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A big-box store (also supercenter, superstore, or megastore) is a physically large retail establishment, usually part of a chain. The term sometimes also refers, by extension, to the company that operates the store. Examples include large department stores such as Wal-Martmarker and Target.


Typical characteristics include the following:
  • Large, free-standing, rectangular, generally single-floor structure built on a concrete slab. The flat roof and ceiling trusses are generally made of steel, the walls are concrete block clad in metal or masonry siding.
  • Floor space several times greater than traditional retailers in the sector, providing for a large amount of merchandise; in North America, generally more than 50,000 square feet (4650 m²), sometimes approaching 200,000 square feet (18,600 m²), though varying by sector and market. In countries where space is at a premium, such as the United Kingdommarker, the relevant numbers are a fraction of that.


Generally, big-box stores can be broken down into two categories: general merchandise (examples include Wal-Martmarker and Target), and specialty stores (such as Home Depot, Barnes and Noble, or Best Buy) which specialize in goods within a specific range, such as hardware, books, or electronics. In recent years, many traditional retailers—such as Tescomarker and Praktiker—have opened stores in the big-box-store format in an effort to compete with big-box chains, which are expanding internationally as their home markets reach maturity.



Labor unions oppose big-box development because the employees of such stores are usually not unionized. Unions are especially concerned about the grocery market because stores such as Target, Wal-Mart, and Kmart now sell groceries. Unions and cities are attempting to use land use ordinances to restrict these businesses.

Urban planning

Some cities and towns are worried about the economic impact of big-box retailers on existing downtown merchants or the sprawl-inducing impacts on character of such developments, as these stores are often associated with heavy traffic in the areas around the store locations. Some communities have adopted a higher level of architectural treatment and regulations to ensure that the superstores relate better to their environs and neighbors. Many already have regulations addressing signage and landscaping.

There are also concerns surrounding traffic and roads. The increased traffic leads to more air pollution in an area and higher taxes in order to maintain the roads.

Big box stores in various countries


Many configurations exist: the hypermarket that sells many kinds of goods under one roof (like French chains Carrefour, Auchan, and E.Leclerc), most of them are integrated within a shopping mall; the supermarket that is a smaller version of a hypermarket; the market located in city centers; department stores which first appeared in Parismarker, then some opened in other parts of the world; the superstore that mainly sells goods in a particular domain (automotive, electronics, home furniture, etc.); and warehouse stores.

Hong Kong

To contend against Carrefour, PARKnSHOP opened the first superstore in 1996. The concept of a wet market was applied to this store. The store emphasizes one-stop shopping. Today, PARKnSHOP has more than 50 superstores and megastores, making it the largest superstore network in Hong Kongmarker. The first Wellcome superstore was opened in 2000 and Welcome has only 17 superstores. CRC also has four superstores.

However, as Hong Kong is very densely populated, the sizes of superstores are smaller than in other countries. Some superstores are running at a loss (such as Chelsea Heightsmarker) and therefore stopped selling fresh fish. Also, the superstores are often crowded and some PARKnSHOP superstores and megastores include Fortress World, which belongs to the same corporation, Hutchison Whampoa.

United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland

In the UK and Ireland large warehouse style general merchandise stores along the lines of U.S. superstores are not a traditional part of the retail sector but in recent times shopping styles have changed. In Ireland, Dunnes Stores have traditionally had a supermarket-plus-household-and-clothes model and now have some large stores as well as Tesco who now run upwards of 19 hypermarkets across the Republic. Some large-scale retailers are developing, e.g., Tescomarker Extra stores in the UK, and the largest branches of Asda, but these are supermarkets which have evolved into hypermarkets selling a broader range of non-food goods. The term superstore is not much used in the UK or Ireland. When it is used, it may refer to a supermarket that is larger than a convenience store but smaller than a hypermarket, but such establishments are nearly always referred to as "supermarkets" in practice, or simply as the name of the chain in question. It is also sometimes used by non-food retailers for stores which are larger than their normal store, in which case the meaning varies from company to company, but usually bears no resemblance to the U.S. definition. It is mainly used by downmarket retailers and confers little prestige.

As in the U.S., the term anchor store is used to denote a larger-than-normal branch of a chain store which is considered to draw a particularly large volume of custom to a shopping centre or retail park. Across Britain and Ireland, large-scale shopping malls on the edges of towns and cities, containing "hypermarket" anchor stores (e.g., large ASDA or Dunnes Stores) are increasingly popular, since the 1980s in the UK and the early 1990s in Ireland.


Apart from major Americanmarker big-box stores such as Wal-Mart Canada, and Home Depot, there are many retail chains operating exclusively in Canada. These include stores such as Zellers/Home Outfitters/The Bay, Loblaws/Real Canadian Superstore, Rona, Winners/Homesense, Sport Chek, Canadian Tire/Mark's Work Wearhouse, Shoppers Drug Mart, and many others.

The indigenous Loblaw Companies Limited has expanded and multiplied its Real Canadian Superstore (and Maxi & Cie in Quebec) branded outlets to try to fill any genuine big-box market and fend off the damaging competition that a large Wal-Mart penetration would inflict on Canadian-based retailers.

In the early 21st century, commercial developers in Canada chose to build big box stores (often grouped together in so-called "power centres") in lieu of traditional shopping malls. Examples include Deerfoot Meadows (Calgary), Stonegate (Saskatoon), and South Edmonton Common (Edmonton).

There are currently more than 300 power centres, which usually contain multiple big-box stores, located throughout Canada.

United States

In the United Statesmarker, a superstore is usually a type of department store, equivalent to the European term hypermarket. However sometimes it refers to specialist category killer retailers.

Usually associated with large chains such as Target and Wal-Martmarker, a superstore sells a wide range of products, from toys and electronics to clothing and groceries and even furniture, sporting goods and automotive supplies. These types of stores advertise "one stop shopping", where customers can stop just once at their store and buy everything they need or want. Most superstores are located on a single level, as opposed to many department stores which are often multi-leveled.

Meijer is generally credited with pioneering the superstore concept in the United States. The first Meijer Superstore opened in Grand Rapidsmarker, Michiganmarker in 1962 (In contrast, Wal-Martmarker didn't open its first Supercenter until 1988).

Superstores should not be confused with warehouse club stores, such as Sam's Club, Costco, and BJ's Wholesale Club. While many superstores are as large as some warehouse stores, superstores do not require the customer to purchase large quantities of items. The superstores provide the bulk breaking that warehouse stores lack.

The term "superstore" is also used for some large specialist retailers, such as Home Depot which fills the gap of building supplies in other superstores by supplying just those items in their stores. Another example is Best Buy which stocks mostly high technology/electronics items, with occasional house appliances.

New Zealand

The big-box phenomenon hit New Zealandmarker in the late 1980s, with the introduction of Kmart Australia, and later the "Warehouse" superstore, a local company. Mitre 10 New Zealand opened their first Mega in 2004 at Hastings, New Zealandmarker six months before the Australian Mega store, it opened to great success with 20 more stores opening in the year two years. Australian-owned Bunnings Warehouse opened its first store in New Zealand in 2006.


The first company in Australia to use the big-box model is Bunnings Warehouse. Mitre 10 Australia adopted the model with the "Mitre 10 Mega" stores first opening at Beenleigh, Queensland in 2004. Ikea began operating in Australia in 1975.

Although Australia and New Zealand Big-box hardware markets share the same companies, ie; Mitre 10 and Bunnings, the New Zealand market is dominated by Mitre 10 while the Australian market by Bunnings.


Indiamarker is currently going through a retail revolution with the introduction of Big Bazaar in 2001.

See also


  1. CQ Researcher: Big-Box Stores. September 10, 2004.
  2. [1]
  3. [2]
  4. [3]

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