Merchant Innovation

Throwback Thursday: The History Of Retail

Since we spent the early part of this week showing you how retail is being reinvented, let’s take some time to go back into a history lesson on retail.

The history of retail as we know it today really dates back to the post-World War II era.

Before WWII, and throughout most of the first quarter of the 1900s, most of the goods were purchased from a small market, a local butcher, or the shop down the street. Everyone knew everyone’s names (and everyone’s business) and the concept of the one-stop shop was decades off. Retailers loved the concept, primarily because there was no competition and the loyalty among consumers was fierce.

And then came the supermarket — and everything changed. The concept of competition was born and consumers were opened up to a new bouquet of choices. Prices got cheaper and consumers loved it. The mom and pop shops, of course, probably didn’t so much. And the trend has continued since.

The post-WWII era was marked by a booming economy with workers ready to produce, manufacturers ready to pump out goods again and people ready to buy.

“When WWII ended you had a great deal of pent-up demand for all types of goods, because the factories were beginning to turn to consumer goods again, cars became available. Suburban towns were being built, the baby boomers were being born, family life was changing, television was coming on stronger. So that brought us to the next era of retailing,” explained retail historian Eugene Fram, who shared the history of retail in a video by the National Retail Federation (formed in 1911).

One hundred years after the NRF was formed, it created a video that shared the early history of how retail was formed — including a few good commercials that showed how the formation of the supermarket shopper evolved. It’s worth pointing out, however, that even in this Throwback Thursday take on the history of retail, this video seems like it could be from decades ago because of how archaic the talk about the Internet and online shopping was just four years ago.

Oh, how times change in just a few years. But before we spoil more of the video, here’s a quick look into the history of retail from the NRF.

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