A department store is a retail establishment with a building open to the public which offers a wide range of consumer goods such as clothing, housewares, furniture and appliances. It typically offers a choice of multiple merchandise lines, at variable price points, in different product categories (known as “departments” hence the name).
Department stores usually sell products including clothing, furniture, home appliances, toys, cosmetics, gardening, toiletries, sporting goods, do it yourself, paint and hardware and additionally select other lines of products such as food, books, jewelry, electronics, stationery, photographic equipment and baby and pet needs. Certain department stores are further classified as discount stores.
Big-box stores and hypermarkets have become a modern equivalent to historical department stores. Department stores have a supermarket-type central customer checkout area near the front of the store, or alternatively, sales counters within each department. Department stores are usually part of a retail chain of many stores situated around a country or several countries. Some may be independent retailers, existing entirely independent or as licensed dealers.
History Origins The origins of the department store lay in the growth of the conspicuous consumer society at the turn of the 19th century. As economic growth, fuelled by the Industrial Revolution, steadily expanded through the nineteenth century, the affluent bourgeois middle-class grew in size and wealth. This urbanized social group, sharing a culture of consumption and changing fashion, was the catalyst for the emergence of the retail revolution of the period.
As rising prosperity and social mobility increased the number of people with disposable income in the late Georgian period, window shopping was transformed into a leisure activity and entrepreneurs, like the potter Josiah Wedgwood, pioneered the use of marketing techniques to influence the prevailing tastes and preferences of society.  One of the first department stores may have been Bennett’s in Derby, first established as an ironmongers in 1734.
It still stands to this day, trading in the same building. However, the first reliably dated department store to be established, was Harding, Howell & Co, which opened in 1796 on Pall Mall, London.  An observer writing in Ackermann’s Repository, a British periodical on contemporary taste and fashion, described the enterprise in 1809 as follows: The house is one hundred and fifty feet in length from front to back, and of proportionate width.
It is fitted up with great taste, and is divided by glazed partitions into four departments, for the various branches of the extensive business, which is there carried on. Immediately at the entrance is the first department, which is exclusively appropriated to the sale of furs and fans. The second contains articles of haberdashery of every description, silks, muslins, lace, gloves, &etc.
In the third shop, on the right, you meet with a rich assortment of jewelry, ornamental articles in ormolu, french clocks, &etc.; and on the left, with all the different kinds of perfumery necessary for the toilette. The fourth is set apart for millinery and dresses; so that there is no article of female attire or decoration, but what may be here procured in the first style of elegance and fashion. This concern has been conducted for the last twelve years by the present proprietors who have spared neither trouble nor expense to ensure the establishment of a superiority over every other in Europe, and to render it perfectly unique in it’s kind.
This venture is described as having all of the basic characteristics of the department store; it was a public retail establishment offering a wide range of consumer goods in different departments. This pioneering shop was closed down in 1820 when the business partnership was dissolved. Department stores were established on a large scale from the 1840s and 50s, in France, the United Kingdom and the United States.
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