Some 15 million Americans are engaged in retailing. Of this number, almost half work in service businesses such as barbershops, lawyers’ offices, and amusement parks. Although most retailers are involved in small businesses, most sales are made by the giant retail organizations, such as Walmart, Target, and Macy’s. Half of all retail sales come from fewer than 10 percent of all retail businesses. This small group employs about 40 percent of all retail workers. Retailers feel the impact of changes in the economy more than many other types of businesses. Survival depends on keeping up with changing lifestyles and customer shopping patterns. In recent years, online retailing trends have significantly impacted retailing organizations, providing more opportunity for smaller retailers and more competition for larger retailers.
Types of Retail Operations
There is a great deal of variety in retail operations. The major types of retailers are described in Table 12.1, which divides them into two main categories: in-store and nonstore retailing. Examples of in-store retailing include Walmart, Target, Macy’s, and Neiman Marcus. These retailers get most of their revenue from people who come to the store to buy what they want. Many in-store retailers also do some catalog and telephone sales.
Retailing Takes Many Forms
|Types of |
|Department store||Houses many departments under one roof with each treated as a separate buying center to achieve economies of buying, promotion, and control||Macy’s, Nordstrom, Bloomingdale’s, Kohl’s|
|Specialty store||Specializes in a category of merchandise and carries a complete assortment||Toys “R” Us, Zales Jewelers|
|Convenience store||Offers convenience goods with long store hours and quick checkout||7-Eleven, Circle K|
|Supermarket||Specializes in a wide assortment of food, with self-service||Safeway, Kroger, Winn-Dixie|
|Discount store||Competes on the basis of low prices and high turnover; offers few services||Walmart, Target|
|Off-price retailer||Sells at prices 25 percent or more below traditional department store prices in a spartan environment||TJ Maxx, HomeGoods|
|Factory outlet||Owned by manufacturer; sells closeouts, factory seconds, and canceled orders||Levi Strauss, Dansk|
|Catalog store||Sends catalogs to customers and displays merchandise in showrooms where customers can order from attached warehouse||Ikea|
|Types of Nonstore|
|Vending machine||Sells merchandise by machine||Canteen|
|Direct selling||Sells face-to-face, usually in the person’s home||Avon, Amway|
|Direct-response marketing||Attempts to get immediate consumer sale through media advertising, catalogs, pop-up ads, or direct mail||K-Tel Music, Ronco|
|Home shopping networks||Selling via cable television||Home Shopping Network, QVC|
|Internet retailing (e-retailing)||Selling over the internet||Bluefly.com, landsend.com, gap.com, Amazon.com, Wayfair.com, Dell.com|
Nonstore retailing includes vending, direct selling, direct-response marketing, home shopping networks, and internet retailing. Vending uses machines to sell food and other items, usually as a convenience in institutions such as schools and hospitals.
Atmosphere and Retail Image
In considering retailing as a distribution strategy (place in the 5Ps), it is important to understand that place includes more than channel members or logistics. It also includes atmospherics—the image of the actual retailing store (or, in the case of nonstore retailing, the platform from which the product is offered, such as a website or vending machine). An important task in retailing is to create this image. Marketers combine the store’s merchandise mix, service level, and atmosphere to make up a retail image. Atmosphere refers to the physical layout and décor of the store. They can create a relaxed or busy feeling, a sense of luxury, a friendly or cold attitude, and a sense of organization or clutter.
These are the most influential factors in creating a store’s atmosphere:
- Employee type and density: Employee type refers to an employee’s general characteristics—for instance, neat, friendly, knowledgeable, or service-oriented. Density is the number of employees per 1,000 square feet of selling space. A discount retailer such as Target has a low employee density that creates a “do-it-yourself” casual atmosphere.
- Merchandise type and density: The type of merchandise carried and how it is displayed add to the atmosphere the retailer is trying to create. A prestigious retailer such as Saks or Nordstrom carries the best brand names and displays them in a neat, uncluttered arrangement. Other retailers such as Dollar Tree may display goods in a more cluttered, crowded, disheveled way because their target market (lower-income individuals) equates clutter with open markets (and with lower prices and “deals”).
- Fixture type and density: Fixtures can be elegant (rich woods) or trendy (chrome and smoked glass), or they can be old, beat-up tables, as in an antique store. The fixtures should be consistent with the general atmosphere the store is trying to create. By displaying its merchandise on tables and shelves rather than on traditional pipe racks, the Gap creates a relaxed and uncluttered atmosphere that enables customers to see and touch the merchandise more easily. In addition to traditional display racks, Cabela’s retail stores feature two 5,000-gallon aquariums stocked with carp, trout, and other fish and a diorama featuring elephants, lions, zebras, hyenas, and other animals. A typical Cabela’s has several million customers a year. It is not unusual for someone to drive many miles to get to a Cabela’s, where you can often see license plates from many states and Canadian provinces.1Jessica Dyer, “Albuquerque Lands a Big Catch in Retailing,” Albuquerque Journal, https://www.abqjournal.com, July 14, 2016; Stephen Singer, “Cabela’s Touted as a Tourist Destination,” Deseret News, October 28, 2007.
- Sound: Sound can be pleasant or unpleasant for a customer. Classical music at a nice Italian restaurant helps create ambiance, just as country and western music does at a truck stop. Music can also entice customers to stay in the store longer and buy more, or it can encourage them to eat quickly and leave a table for others.
- Odors: Smell can either stimulate or detract from sales. The wonderful smell of pastries and breads entices bakery customers, as does the smell of freshly brewed coffee in a shopping mall. Conversely, customers can be repulsed by bad odors, such as cigarette smoke, musty smells, antiseptic odors, and overly powerful room deodorizers.
Text adapted from Introduction to Business, OpenStax under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. Access for free at https://openstax.org/books/introduction-business/pages/1-introduction