Table of Contents

Handbook on the Economics of Retailing and Distribution

Handbook on the Economics of Retailing and Distribution

Edited by Emek Basker

This Handbook explores and critically examines current research in economics and marketing science on key economic issues in retailing and distribution. Providing a rich perspective for the discussion of public policy, contributions from several disciplines and continents range from the history of chains and the impact of multinational retailers on international trade patterns; to the US merger policy in the retail context, the rise of the Internet and consumer-to-consumer sales. This state-of-the-art Handbook is an essential reference for students and academics of economics and marketing science and offers outsiders valuable perspectives on operations research, data analytics, geography, and sociology.

Chapter 17: The evolution and impact of the general merchandise sector

Art Carden and Charles Courtemanche

Subjects: business and management, marketing, economics and finance, industrial economics


This chapter documents the development of the general merchandise sector and the rise of discounters such as Walmart and Costco. We explore the development of chain stores, mail-order houses, chain stores, and mass-market merchandisers and explain how they emerged in response to changing technology and transaction costs. We discuss the literature on entry by Walmart and other discounters. We also survey the growing literature on the effects of mass-market merchandisers on prices, market structure, labor markets, sociocultural outcomes, and health. These studies rely on a variety of different data sets, regional contexts, and identification strategies, sometimes with conflicting results. Most of this literature focuses on Walmart as the store appears regularly at the top of the Fortune 500, but some studies also consider the effects of other discount stores, warehouse clubs, and supercenters.

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