General Information

Retail is the process of routinely selling goods to consumers. The retail trade is the collective description of all who practice retail.

Clothing, accessory, and general merchandise stores are some of the most visited establishments in the world. Whether shopping for an item of clothing or piece of jewelry, a household appliance, or even food, one will likely go to one of these stores to either make a purchase or compare selections with other retail outlets. Some general merchandise stores may sell a wide variety of items in their stores.

Department Stores

Department stores sell a wide selection of merchandise with no one line predominating. These stores generally are arranged into departments with a manager heading each department. These departments can sell apparel, bathrooms, furniture, appliances, home furnishings, cosmetics, jewelry, paint and hardware, electronics, and sporting goods. They may also sell services such as optical, photography, and pharmacy.

Discount department stores typically have fewer sales workers, relying more on self-service features, and have centrally located cashiers. Department stores that sell bulk items, like major appliances, usually provide delivery and installation services. Upscale department stores may offer tailoring for their clothing lines and more personal service.

Warehouse Clubs

Warehouse club stores and super centers, the fastest growing segment of this industry, sell an even more eclectic mix of products and services in fixed quantities at low prices. These stores typically include an assortment of food items, often sold in bulk, along with an array of household and automotive goods, clothing, and services that may vary over time.

These stores often require that shoppers purchase a membership in the store that entitles them to shop there. They offer very little service and usually require the customer to take home the item.

Clothing and Accessory Stores

Courtesy of

Clothing and accessory stores sell a much narrower group of items that include apparel for all members of the family, as well as shoes, luggage, leather goods, lingerie, jewelry, uniforms, and bridal gowns. Stores in this sector may sell all of the above items or concentrate on a few. They often are staffed with knowledgeable salespersons who can help in the selection of sizes, styles, and accessories. Many of these stores are located in shopping malls across the country and have significantly fewer workers than department stores.


1. Unknown author; The 2004-05 Career Guide to Industries; U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics; Washington DC USA; 2004; Available
2. Unknown author; Directory of Information