Variety Stores

SIC 5331

Companies in this industry

Industry report:

This category includes establishments primarily engaged in the retail sale of a variety of merchandise in the low and popular price ranges. Sales usually are made on a cash-and-carry basis, with the open-selling method of display and customer selection of merchandise. These stores generally do not carry a complete line of merchandise, do not carry their own charge service, and do not deliver merchandise.

Industry Snapshot

Discount department stores are also known as discount variety stores, general merchandise discount stores, mass merchandisers, full-line discounters, or discount houses. This industry is dominated by the Wal-Mart, Target, and the Kmart/Sears (the two companies merged in 2005) chains.

The big three discount retailers began operations as individual variety stores, and by the late-2000s had evolved into chains averaging 80,000 square feet of discount selling space per store, providing clothing; hardware, housewares, auto supplies, and small appliances; stationery and candy; sporting goods and toys; health and beauty aids; pharmaceuticals; gifts and electronics; and shoes and jewelry. The stores showing the most success were the so-called supercenters, which grew roughly 18 percent in the mid-2000s. During the 2000s Wal-Mart aggressively entered the grocery business, turning the variety stores into supercenters that offered full service grocery, meat, and dairy products. In addition, Wal-Mart expanded its drug prescription services. As a result, by 2009, Wal-Mart had outpaced its competition, growing into a $408 billion business. Target, which had made some limited attempts to supersizes its operations, followed in second place with $65 billion in revenues. Kmart ran a distant third to Wal-Mart, with $16 billion in revenues in 2009.

Although overshadowed by the Big Three, groups of regional stores, Dollar General, Family Dollar Stores, and the Dollar Tree Stores, are also 4listed under the variety stores category. These companies had revenues of $11.8 billion, $7.9 billion, and $5.2 billion, respectively, in 2009. Membership-based warehouse stores such as Costco and Sam's Club are also part of this designation. Costco had 2009 revenues of $77.9 billion while Sam's Club, a part of the Wal-Mart empire, had revenues of $46.7 billion. The common element among all stores in the industry is the focus on low prices.

Organization and Structure

Variety stores can be categorized by price and level of service, and generally fall into one of the following categories: discount department stores, wholesale clubs, supercenters, hypermarts, and so-called category killers.

Wholesale clubs are no-frills stores that sell in bulk to people who pay dues to maintain membership. Originally targeted toward small businesses, which appreciated the opportunity to purchase supplies in large quantities, membership requirements have been made broader to include many segments of the general populace. Supercenters, or superstores, are large retail outlets offering general merchandise in addition to a complete grocery area. The supercenter concept evolved from the hypermart, which offers discounted merchandise and groceries, as well as ancillary businesses, such as branch banking and photo processing. Finally, category killers are specialty chain stores offering a single line of merchandise, such as T. J. Maxx, Dress Barn, and Burlington Coat Factory. Although industry information related to discount retailers often includes statistics on category killers, many of these stores are formally listed under the SIC related to the merchandise in which they specialize.

Background and Development

Although discounted sales have existed since the early 1900s, the discount variety store industry picked up shortly after World War II. During this time, according to Discount Store News, entrepreneurs were prompted to open large variety stores due to the increasing demand for consumer goods, including such new products as record players and television sets. In the northeastern part of the country, in particular, large facilities became available to potential variety store owners when manufacturers moving operations to the South vacated several mills. Taking over such facilities for retail operations, variety store owners found that their proximity to those mills that had remained in operation facilitated the timely restocking of stores with apparel and domestic items.

By 1962, industry leaders and a standard store format were well established. Discount department stores were formed by the Dayton Company, which pioneered the Target chain; as well as Kmart stores, an offshoot of S. S. Kresge; the F. W. Woolworth Company's Woolco stores; and Sam Walton's Wal-Mart. These new stores transformed the variety store business into large, low-price, self-service stores, featuring both hard goods and apparel.

Several mergers occurred in the late 1960s and early 1970s as chains sought to expand quickly through acquisitions. During this time, Kmart became the decided leader with more than 300 stores, which was more than double the number of the next largest chain. Although over a dozen discount stores filed for Chapter 11, attributable to economic recession, Kmart and Woolco grew into national companies, whereas Wal-Mart and Target expanded in the Southeast and Midwest, respectively.

During the 1970s, discount stores began exploring advances in technology, using computers, electronic registers, UPC bar coding systems, point-of-sale (POS) scanning, and satellite communication systems. Wal-Mart's explosive growth, in particular, was attributed to its successful implementation of computer technology. The company established highly automated distribution centers, which cut shipping costs and delivery time, and installed an advanced computer system to track inventory and speed up checkout and reordering. As a result, Wal-Mart increased the number of its retail establishments from 18 in 1970 to 270 in 1980.

By the end of the 1980s, Kmart, Target, and Wal-Mart dominated the industry. At the same time, other chains had filed Chapter 11, including Woolco, FedMart, Memco, Twin Fair, Zayre, Zodys, Kings, Ames, and Hills. Regional operators experiencing moderate success included Jamesway, Caldor, and Bradlees in the East; Rose's in the South; Clover in Philadelphia; Fred Meyer in the Pacific Northwest; Fedco in Southern California; and Venture, Meijer, and Value City in the Midwest.

The introduction of a full line of grocery items to the discount store format represented an important aspect of the successful supercenter in the early 1990s. Although the majority of store profits were attributable to merchandise sales, food divisions began to draw customers into the store and accounted for 40 percent of a supercenter's sales in the early 1990s. This trend was expected to have a negative impact on the traditional supermarket owner. Nevertheless, some analysts have viewed the discounters' venture into the food business with skepticism. Critics noted that since grocers earned an average of less than one penny per dollar of sales in the early 1990s, superstores faced the challenge of imposing even stricter cost controls to compete.

In their ongoing battle for market share, discounters also began to focus on appealing to specific ethnic groups, striving to become familiar with the needs of the diversifying market in the 1990s. For example, some stores employed bilingual clerks, particularly in Hispanic communities, and featured signs and advertisements in languages other than English. Moreover, an awareness of traditions and holidays specific to certain ethnic groups helped store managers to stock seasonal merchandise.

Another effort to draw and retain loyal customers involved the promotion of environmental awareness. In addition to touting recyclable and environmentally friendly products, many discount stores attempted to cut back on lighting, heating, cooling, and other energy-draining expenses. They also began using recycled paper for printed advertisements and sign boards. In June 1993, Wal-Mart opened an "environmental demonstration store" in Lawrence, Kansas. The store featured a community recycling center as well as an environmental education center. During this time, Kmart introduced programs to recycle cassette tapes, auto and truck tires, and auto and marine batteries. Target sponsored Kids for Saving the Earth, a grass-roots environmental organization.

Some consolidation in the industry, particularly affecting the warehouse clubs, occurred in 1993 due to increased competition, market saturation, and a slow economy. In November 1993, Wal-Mart agreed to acquire 91 of Kmart's 113 Pace Membership Warehouse clubs for $300 million. The sale gave Wal-Mart access to five additional states and expanded its presence in California. Some of the Pace Warehouses would operate as Sam's Clubs, and others were designated for remodeling as supercenters.

Wal-Mart's supercenter business achieved annual sales of $5 billion by 1994, a substantial increase over the reported $1 billion in 1992. By 1997 there were 344 Wal-Mart Supercenters in operation, mostly in Texas and Missouri, and by 1998 that number climbed to 441.

Led by the strength of such retailers as Wal-Mart, the discount industry surpassed $200 billion in sales in the early 1990s. The Dollar General chain of discount stores was second to Wal-Mart in percentage sales growth, having found a niche market in towns considered too small to support Wal-Mart stores. Kmart maintained its position as the second-largest discount chain in the nation in volume, with $31 billion in 1996 sales, while Target neared $18 billion in sales in 1996. Regional discount chains that achieved strong sales growth included Connecticut-based Caldor (with $26 billion in 1996 sales) and St. Louis-based Venture Stores (with $1.5 billion in 1996 sales). The increased popularity of discount operations also led to their inclusion as anchor stores in suburban malls, a location once considered inappropriate by developers and more up-scale merchants.

Since strong national chains originated in the 1960s, they have taken an increasing share of the market away from traditional full-price retailers, a trend that continued into the late 1990s. Discounters saw sales rise from $2 billion in 1960 to $175 billion in 1998.

Discounters maintain top position in the market in girls', boys', and men's apparel. Traditional department stores and specialty stores still have control over the women's apparel segment, but discounters have gained market share. Kmart began offering a "business casual" line, and Target focused on a trendier line with its Xhileration label.

Discount stores have also seen success by diversifying product mix. In the late 1990s, more than 36 percent of vitamins and mineral supplements were sold at discount stores. These stores also account for the largest share of bath product sales with 36 percent. Wal-Mart took the lead over Toys "R" Us in toy sales in the late 1990s, and Kmart and Target also saw gains in this area.

This industry has also increased focus on brand names, proprietary brands, and partnering. Kmart has paired with Martha Stewart to offer her line of home products. Kmart's Jaclyn Smith and Kathy Ireland apparel lines also were successful in the 1990s, as well as its Sesame Street line.

Along with its success, however, the industry saw bankruptcies, consolidation, and mergers in the late 1990s. Many regional chains suffered under the increasing competition from larger chains. Jamesway and Clover went through liquidations, Caldor and Venture no longer operate, ShopKo purchased Pamida, Ames bought Hills, and Bradlees filed Chapter 11.

The early 2000s were a tough time for retail due to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, and a shaky economy. The picture for discounters was mixed at best. More people went to discounters to save money but overall sales were generally flat. The big three continued their dominance in this sector in the new millennium, and small businesses within the industry were becoming scarcer. Small companies such as Ann & Hope closed completely, regional ShopKo was forced to close stores, and Ames was forced into bankruptcy.

Leader Wal-Mart not only bucked the flat sales trend but also became the largest company in the world during 2002. Wal-Mart operated 1,066 stores at the end of 2001. Supercenters, which generated the largest portion of sales, remained the company's top growth vehicle. Wal-Mart also added more food to its mix, unveiling the new Neighborhood Markets in the United States and in China. Entering a newly hot market, Wal-Mart also began offering more than 12,000 DVD titles for rent through its Web site.

Target was not as aggressive at converting into superstores in the early 2000s. Instead, the retailer focused on honing its merchandise assortments, including the trendier line of clothing and merchandise that has differentiated Target from its less chic competitors.

Kmart had its share of problems early in the decade. After a foray into specialty retailing that cost the company sales, Kmart filed for bankruptcy in 2002. In all, some 600 stores were closed in a massive restructuring effort in 2002 and 2003 that also saw a complete turnover in its executive leadership. The company also suffered during an investigation of stock transactions by Martha Stewart. Stewart was accused of receiving insider information leading her to sell shares of ImClone. The store continued to support Stewart, whose products accounted for approximately $1.5 billion of Kmart's $36 billion in sales. However, Brand Keys Customer Loyalty Index noted a decline in consumer perception for both brands in different areas. Still, Kmart continued to convert its traditional stores to superstores, also adding food. The new concept of in-the-box supercenters combined the traditional discount store and grocery store into one supercenter.

Dollar stores continued their popularity and expansion. By 2002, leader Dollar General had 5,500 stores, followed by Family Dollar with 4,455 stores, and Dollar Tree at 2,060. Others in the category included Freds, headquartered in Memphis, Tennessee, and 99 Cent Only Stores, with headquarters in City of Commerce, California.

A focus on low prices, though, does not exclude more upscale items from reaching the shelves. Wal-Mart took steps in the mid-2000s to draw customers at both ends of the spectrum. In 2005 it began to carry more upscale merchandise, in part to better compete with Target, which has the reputation of being more flashy and stylish. Then in 2006, Wal-Mart decided to start offering some 150 generic prescriptions for $4 for a 30-day supply.

Although not approaching Wal-Mart's total numbers, Target was outperforming all the competition by the mid-2000s, in part by bridging the gap between discount and perceived quality, particularly in its focus on fashion clothing and home decor. In 2004, it sold the struggling Marshall Field's stores to May Department Stores and focused on the Target branding, to great success.

Such success by Target prompted Wal-Mart to add merchandise such as 550-thread-count Egyptian cotton sheets, 42-inch plasma high-definition televisions, and cashmere cardigan sweaters in 2005 to buck its growing image as a "cheap" store. Additionally, fake hardwood floors were installed in Wal-Mart apparel departments for a more fashionable feel. Wal-Mart "may not have focused enough on the customer willing to pay a little more for higher quality," executive vice president Mike Duke told the Washington Post at the time, reiterating Wal-Mart's goal to "meet the needs of every American."

Those needs include prescription drugs. In an effort to draw more consumers to its pharmacy and subsequently into its stores, Wal-Mart, already the third-largest seller of prescription drugs, began to offer a 30-day supply of some 150 generic prescriptions for $4 in some areas. The company took the plan nationwide in 2007. The list of drugs covered at that cost made up about 20 percent of prescriptions that Wal-Mart filled. Target vowed to follow suit in some areas, citing in a press release its "long-standing practice to be price competitive with Wal-Mart."

All the while trying to draw more customers, Wal-Mart decided in 2007 those customers would be better served in smaller supercenters. The company announced that no new discount stores will open after 2008. Instead, plans for 2009 include an increasing number of Neighborhood Market grocery stores. About 195 new supercenters were planned for 2008, down 30 percent from 2007. A number of discount stores were to be converted to supercenters, and the new supercenters would be smaller in size. For example, a supercenter planned for St. Petersburg, Florida, is about half the size of a traditional 220,000-square-foot location.

Current Conditions

Depite--or perhaps because of--an economic recession that beset the United States in the last years of the 2000s, discount stores not only survived the downturn in the economy but increased their sales and expanded their operations. Overall revenues for industry leader Wal-Mart increased from $373.8 billion in fiscal 2008 to $401.1 billion in fiscal 2009 and $405.0 billion in 2010. While Wal-Mart held steady within the United States, managing to increase net sales by 1.1 percent during fiscal to $258 billion, much of the company's growth came in its international divisions, which grew by 11 percent during fiscal 2010 to exceed $100 billion for the first time. Within the United States, Wal-Mart continued to tweak its strategy within its more mature markets to meet consumer needs with pricing and product selection. The corporation was also hoping to make inroads into new markets, such as New York City. In early 2011, Wal-Mart was making an all-out appeal to the New York City Council for permission to open its door within the city proper. Thwarted five year prior by unions and negative public sentiment, Wal-Mart had more leverage in the early 2010s as the unemployment rate was high and consumers were looking to save money. The company even created a special website to promote the endeavor (

Target's revenues and earnings declined in 2008 due to economic stressors but began to rebound in 2009. In 2008 the company reported earnings of $2.2 billion on revenues of $64.9 billion. In 2009, earnings and revenues increased to $2.5 billion and $65.4 billion, respectively. Like Wal-Mart, Target was also looking to grow outside the United States, and, to that end, in 2011 took over the leases of 220 Zellers stores in Canada. "This transaction provides an outstanding opportunity for us to extend our Target brand, Target stores and superior shopping experience beyond the US for the first time in our company's history," said Gregg Steinhafel, chairman, president and chief executive officer of Target, according to Information Company. Between 100 and 150 will be remodeled and operated under the Zellers names (the others will be sold off).

Dollar General also posted increasing revenues in 2010 of $11.8 billion, up from $10.5 billion in 2009. Unlike Target and Wal-Mart, however, Dollar General was solely focused on expanding its operations within the United States. In an aggressive move to increase its presences across 35 states, the chain had plans to open 625 stores and hire an additional 6,000 people beginning in 2011. Unlike its competitors, Sears Holdings' Kmart was working to keep level pace, losing revenues in both 2008 and 2009. In 2009, the company closed 60 underperforming stores.

Industry Leaders

Arkansas-based Wal-Mart has long been the world's largest retailer, but in 2002 it surpassed General Motors and ExxonqMobil Corp. to become the world's largest company. By fiscal 2010, the company operated 8,416 stores worldwide. Of these, 4,304 were located within the United States--3,708 Wal-Marts and 596 Sam's Clubs. In fiscal 2010, Wal-Mart reported $405.0 billion in sales with a net income of $14.4 billion and employed over 2 million workers.

Wal-Mart's founder, Sam Walton, entered the industry with a few Ben Franklin stores operating under the "Walton 5 & 10" name. When management at the Ben Franklin Company rejected the idea of opening larger discount stores, Sam Walton and his brother James "Bud" Walton opened their first Wal-Mart Discount City in Rogers, Arkansas, in 1962.

The explosive growth of the chain was facilitated by its effective use of computer technology. In the early 1990s the company invested almost $600 million in computerization and information systems, enabling it to reduce its costs to 15 percent of its annual revenues, well below the 25-percent industry average. An innovator of the wholesale club and hypermart concepts, Wal-Mart eventually came to favor the supercenter format, and in the early 1990s many Wal-Mart stores were redesigned as supercenters. In 1998, more than 40 percent of Wal-Mart's selling space went to its supercenters. During the mid-1990s the company's return on capital declined significantly due to large-scale investments in international stores, which totaled 310, with expansions mainly in Canada and Latin America. The company benefits from large economies of scale, and in 1998 foreign sales were up 63 percent to $12.2 billion. By the late 2000s international investment was fueling much of the company's growth. During fiscal 2010 alone Brazil, China, and Mexico added 17.5 million square feet of floor space, accounting for over 80 percent of the international sector's growth.

Target Corporation, second-largest discounter, formerly Dayton Hudson, operated nearly 1,750 stores at the end of 2009. Target stores, including SuperTarget, accounted for more than 85 percent of Target Corporation's sales. The company posted fiscal 2009 sales of $64.9 billion, and had 351,000 employees.

Target's roots date back to the early 1900s as the Dayton Company department store. After expanding over the next several decades to include other Midwestern department store chains, the company opened the first Target discount store in Roseville, Minnesota, in 1962. In 1969, the Dayton Corporation (as it was now known) merged with Detroit-based J. L. Hudson Company to form the Dayton Hudson Corporation, acquiring the Mervyn's chain in 1978 and Marshall Field's in 1990. Meanwhile, Target became the corporation's leading revenue-producer in 1975 and continued its expansion into the 1990s, introducing pharmacy services, bridal and baby registries, a store credit card, product lines developed by big name designers, its Greatland and SuperTarget stores, and, its online retail counterpart. By 2000, the company was renamed Target Corporation; it sold Mervyn's and Marshall Field's in 2004 in order to focus solely on its discount retail presence.

Michigan-based Kmart, which merged with Sears in 2005, became the country's third-largest retailer, behind Wal-Mart and Home Depot, and the third-largest discounter, behind Wal-Mart and Target. Kmart, which operated 1,292 stores plus 25 supercenters in fiscal 2009, reported sales of $15.7 billion in fiscal 2009.

Kmart's origins may be traced to 1897, when Sebastian S. Kresge and John McCrory opened their first five-and-dime stores in Memphis and Detroit. They split their partnership in 1899, and Kresge remained in the retail business. Kresge incorporated his company in 1912 as the S. S. Kresge Company, the second-largest dime store chain in the United States. By the 1950s, Kresge's company had grown to become one of the largest general merchandise retailers in the nation. In 1958, company management decided to enter into discount retailing, transforming three unprofitable stores into discount operations. The first Kmart discount store was opened in Garden City, Michigan, in 1962. Americans soon grew accustomed to Kmart's "blue-light" specials--spontaneous sales in various departments signaled by a flashing blue light.

Growth continued in the 1970s, and the Kresge Company changed its corporate name to Kmart in 1977. During this time, the company began a series of acquisitions that included Furr's Cafeteria and Bishops Buffets, both of which were sold in 1986. Other acquisitions included Payless Drug Stores, Waldenbooks, and Builders Square. In 1988, Kmart opened its first Pace warehouse clubs as well as its first hypermart, American Fare. By 1990, Kmart had surpassed Sears, Roebuck & Co. in retail revenue, but sales at both stores were quickly eclipsed by Wal-Mart. A major rejuvenation program, begun in the early 1990s, included the renovation or relocation of more than 2,400 Kmart stores. However, outdated inventory and old storefronts hurt sales, and the company found itself heavily discounting merchandise to retain sales. As reported in Valueline, "the crucial core challenge remained the same: get customers to come back more often." The typical Kmart customer came in only 15 times a year, compared to 32 for Wal-Mart. Customers, in addition, often drove greater distances to avoid Kmart and go to Wal-Mart.

With about 1,500 stores after closures--down from a high of 4,792 in 1992--and with sales steadily declining, the company filed for bankruptcy in 2002, emerging as a leaner operation after hundreds of store closures the following year. In 2005, Kmart and Sears announced a planned merger, which resulted in additional store closures and the conversion of some Kmart stores into Sears Essentials stores, which stocked general merchandise and apparel in the Kmart tradition, but also products that Sears was well-known for, including tools, lawn equipment, and appliances. The company posted revenues of just over $30 billion, a 14.9 percent loss for the year, resulting in a net loss of $3.2 billion.


The retail industry was a significant source of employment in the United States, accounting for roughly 4.5 million workers in the late 2000s. As larger companies relied more heavily on computer technology, lowering labor costs and increasing productivity, employees of Wal-Mart, Target, Kmart, and other discount establishments found that job descriptions changed accordingly. With these advances, more jobs became available. With more than 1.4 million workers in the United States, Wal-Mart is the largest private employer in the United States. In 2010, an average full-time worker at Wal-Mart earned $11.75, according to Wal-Mart's corporate fact sheet.

Wal-Mart faced pressure from unions and other groups over workers' right concerns. In late 2010 a labor dispute was granted class action status by a Kentucky judge in relation to Wal-Mart's alleged nonpayment of employees who worked through their breaks or off the clock. Wal-Mart settled another such class action case in Massachusetts at the end of 2009 for a reported $40 million.

America and the World

Wal-Mart had operations in 15 countries, including Puerto Rico, Canada, China, Mexico, Brazil, Germany, the United Kingdom, Argentina, and South Korea. David Toung, analyst with Argus Research, stated, "These are very important areas for them because there is more growth opportunity for them than there is in the U.S." The company remains focused, along with other strong discounters, on operations abroad. By the 2002, Wal-Mart saw its greatest growth opportunities in the Asian markets of China, Japan, and Korea. The company had 20 stores in China at that time; by the beginning of 2011, Wal-Mart had more than 200 stores in China, with plans to expand further. Several other discount retailers had opened stores in foreign markets, most notably in Europe and Mexico. Furthermore, companies began creating alliances with foreign operations in the form of licensing and franchising agreements, investments, and joint ventures.

Kmart began entering into joint ventures with foreign partners as early as 1968 with Coles Myer Ltd., the largest retailer in Australia. A longtime operator of stores in Canada, Kmart was also the first U.S. discount retailer to enter Eastern Europe with a 76-percent purchase of Maj, a large Czechoslovakian department store in 1992. The company had operations in Puerto Rico, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands by 1996.

Research and Technology

The Internet became a significant contributor to the retail environment with the increasing number of retailers who created Web sites for general marketing information and to allow customers to purchase goods online. In 1996, Wal-Mart created two Web sites for both higher- and lower-priced items, Kmart began offering online shopping in May 1998, and Target offers online purchasing as well. With Internet sales increasing by the billions by the mid-2000s, discount retailers have been forced to create an online presence to tap into increased market share. As a result of increasing technology, information technology and information services retail professionals have been called upon and now play substantial roles in the discount stores infrastructure. By the beginning of the 2010s, the top three discounters all ran integrated, high-volume Internet-based operations. The Internet allowed the firms to increase their product lines without adding to their in-store inventories. In addition, consumers could take advantage of such integrated offers as free ship-to-store pricing and returns.

Due to the price sensitive nature of the industry, discount stores have to maintain efficient operations to achieve maximum profitability. The implementation of computer technology was, and is, essential to store operations. Development of technology such as computer-assisted bar code scanning, online receiving, merchandise tracking, and labor management is crucial to store profitability. With the onset of computerized operations, discount stores were able to reduce inventory, speed up inventory turnover, and shorten the lead time required to move merchandise into the store. Customers can check availability of a product online before driving to a store, saving them a trip and improving their service experience.

Interactive touch screens for point-of-sale (POS) operations went into development in 1998. Graphical user interface (GUI) payment terminals are expected to become increasingly popular, despite initial negative feedback. Jim Dion, a senior partner with the J. C. Williams Group, stated in a Stores article, "For some time now, retailers have made interactive kiosks, touch-screen information terminals, and similar capabilities available to customers at or near the point-of-sale. In most cases, the technology was ignored by customers over age 50 and used infrequently by 25- to 50-year-olds. Most stores and malls have backed off this technology for the time being."

Nevertheless, vendors are pushing the new POS systems. Checkmate developed a new product, the eN-Touch 1000, which is predicted to replace existing countertop credit and debit terminals. Mary Lynne Campbell, Director of Business Development for Checkmate, stated in Stores, "retail marketers can achieve 'virtual customer intimacy' through nonpayment applications such as advertising, personal messaging, instant credit, loyalty programs, cross selling, electronic coupons, surveys, managerial signoff, information kiosks, and product locators." Large, national retailers are expected to implement these new devices.

Use of handheld computers in the industry also increased in the late 1990s, greatly facilitating in-store communications, particularly for price verification and inventory tracking. Wal-Mart, Target, and Kmart used wireless in-store systems. The handhelds proved beneficial in maintaining stock levels and facilitating price markdowns.

Moreover, the development of spread-spectrum radio promised greater bandwidth in wireless communications, allowing stores to use wireless systems for a wide variety of tasks. Future applications for spread-spectrum radio included use as a local-area network infrastructure, which would connect handheld computers; new generations of wireless (and possibly mobile) POS systems; and electronic shelf labels to provide graphs of sales trends among other information. Manufacturers of spread-spectrum radio systems continue development on graphical interfaces.

In 2003, Wal-Mart announced that its top suppliers would need to comply with RFID tagging of merchandise by the start of 2005. The initiative cost the suppliers around $2 million, according to AMR Research, far less than the originally projected $17 million average. The so-called RFID mandate was not 100 percent by the stated deadline, but it did push many of the distributors toward the new electronic tagging and inventory devices.

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News and information about Variety Stores

Sprouse Reitz Variety Stores
The Spokesman-Review (Spokane, WA); November 13, 2017; 562 words
...NowStarting around 1940, Sprouse Reitz variety stores began popping up around Spokane...with the Woolworths and Newberry variety stores downtown, but they carried listed a dozen independent variety stores, plus chains like Newberrry...
Ontario Amends Code Allowing Grocery, Variety Stores in Downtown
Inland Valley Daily Bulletin (Ontario, CA); July 16, 2013; 548 words
...council agreed to amend its development code to permit variety stores within the C1 and shopping center zoning designation...the commission raised their concerns with smaller variety stores."In their opinion, the smaller (stores) were...
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Mass Market Retailers; October 2, 2000; 517 words
...out front. Unlike the original variety stores, which in some cases remained...moved to the suburbs, the new variety stores can be found in strip centers...discounters that put the original variety stores out of business have gotten so...
Variety Stores Experience Shifting Trend in Productivity
Monthly Labor Review; October 1, 1988; 700+ words
...changes in the business cycle for variety stores. Since the early 1970's, demand...employment As their name suggests, variety stores offer the consumer a broad selection...workers. The work force of the variety stores industry consists of nonsupervisory...
The Buffalo News (Buffalo, NY); October 15, 1993; 700+ words
Two Buffalo-area Woolworth variety stores will close their doors by year's end under the sweeping...goods stores. While some 250 of the soon-to-close variety stores will be reformatted to the smaller, more profitable...
McCrory's Discount Variety Stores to Leave Raleigh, N.C.
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News; December 1, 2001; 652 words
...based McCrory Corp., among the last of the five-and-dimes, said this week that all of the company's discount variety stores, including Dollar Zone on Fayetteville Street Mall, will close by February after a going-out-of business sale...
The Buffalo News (Buffalo, NY); March 7, 1996; 318 words
A Mass of Christian Burial for William G. Kenyon, 66, founder and owner of many Kenyon Variety Stores in the area, will be offered at 10:30 a.m. Friday in St. Joseph's Catholic Church, 391 Market St. Prayers will be said...

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