department store

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department store:

see storestore,
commonly a shop or other establishment for the retail sale of commodities, but also a place where wholesale supplies are kept, exhibited, or sold. Retailing—the sale of merchandise to the consumer—is one of the oldest businesses in the world and was practiced
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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Department Store


(in Russian, univermag), a large store that sells practically all types of merchandise, often including edible goods. Department stores first appeared in the mid-1800’s in France and subsequently spread to other countries. By the early 20th century, when capitalism had reached the monopolistic stage of development with the increased concentration and centralization of commercial capital, many department stores were brought together as part of various commercial monopolies.

In Russia the first department stores were built in the early 20th century. The largest were the Muir and Merrilees (Miur i Meriliz) department store in Moscow (now the Central Univermag) and the department stores of the Guard Officers’ Economic Association in St. Petersburg (now the Leningrad House of Trade) and of the Officers’ Economic Association in Moscow (now the Central Univermag of the voentorg, or military exchange system). The first Soviet department store was Moscow’s State Department Store (the GUM), opened in 1921. On Jan. 1, 1941, the USSR had 44 large department stores; by Jan. 1, 1975, it had 580 large and medium-sized ones. Department stores are classified according to the nature of their operations: they may be citywide stores—that is, serving the population of an entire city, as well as a sizable number of out-of-town customers—or they may be designed to serve one or more districts within one city.

Department stores represent the most progressive type of store for merchandising nonfood products. The availability of a wide range of goods enables the customer to purchase all needed merchandise in one building, thus simplifying and shortening the shopping process. Department stores often provide a wide variety of supplementary customer services—for example, home delivery of merchandise, information services, wrapping stations, storage facilities for customers’ purchases, special rooms for mothers and children, savings banks, and communication services. Department stores use such modern merchandising methods as self-service (with goods arranged in categories for the customer’s convenience), open-shelf merchandising, and ordering from samples.

The department store’s great number of employees and large scale of operations (receiving, storage, preparation for sale, and in-store movement of goods) facilitate a more far-reaching division of labor than is practical in other types of stores. Such division of labor results in increased efficiency among store workers and permits the utilization of mechanized equipment—for example, conveyors, elevators, loaders, and calculators. Large department stores practice modern management methods, making use of electronic computers.

As compared with other types of stores, department stores have higher profit capacity and lower operating costs per thousand rubles of merchandise turnover, including operating costs for building maintenance. Construction costs for a department store are 10 to 15 percent less than for several small stores accounting for the same total sales area. As a rule, department stores are located in separate buildings or are part of urban shopping centers.


Organizatsiia torgovli promyshlennymi tovarami, 2nd ed. Moscow, 1971.
Kotov, V. N. Monopolisticheskie formy khoziaistvennykh otnoshenii. Moscow, 1971. Chapter 5, subsec. 2.
Kochurov, A. M. Universal’nye magaziny. Moscow, 1972.
Gogol’, B. I. Ekonomika sovetskoi torgovli, 3rded. Moscow, 1971.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

department store

a large shop divided into departments selling a great many kinds of goods
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
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