Retail Industry in India & Abroad

Overview, market size, growth trends, news resources

Boys growing up in the 1970s would, once in a while, be dragged to a textile showroom by their father or mother and asked to pick up a piece of cloth for a shirt or trouser. The choice made, they would once again be towed away, this time to a tailor’s shop, where the tailor and his assistant would give them some embarrassing moments while taking the measurements. Two weeks later, it would be time for another visit to the tailor’s to collect the shirt or trouser.

That was a slice of the good old, though slow and tedious, world of retailing (this is a good time to mention that the word “retail” comes from the Old French tailoring term “retaille”, meaning “to cut off,” “clip,” or “divide”).

In those days, only well-heeled parents could afford branded readymades for their sons—we aren’t mentioning girls because, in those days, most of them were lucky enough to get their dresses stitched by their mothers.

Today, boys and girls and men and women can all walk in and out of a fashion store inside an hour, happily holding heavy, logo-emblazoned shopping bags.

In case we are not quite predisposed to walk, we can just make a few clicks on our laptops to make all sorts of must-have merchandise, garments included, magically appear at our doorsteps.

Before long, we may even have our goods home-delivered by drones, no less: Walmart, Amazon, and other US companies have sought permission to use custom-built flying machines for just this purpose.

But till then, we may have to make do with traditional stores, modern retail outlets, and e-retail portals, all of which are doing very well, meanwhile. For the old and traditional “kirana” format, the strength is in its features such as lower prices and short-term credit.

However, the modern retail outlet seems to be gradually giving the pop-and-mom store many things to worry about—in terms of not only shopping experience but also promotions, discounts, and “free gifts.” Giving them all a good run for their money is e-commerce, with its ease of use and variety of goods.

They all must be doing many things right—the retail industry, both traditional and modern, in-store and online, is now worth $24 trillion in sales globally.

History of the Retail industry

In the US, the retail industry is said to have started developing in the 18th century, with general stores. Much later, in 1846, Marble Palace opened in New York, to sell European merchandise. In the late 1800s, Sears and Roebuck introduced the catalogue business and, in 1925, opened a chain of retail stores. Sears was the biggest player in the US retail world till 1989, when Walmart surpassed it.

When US suburbs began to grow after World War II, supermarkets began to flourish. The increased use of automobiles during 1920-1940 allowed people not only to travel to supermarkets far away but also to bring home sizeable quantities of goods.

Refrigerators at home meant that they could store perishables. With the population explosion in 1950-70, open-air malls came up, which led to the establishment of bigger supermarkets and hypermarkets.

In Europe, the Industrial Revolution laid the foundations for the consumer goods industry, and the retail sector began to grow. One of the first department stores to come up was probably Bennett’s in Derby, England, in 1734, according to Wikipedia.

However, the first department store as per records is Harding, Howell, and Co, which started business in 1796 at Pall Mall, London. Harrods started business in London in 1834.

India was also not to be left behind.