Retail Details: The Evolution of Retail

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The evolution of retail is an astonishing one. Today, retail is a multitrillion-dollar industry that caters to consumers’ every whim. But that hasn’t always been the case. In-store restaurants and bank branches were novelties not so long ago, and even starting a retail establishment could be a major project in Napoléon Bonaparte’s France.


Did you know that in the early 1800s opening a bookstore in France was a bit of an ordeal? An aspiring bookseller had to provide four character references as part of his application to go into business.


Did you know that Chicago retailer Marshall Field’s pioneered the concept of the money-back guarantee? This was an innovative concept back in the mid-1800s, which is when the store was founded and the policy put in place. Field’s also claims to have offered the first bridal registry as well as the first in-store restaurant. Field’s was purchased by Macy’s, but its restaurant, The Walnut Room, is still in operation.


Did you know that, between 1690 and 1721, the United Kingdom passed laws to ban the import of foreign textiles? These laws, known as the Calico Acts, were in response to the success the East India Company had with bringing Chinese and Indian fabrics into Britain. The fabrics proved so popular that Parliament felt it necessary to restrict trade and protect the British textile industry.


Did you know that banks started opening branches in supermarkets back in the 1960s? While banks now are a common sight in modern big-box and grocery stores, the concept took some time to catch on. In 1971, there were only 55 supermarket branches in operation. By 1985, that number had climbed to 210.

Did you know that, according to the National Retail Federation, the retail industry supports one in four American jobs? That’s 42 million jobs in the United States.