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February 2006, Vol. 129, No. 2
From supermarkets to supercenters: employment shifts to the one-stop shop
Michael H. Strople
Dramatic changes in product delivery channels are reshaping the landscape of retail trade. Warehouse stores and supercenters are quickly moving into market segments once dominated by department stores and supermarkets. The supercenter is seen as a one-stop, low-price shop for many consumers’ needs—from apple pie, to blue jeans, to tires. Over the past several years, this changing dynamic has become more evident not only anecdotally, but also through various Federal statistics. This article reviews recent trends in employment, sales, and establishment data for warehouse clubs and supercenters, department stores, and food and beverage stores. The analysis presented looks at the increasing dominance of supercenters and its effect on employment in the more traditional retailers: food stores and department stores.
Warehouse clubs and supercenters
Warehouse clubs originated in the United States with the 1976 opening of Price Club in San Diego, California.1 Initially, the clubs offered a wide selection of merchandise at discounted prices to other establishments for resale; essentially, the clubs functioned as a wholesaler. Eventually, the clubs expanded into retail by opening their doors to select "members," or customers who had paid a membership fee. While initially the concept was a money loser, firms were turning a profit by the early 1980s. With the success of Price Club, many more firms joined this niche, making warehouse clubs "the fastest growing format in U.S. retailing during the decade of the 1980s."2
This excerpt is from an article published in the February 2006 issue of the Monthly Labor Review. The full text of the article is available in Adobe Acrobat's Portable Document Format (PDF). See How to view a PDF file for more information.
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1 Richard S. Bragaw, "Pioneering the Wholesale Club Concept," Discount Merchandiser, November 1990, pp. 42, 44, 48.
2 Ibid., p. 42.
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Productivity trends in two retail trade industries, 1987-95.—July 1997.
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