Retail is the process of selling consumer goods and/or services to customers through multiple channels of distribution to earn a profit. Demand is created through diverse target markets and promotional tactics, satisfying consumers’ wants and needs through a lean supply chain. In the 2000s, an increasing amount of retailing is done online using electronic payment and delivery via a courier or postal mail. Retailing includes subordinated services, such as delivery. The term “retailer” is also applied where a service provider services the small orders of a large number of individuals, rather than large orders of a small number of wholesale, corporate or government clientele. Shops may be on residential streets, streets with few or no houses, or in a shopping mall. Shopping streets may be for pedestrians only. Sometimes a shopping street has a partial or full roof to protect customers from precipitation. Online retailing, a type of electronic commerce used for business-to-consumer (B2C) transactions and mail order, are forms of non-shop retailing.
Shopping generally refers to the act of buying products. Sometimes this is done to obtain necessities such as food and clothing; sometimes it is done as a recreational activity. Recreational shopping often involves window shopping (just looking, not buying) and browsing and does not always result in a purchase.
A marketplace is a location where goods and services are exchanged. The traditional market square is a city square where traders set up stalls and buyers browse the stores. This kind of market is very old, and countless such markets are still in operation around the whole world.
In some parts of the world, the retail business is still dominated by small family-run stores, but this market is increasingly being taken over by large retail chains. Most of these stores are called high street stores. Gradually high street stores are being re-grouped at single locations called malls. These are more defined and planned spaces for retail stores and brands.
Retail is usually classified by type of products as follows:
- Food products — typically require cold storage facilities.
- Hard goods or durable goods (“hard line retailers”) — automobiles, appliances, electronics, furniture, sporting goods, lumber, etc., and parts for them. Goods that do not quickly wear out and provide utility over time.
- Soft goods or consumables — clothing, other fabrics, footwear, cosmetics, medicines and stationery. Goods that are consumed after one use or have a limited period (typically under three years) in which you may use them.
- Arts — Contemporary art galleries, Bookstores, Handicrafts, Musical instruments, Gift shops, and supplies for them.