box store

Big-box store

Big-box store is a term that refers to a style of physically large chain store, and by extension to the company behind the store. The terms superstore, megastore, and supercenter also refer to these retail establishments.


Typical characteristics include the following:

  • Large, free-standing, rectangular, generally single-floor structure built on a concrete slab. The flat roof and ceiling trusses are generally made of steel, the walls are concrete block clad in metal or masonry siding.
  • Floor space several times greater than traditional retailers in the sector; in North America, generally more than 50,000 square feet (4650 ), sometimes approaching 200,000 square feet (18,600 m²), though varying by sector and market. In countries where space is at a premium, such as the UK, the relevant numbers are a fraction of that.
  • Located in suburban or rural areas, often in proximity to freeway cloverleaf interchanges, as opposed to downtown shopping districts.

This design provides space for a large amount of merchandise and serves as an enormous billboard to attract customers. It is particularly favored by volume discount retailers.


Generally, big-box stores can be broken down into two categories: general merchandisers, such as Wal-Mart and Target, and so-called category killers—such as Home Depot, Barnes and Noble, or Circuit City—which specialize in goods within a specific range, such as hardware, books, or electronics. In recent years, many traditional retailers—such as Tesco and Praktiker—have opened stores in the big-box-store format in an effort to compete with big-box chains, which are expanding internationally as their home markets reach maturity.


Opponents criticize big boxes, describing them as visually overbearing, wasteful of open space, and deleterious to community and small businesses.

Big box stores in various countries

Hong Kong

To contend against Carrefour, PARKnSHOP opened the first superstore in 1996. The concept of a wet market was applied to this store. The store emphasizes one-stop shopping. Today, PARKnSHOP has more than 50 superstores and megastores, making it the largest superstore network in Hong Kong. Relatively, the first Wellcome superstore was opened in 2000 and Welcome has only 17 superstores. CRC also has four superstores.

However, as Hong Kong is very densely populated, the sizes of superstores are relatively smaller than in other countries. Some superstores are running at a loss (such as Chelsea Heights) and therefore stopped selling fresh fish. Also, the superstores are often crowded and some PARKnSHOP superstores and megastores include Fortress World, which belongs to the same corporation, Hutchison Whampoa.

There are also some high-class superstores, such as Taste in Festival Walk.

United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland

In the UK and Ireland large warehouse style general merchandise stores along the lines of U.S. superstores are not a traditional part of the retail sector. In Ireland, Dunnes Stores have traditionally had a supermarket-plus-household-and-clothes model and now have some large stores. Some large-scale retailers are developing, e.g., Tesco Extra stores in the UK, and the largest branches of ASDA, but these are supermarkets which have evolved into hypermarkets selling a broader range of non-food goods. The term superstore is not much used in the UK or Ireland. When it is used, it may refer to a supermarket that is larger than a convenience store but smaller than a hypermarket, but such establishments are nearly always referred to as "supermarkets" in practice. It is also sometimes used by non-food retailers for stores which are larger than their normal store, in which case the meaning varies from company to company, but usually bears no resemblance to the U.S. definition. It is mainly used by downmarket retailers and confers little prestige.

Across Britain and Ireland, large-scale shopping malls on the edges of towns and cities, containing "hypermarket" (e.g., large ASDA or Dunnes Stores) anchor stores are increasingly popular, since the 1980s in the UK and the early 1990s in Ireland.


Apart from major American big-box stores such as Wal-Mart Canada, and Home Depot, there are many retail chains operating exclusively in Canada. These include stores such as Zellers/Home Outfitters/The Bay, Loblaws/Real Canadian Superstore, Rona, Winners/Homesense, Sport Chek, Canadian Tire/Mark's Work Wearhouse, Shoppers Drug Mart, and many others.

The indigenous Loblaw Companies Limited has expanded and multiplied its Real Canadian Superstore (and Maxi & Cie in Quebec) branded outlets to try to fill any genuine big-box market and fend off the damaging competition that a large Wal-Mart penetration would inflict on Canadian-based retailers.

In the early 21st century, commercial developers in Canada chose to build big box stores (often grouped together in so-called "power centres") in lieu of traditional shopping malls. Examples include Deerfoot Meadows (Calgary), Stonegate (Saskatoon), and South Edmonton Common (Edmonton).

There are currently more than 300 power centres, which usually contain multiple big-box stores, located throughout Canada.

United States

In the United States, a superstore is usually a type of department store, equivalent to the European term hypermarket. However sometimes it refers to specialist category killer retailers.

Usually associated with large chains such as Target and Wal-Mart, a superstore sells a wide range of products, from toys and electronics to clothing and groceries and even furniture, sporting goods and automotive supplies. These types of stores advertise "one stop shopping", where customers can stop just once at their store and buy everything they need or want. Most superstores are located on a single level, as opposed to many department stores which are often multi-leveled.

Meijer is generally credited with pioneering the superstore concept in the United States. The first Meijer Superstore opened in Grand Rapids, Michigan in 1962 (In contrast, Wal-Mart didn't open its first Superstore until 1988).

Superstores should not be confused with warehouse club stores, such as Sam's Club, Costco, and BJ's Wholesale Club. While many superstores are as large as some warehouse stores, superstores do not require the customer to purchase large quantities of items. The superstores provide the bulk breaking that warehouse stores lack.

The term "superstore" is also used for some large specialist retailers, such as Home Depot which fills the gap of building supplies in other superstores by supplying just those items in their stores. Another example is Fry's Electronics which stocks mostly high technology/electronics items, with occasional house appliances.

New Zealand

The Big-box phenomenon hit New Zealand in the late 1980s, with the introduction of Kmart Australia, and later the "Warehouse" superstore, a local company.


India is currently going through a retail revolution with the introduction of Big Bazaar in 2001.

See also


External links

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