The retail business offers products to consumers through a variety of venues. You can purchase just about anything you need in a mall, grocery store, discount warehouse or online. Some retailers sell exclusively through catalogues, and a few still sell products door to door. There are many different types of retailers offering goods and services both online and in your neighbourhood.
The first mass marketing by a retailer was the Sears flyer printed and distributed in 1888. Until the mid-1990s, retailers sold through brick-and-mortar shops, catalogues and direct marketing. With the advent of the Internet, selling online was perceived as a risky business until the past 4-5 years, when online sales have sometimes exceeded other venues.
Different types of retail businesses were once more delineated than they are today. Twenty years ago, if you went into a hardware store, you wouldn't expect to find trinkets and decorative items for your home. Grocery stores didn't sell lawn furniture, and gas stations didn't offer burgers and pizza. Today, we have retailers offering one-stop shopping in discount chains and malls that are evolving into an outdoor series of speciality stores rather than large buildings with levels connected by escalators.
Selling to the public is more complex than ever before as different types of retailers blur the lines in the types of products they offer. Having a web presence is essential to the success of even the smallest speciality store as consumers expect this level of convenience wherever they shop. Shopping online has become the accepted way to compare prices and find exactly what you need without trudging all over town in search of the perfect widget.
Thanks to the Internet, individuals now have the capacity to operate a retail store from the comfort of their home. What was once considered a 'mom and pop' operation is now common practice for retailers selling on eBay and other online auction sites. Anyone can put up a website, direct traffic and sell just about anything.
Shopping online offers benefits to consumers and retailers in terms of price comparison and convenience. Online retailers pay for website maintenance, web traffic and limited personnel for accounting, inventory and shipping. The costs of operating a business online are significantly less than for managing traditional brick-and-mortar retail stores. This is not to say that traditional stores are obsolete. Many consumers can't, or won't, shop online. It's also easier and more convenient to purchase groceries and other necessities at local retailers than it is to purchase online and then wait for shipping. Different types of retailers offer shopping convenience and solutions for consumers.