  13. ^ Iarocci, L., Visual Merchandising: The Image of Selling, Ashgate Publishing, 2013, p. 128
  14. ^ Wilde, Oscar (1889). The Woman's World ..., Volume 2. Cassell and Company. p. 6.
  15. ^ "Discovery, Invention and Innovation", Informational Society, Springer US, 1993, pp. 1–31, doi:10.1007/978-0-585-32028-1_1, ISBN 9780792393030
  16. ^ a b Fierro, Alfred (1996). Histoire et Dictionnaire de Paris. pp. 911–912.
  17. ^ Jan Whitaker (2011). The World of Department Stores. New York: Vendome Press. p. 22. ISBN 978-0-86565-264-4.
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  19. ^ Homburg, Heidrun (1992). "Warenhausunternehmen und ihre Gründer in Frankreich und Deutschland Oder: Eine Diskrete Elite und Mancherlei Mythen" [Department store firms and their founders in France and Germany, or: a discreet elite and various myths]. Jahrbuch für Wirtschaftsgeschichte. 33 (1): 183–219. doi:10.1524/jbwg.1992.33.1.185. S2CID 201653161.
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  21. ^ a b Ravelli, Louise (April 2022). "Ode to a lost icon, David Jones". Discourse & Communication. 16 (2): 269–282. doi:10.1177/17504813211073195. ISSN 1750-4813. S2CID 246463089.
  22. ^ Walsh, G. P., "Jones, David (1793–1873)", Australian Dictionary of Biography, Canberra: National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, retrieved 19 December 2022
  23. ^ Loy-Wilson, Sophie (January 2016). "The Gospel of Enthusiasm: Salesmanship, Religion and Colonialism in Australian Department Stores in the 1920s and 1930s". Journal of Contemporary History. 51 (1): 91–123. doi:10.1177/0022009414561826. ISSN 0022-0094. S2CID 145570190.
  24. ^ "The Arnold Constable & Company Buildings" May 16, 2013 Archived 13 May 2016 at the Wayback Machine
  25. ^ Resseguie, Harry E. (1965). "Alexander Turney Stewart and the Development of the Department Store, 1823–1876". The Business History Review. 39 (3): 301–322. doi:10.2307/3112143. JSTOR 3112143. S2CID 154704872.
  26. ^ Lloyd Wendt and Herman Kogan, Give the Lady What She Wants: The Story of Marshall Field & Company (1952)
  27. ^ Wendt and Kogan, Give the Lady What She Wants: The Story of Marshall Field & Company (1952)
  28. ^ Robert Sobel, The Entrepreneurs: Explorations Within the American Business Tradition (1974), chapter 3, "John Wanamaker: The Triumph of Content Over Form"
  29. ^ J.A. Gere and John Sparrow (ed.), Geoffrey Madan's Notebooks, Oxford University Press, 1981
  30. ^ Matsuzakaya corporate history
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  32. ^ Oh, Inae (1 November 2011). "Macy's $400 Million Grand Makeover To Flagship Store". The Huffington Post.
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  34. ^ a b "Field Store to Be Largest in the World". Dry Goods Reporter. Chicagology. 9 March 1912. Retrieved 17 November 2023.
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  40. ^ 早川麗 (Rei Hayakawa) (8 February 2012). "大阪「アベノ」、衣食住で吸引力 商業施設開発が刺激" ["Osaka "Abeno" stimulates the development of commercial facilities with food, clothing and housing")]. Nihon Keizai Shimbun (in Japanese). 日本経済新聞社 (Nihon Keizai Shimbun).
  41. ^ 50年史編集委員会 (50-year history editorial committee) (1998). 株式会社阪急百貨店50年史 [50-year history of Hankyu Department Store Co., Ltd.)] (in Japanese). 阪急百貨店 (Hankyu Department Store).{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
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  52. ^ "Eaton Centre Sears closes its doors", Toronto Star, February 24, 2014
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  56. ^ a b Annual Report 2007 (PDF) (Report). Isetan Company Ltd. 2007. p. 34. Retrieved 20 November 2023. Store size is not published in their later e.g. 2023 annual report.
  57. ^ "KaDeWe Berlin". KaDeWe. KaDeWe. Retrieved 16 November 2023.
  58. ^ "Department Store Addition Now Rising Into Space", Los Angeles Times, 11 January 1923
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Further reading

  • Abelson, Elaine S. When Ladies Go A-Thieving: Middle Class Shoplifters in the Victorian Department Store. New York: Oxford University Press, 1989.
  • Adams, Samuel Hopkins (January 1897). "The Department Store". Scribner's Magazine. XXI (1): 4–28. Retrieved 23 August 2009.
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External links

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