Niche to Discount: 12 Major Types of Retail Stores & Retailers

Updated May 5, 2023.
Types of Retail Stores & Retailers

Did you know retail stores generate trillions of dollars in sales worldwide each year? That's right, the retail industry is a vital component of the global economy, providing goods and services to consumers across the globe.

US Retail Sales 2012-2022
Source: Oberlo

For businesses, understanding the dynamic landscape of retail outlets and retailers is essential for making informed decisions and gaining a competitive edge.

This article will explore the 12 major types of retail stores and retailers, from traditional department stores to emerging online giants. We'll also examine how they contribute to the economy. Whether you're a seasoned industry veteran or just starting, read on to discover the secrets of retailing strategy.

Let's get started!

What is a Retail Store?

A retail store is a physical or virtual establishment that sells products directly to consumers. From clothing to grocery to electronics, retail stores offer a diverse range of goods and services, providing customers with a personalized shopping experience.

As the cornerstone of consumerism, retail outlets play a critical role in driving economic growth, initiating consumer spending, and thus shaping market trends.

Types of Retail Stores

Retail stores come in various shapes and sizes, each offering unique products and services to consumers. But 12 major types of retail stores and retailers are well known. We'll examine their characteristics and examples individually. Let's dive into the world of retail!

1. Department Stores

Department stores are large-scale retail shops that offer an extensive selection of merchandise across different categories. These stores typically have large retail spaces with multiple floors with a main focus on a personalized shopping experience. They carry a wide range of retail categories of purchase merchandise, including high-end brands, designer clothing, jewelry, cosmetics, and electronics, among other products.

Examples of Department Stores:

Some common examples of department stores in the United States include:

  • Macy's: It is the largest department store in the country.
  • Nordstrom: Nordstrom is a department store that is known for its high-end products and personalized customer service.
Top Department Stores by Revenue
Source: Blog-bizvibe

2. Specialty Stores

Retailers that focus on a specific and narrow product line, such as clothing, shoes, or electronics, are known as specialty stores. These stores offer a deep selection of products within their niche and cater to specific consumer needs and preferences.

They have a limited range of product selection compared to department stores but have more specialized knowledge in the product category. These stores have unique or hard-to-find products not typically found in larger retail outlets.

Examples of Speciality Stores:

Some well-known examples of specialty stores are:

  • Apple: A specialty store only for Apple products.
  • Sephora: Sephora is a specialty store that deals in beauty products from different brands.

3. Supermarkets

Supermarkets are large retail stores that carry various food products, household items, and personal care products. They often provide a one-stop shopping experience for consumers and offer various services such as in-store pharmacies and diners. The main emphasis is on perishable goods, such as fresh produce and meat. They commonly offer a variety of national and private-label brands.

Examples of Supermarkets:

The most common examples of supermarkets are:

  • Kroger: Kroger is one of the largest supermarket chains in the U.S., with retail stores in over 2,700 locations.
  • Publix: Publix is one of the regional chain stores that operates in the Southeastern U.S. and is mostly known for its customer service and fresh products.

4. Convenience Stores

Convenience stores are small-scale retail shops that typically offer a limited selection of FMCG products but are open for extended hours. They are often located in convenient locations such as gas stations and busy street corners.

These stores provide quick and convenient purchases to attract customers who are in a hurry or looking for quick snacks or soft drinks. But they often have higher profit margins than other retail stores due to convenience. Most of such stores are self-service stores.

Examples of Convenience Stores:

The most famous convenience store chains among U.S. consumers are:

  • 7-Eleven: Most popular store, with over 9,400 stores in 38 U.S. states.
  • Circle K: With over 7,200 branches all over the U.S., Circle K offers a variety of snack options, gasoline, and other automotive services.

5. Discount Stores

Discount stores are retail stores that offer a variety of products at a lower cost than traditional stores. Such stores are popular for their affordable pricing and an expansive variety of items, including clothing, home goods, electronics, and more. They often carry well-known brand names alongside their own generic or store-branded products.

Examples of Discount Stores:

Some most visited discount stores in the U.S. that share a common goal of providing customers with quality products at a reasonable price are:

  • Walmart: It is the largest discount store in the world and is known for its low prices.
  • Target: A discount store that offers a slightly more upscale shopping experience with trendy merchandise at an affordable price point.

6. Hypermarkets and Superstores

Hypermarkets and superstores are large stores that offer a wide range of products under one roof, including groceries, electronics, clothing, and household items. They often offer competitive pricing, high-quality products, and convenient services like in-store pickup and online ordering. These retailers provide a one-stop-shop experience.

Examples of Hypermarkets and Superstores:

Examples of hypermarkets and superstores in the U.S. include:

  • Meijer: Operating in several Midwest states, the chain offers groceries, clothing, electronics, furniture, and more.
  • Fred Meyer: Located in the Pacific Northwest region of the US, Fred Meyer offers a range of consumer products.

7. Warehouse Stores

Warehouse stores, also known as wholesale clubs, are large-scale retail organizations selling bulk products to customers. Such stores are characterized by their limited product selection, low prices, and large package sizes. Memberships are usually required for entry, which provides access to exclusive deals and discounts.

They often attract customers who are looking to save money by buying in larger quantities and are willing to forego a more traditional shopping experience with personalized service and selection.

Examples of Warehouse Stores:

Famous warehouse stores in the U.S. are:

  • Costco: Costco is known for its wide range of products, including groceries, electronics, and home goods.
  • Sam's Club: Sam's Club is a warehouse store that offers a “scan and go” app for easy and quick checkout.

8. Ecommerce Stores

Ecommerce stores are online retailers that sell goods to customers. They operate entirely on the Internet and offer non-store retailing. Online retailers provide a convenient shopping experience and have features such as product reviews and personalized recommendations.

Along with various payment options like credit cards, PayPal, or other online payment systems, shipping is an essential part of ecommerce stores. They must offer delivery options that are fast, affordable, and reliable.

Examples of Ecommerce Stores:

Some common examples of ecommerce stores in the USA are:

  • Amazon: Amazon is the world's leading online retailing platform and has a vast selection of products, including books, electronics, and clothing.
  • Etsy: Etsy is an ecommerce store that specializes in unique, handmade, and vintage items.
Ecommerce Share of Retail Sales 2021-2026
Source: Oberlo

9. Dollar Stores

Dollar stores sell goods at extremely low prices, usually priced at one dollar or less. These stores cater to budget-conscious consumers and offer various products, including household items, groceries, toys, and party supplies.

These stores have become increasingly popular in recent years, especially during times of economic hardship, as consumers look for ways to save money.

Examples of Dollar Stores:

  • Dollar Tree: Dollar Tree is the largest dollar store chain in the USA, offering a wide range of products at a fixed price of $1 or less.
  • Dollar General: Dollar General also offers a mix of items priced at $1 or less and slightly higher.

10. Off-price Retailer

Off-price retailers, also known as discount retailers, are such stores that sell branded and designer but limited merchandise at a discounted price. They purchase excess, outdated, or broken assortments from manufacturers and retailers and sell them to customers at a discounted price.

Examples of Off-price Retailers:

Most visited off-price retailers by U.S. nationals are:

  • Marshalls: Marshalls offers various brand names and designer merchandise at discounted prices.
  • Ross Dress for Less: Ross offers discounted merchandise, including clothing, footwear, accessories, home goods, and more.
Off Price Retailers Monthly Foot Traffic Compared to 2021
Source: Dfdnews

11. Factory Outlet

Factory outlets sell products to consumers directly from the manufacturer. These stores offer products at a lower price than traditional retail stores, as they eliminate middleman markups.

Factory outlet stores offer consumers the opportunity to purchase high-quality products at a lower price than traditional stores, making them a popular shopping destination for bargain hunters.

Examples of Factory Outlets:

The most common factory outlet retailers in the U.S. are:

  • Nike Factory Store: One of the store retailers that offer products at discounted prices with various options for consumers.
  • Coach Outlet: This retail outlet offers a unique shopping experience for customers by providing luxury handbags and accessories at affordable prices.

12. Drug Stores

Drug stores primarily sell prescription and non-prescription medications and health and wellness products. Drug stores typically cater to a wide range of customers, including those with specific healthcare needs, such as seniors or individuals with chronic conditions.

Examples of Drug Stores:

Following are the major drug stores in the U.S.:

  • Walgreens: With over 8,500 stores across the U.S., Walgreens is one of the largest drugstore chains in the U.S.
  • CVS: Another major drugstore chain with over 9,500 locations across the country. They offer a range of health and wellness products.

Retail Stores vs. Wholesale Stores

Although both retail and wholesale stores sell products, they have different target audiences and business models. Below are the differences:

Retail Stores:

  • Retail stores focus on direct selling to end consumers.
  • Often operate in high-traffic locations such as shopping malls or busy streets.
  • Offer products in smaller quantities at higher prices.
  • Provide personalized customer service.
  • Allow customers to browse and physically interact with products before purchasing.
  • Examples include department stores, supermarkets, specialty stores, and convenience stores.

Wholesale Stores:

  • Wholesale stores focus on selling in large quantities to retail businesses and other organizations.
  • Often operate in warehouses or other large facilities that can accommodate large quantities of inventory.
  • Offer products at lower prices per unit than retail stores.
  • Do not typically provide personalized customer service to end consumers.
  • May require customers to have a business license or reseller permit to shop.
  • Examples include Costco, Sam's Club, and B.J.'s Wholesale Club.
Difference Between Retail and Wholesale Price
Source: Techpacker

How to Decide Which Retail Store to Start?

Are you struggling to pick a retail store that matches the requirements of your business? Or are you unsure where to start? If so, consider these factors to streamline the process:

  • Target market: Knowing your target audience’s shopping habits, preferences, and budget can help you choose the right type of retail store to reach them.
  • Product type: Some products, such as perishable goods, are better suited for certain retail stores. What products do you have, and which store serves them best?
  • Pricing: Different types of retail stores have varying pricing strategies, so choosing a store that aligns with your pricing strategy is important.
  • Marketing: Every retail store has varying marketing strategies, so try to analyze your audience using different types of market segmentation to identify the best approach and tailor the best marketing campaigns.

How to Decide Which Retail Store to Start Shopping?

Choosing the right type of retail store can greatly impact your shopping experience and help you make an informed decision. Consider the following things to decide where you should start your shopping from.

  • Variety: If you are looking for a wide variety of products and brands, a department store or hypermarket may be your best option.
  • Uniqueness: Specialty stores are great for finding unique or niche products if you’re looking for a specific brand or product.
  • Convenience and Affordability: For everyday household items, a supermarket or discount store may be the most convenient and affordable choice.

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Martin Luenendonk

Editor at FounderJar

Martin loves entrepreneurship and has helped dozens of entrepreneurs by validating the business idea, finding scalable customer acquisition channels, and building a data-driven organization. During his time working in investment banking, tech startups, and industry-leading companies he gained extensive knowledge in using different software tools to optimize business processes.

This insights and his love for researching SaaS products enables him to provide in-depth, fact-based software reviews to enable software buyers make better decisions.