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How Many Types of Retail Outlets Are There?


“Retail is the nation’s largest private-sector employer, contributing $5.3 trillion to annual GDP and supporting more than one in four U.S. jobs — 55 million working Americans.” – National Retail Federation.

Retail Outlets


The retail industry is diverse; from large-scale department stores to niche specialty shops and warehouse clubs, each type of retail outlet offers a wide range of products and a unique shopping experience.

In this article we look at ten types of retail outlets available today, providing insights into their operations, target markets, and defining characteristics.

So, whether you’re a curious shopper looking for specific products or a business person considering entering the retail market, understanding the various types of retail outlets will help you achieve personal or business aims faster.

Why is the Retail Industry Important?

The primary goal of retail is to satisfy consumer needs and desires through effective merchandising and customer service.

The retail industry through its assortment of outlets provides a convenient environment for shoppers to compare and contrast between different brands and prices.

From food to clothes and medicines, retail plays a critical role in connecting manufacturers to consumers.

What’s more, without a diverse retail sector, we would not be able to access the goods that sustain our quality of life.

Retail Outlets

“The word “retail” refers to a type of business where merchants sell products or services to individual consumers for personal use. Learn more in this post.” – Joe Hitchcock.

Ten Types of Brick-and-Mortar Retail Outlets

1. Retail Specialty Stores

Specialty stores focus on specific product categories, as opposed to retailers that sell a large number of consumer goods categories.

When consumers think of specialty retail, they often think of specialized stores, like Lululemon, a clothing retailer that focuses on yoga-wear, or Sports Checks, a chain that specializes in sportswear and athletic equipment.

Value to Consumers: Provides expert knowledge and a wide array of options within a particular product category, enhancing the shopping experience for enthusiasts and those seeking specific items. 


    • AutoZone: Successful due to its wide range of auto parts and accessories combined with knowledgeable staff.
    • Sephora: Offers an extensive selection of beauty products and is known for its hands-on customer experience with products.
    • Barnes & Noble: Remains a top retailer by offering a vast selection of books and related products alongside a comfortable shopping environment that encourages browsing. 

2. Department Stores

A department store is a retail business that offers a wide range of consumer goods organized into departments. Each department specializes in a single product category.

Modern department stores often carry clothing, cosmetics, do-it-yourself products, furniture, gardening supplies, hardware, home appliances, houseware, paint, sporting goods, toiletries, and toys.

In discount department stores, customers generally check out near the front of the store, while high-end traditional department stores include sales counters within each department. 

Value to Consumers: One-stop shopping convenience for clothing, household items, and more, often focusing on higher quality or luxury goods. 


    • Macy’s: Known for its wide variety of products and brands, it successfully markets itself through sales events and loyalty programs.
    • Kohl’s: Offers competitive pricing and extensive merchandise assortments with a strong focus on clothing and home goods.
    • Nordstrom: Excels in customer service, offering high-end products and a superior shopping experience. 

3. Supermarkets

Supermarkets offer a wide selection of food and household products, such as meat, fresh produce, dairy, canned and packaged goods, household cleaners, pharmacy products, and pet supplies.

Further, a given supermarket usually has several different departments or sections, which may include an in-store bakery, a seafood department, a deli counter, and a large frozen foods section.

Supermarkets are typically chain stores supplied by the distribution centers of their parent companies, thus increasing opportunities for economies of scale.

These large stores usually sell products at relatively low prices by using their purchasing power to buy goods from manufacturers at lower prices than smaller stores can. 

Value to Consumers: Convenience of purchasing all grocery needs in one location, often with competitive pricing and variety. 


    • Publix: Successfully provides a clean shopping environment, friendly service, and quality products.
    • Kroger: Large selection and frequent promotions help draw customers; private label offerings offer value.
    • Whole Foods Market: Focuses on natural and organic products, appealing to health-conscious consumers. 

4. Superstores

Superstores are huge supermarkets that often sell household goods, clothes, electrical goods, and food. They combine the features of a supermarket and a department store to provide a wide range of products.

Superstores are significantly larger than grocery stores or supermarkets and typically look more like warehouses. 

Value to Consumers: The convenience of buying groceries alongside electronics, clothing, and household goods. In addition, superstores typically charge anywhere from 15 to 45 percent less than their smaller counterparts. 


    • Walmart: Dominates due to its ability to offer low prices and a wide product range.
    • Target: Popular for its trendy product offerings, clean store layout, and effective marketing strategies.
    • Tesco Extra: Offers extensive grocery and merchandise options, providing convenience and competitive prices. 

5. Convenience Stores

Convenience stores are small retail businesses that stock a limited range of everyday items such as tea, coffee, groceries, fruits, vegetables, snacks, confectionery, soft drinks, dairy products, lottery tickets, over-the-counter drugs, toiletries, newspapers, and magazines.

These stores may be part of a gas/petrol station where shoppers can purchase goods while refueling their vehicles.

A convenience store may be located alongside a busy road, in an urban area, near a railway station, or busy transport hub.

Convenience stores charge significantly higher prices than conventional grocery stores or supermarkets, as they buy smaller quantities of inventory at higher per-unit prices from wholesalers. 

Value to Consumers: Customers benefit from longer business hours, more convenience, a greater number of locations, and shorter cashier lines.


    • 7-Eleven: Known for its 24/7 operations and a wide range of products that cater to immediate needs.
    • Circle K: Offers quick service and a variety of products in convenient locations. 

6. Category Killers

Category-killer retailers are often big-box stores that carry a large assortment of one product category.

Category killers have a comparative advantage over smaller retailers through their wide merchandise selections, low pricing, deep supply, significant buying power, and market penetration.

For instance, category killers can significantly reduce the sales of rival retailers within a particular category. 

Value to Consumers: Shoppers benefit from unparalleled variety and competitive pricing within a specific category. 


    • Home Depot: This company is successful due to its vast home improvement products and strong focus on DIY markets.
    • Best Buy: Excels by providing a wide range of electronics with knowledgeable staff and price-matching guarantees.
    • PetSmart: Offers an extensive selection of pet supplies along with services like grooming and training. 

7. Discount Stores

A discount store is a department store that sells products at prices lower than traditional retail outlets.

Discount stores focus on efficient operations management, providing exceptional customer satisfaction, and offering quality products at low prices.

In doing so, they avoid the high cost of advertising and promotion and pass on those savings to consumers. 

Value to Consumers: Provide affordability, especially for budget-conscious shoppers, without sacrificing product range. 


    • Dollar General: Thrives by offering low-cost items in convenient neighborhood locations.
    • Family Dollar: Offers a variety of goods at competitive prices, appealing to budget shoppers.
    • Big Lots: Known for its closeout and overstock merchandise, providing significant discounts.

8. Off-Price Retailers

Off-price retailers are independent of manufacturers and buy large volumes of branded goods directly from them.

The off-price retail model relies on purchasing over-produced, or excess, branded goods at a lower price, thus being able to sell to consumers at a discount compared to other stores that purchased an initial run. 

Value to Consumers: This business model allows consumers to purchase higher-quality items at reduced prices. The discount amount can reach as much as 60-65% on average, reaching up to 90% of the initial price of similar products sold at popular retail outlets. 


    • J.Maxx: Succeeds by offering designer brands at discounted prices, frequently updating its inventory.
    • Ross Dress for Less: Attracts shoppers with steep discounts on clothing and home accessories.
    • Nordstrom Rack: Provides luxury Nordstrom products at reduced prices, appealing to fashion-conscious consumers. 

9. Factory Outlets

A factory outlet is a store where a manufacturer sells goods directly to the public.

Factory cutlet stores can carry a variety of high-end products at affordable prices. The price can be lower depending on the outlet store.

For example, factory outlets are often cheaper than retail stores because retail costs are not included in the sale price. 

Value to Consumers: Shoppers can acquire brand-name products at lower prices, often from a range of brands in one location. 


    • Nike Factory Store: Offers a range of past-season and discounted athletic apparel and footwear.
    • Coach Outlet: Provides luxury bags and accessories at a fraction of the cost of regular retail stores.
    • Le Creuset Outlet: Sells high-quality cookware at discounted prices, appealing to culinary enthusiasts.

10. Warehouse Clubs

A warehouse club is a general merchandise retailer offering a limited assortment of merchandise with minimal customer service and low prices.

These club stores can offer products at discount prices as they purchase goods in bulk, taking advantage of economies of scale.

Warehouse clubs charge a membership fee to access their discounted or wholesale-priced goods.

Warehouse members can buy large quantities of the store’s products, which makes these clubs attractive to bargain hunters and small business owners.

Value to Consumers: Members benefit from lower prices due to bulk purchasing and limited retail frills. 


    • Costco: Known for its bulk products and membership benefits, including discounts on various services.
    • Sam’s Club: Offers bulk products and additional services like tire and battery centers, optical, and pharmacy.
    • BJ’s Wholesale Club: Provides groceries and general merchandise at reduced prices with membership benefits. 


“The retail sector is often said to be one of the most important for a country’s economy because it is a sort of litmus test of an economy’s level of well-being. In a healthy economy, there is high production and, consequently, wealth is reflected on consumption, most of which is concentrated in retail.” – Edoardo Righini.

Final Comments

As we have seen, the retail sector is full of diversity, with many different store formats catering to different consumer needs and preferences.

Each model plays a crucial role in the retail ecosystem, from the convenience of 24/7 stores to the discounts offered by off-price retailers.

The value provided to consumers by the retail industry is expressed as, convenience, price, product quality, supply and the shopping experience.

In short, awareness of the different types of retail outlets can help consumers make informed decisions on where to shop based on their individual needs.


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