Retail Trade

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Retail Trade


a component of domestic trade and the concluding phase of the circulation of personal consumption, in which goods and services are sold in exchange for the monetary income of the population. In the socialist countries, the function of retail trade is to ensure comprehensive, high-quality service for the population and promote the rational use of the leisure time of the working people.

In the USSR the basic social forms of retail trade are state and cooperative trade, in which the general lawlike regularities of socialist trade, including the planned organization and concentration of economic activity and centralized management, are manifested with increasing clarity, as are trends in development including a rational combination of diversification and specialization. The retail trade system also includes the kolkhoz trade. In the cities, retail trade is carried on primarily by special state trade organizations of the ministries of trade of the USSR and the Union republics, and in the countryside, by the consumer cooperatives. There is a broad network of retail-trade enterprises, including department stores, self-service stores, specialized stores, stalls, and booths. In 1973 there were approximately 700,000 state and cooperative trade enterprises with a total of more than 4 million employees. The modern forms of retail trade, which are becoming more common in the Soviet Union, include special-order trade, retail delivery trade, the sale of goods on credit, and mail-order trade. Progressive forms and methods of trade, such as self-service, as well as highly productive commercial equipment, have been introduced. The methods of delivering and selling goods are being improved, and modern methods and means of management are in use, including automated control systems. In 1974 the retail trade turnover of USSR state and cooperative trade (including public catering) amounted to 195 billion rubles, or eight times the retail trade turnover in 1940.

Retail trade in the other socialist countries shares the organizational principles of Soviet retail trade, but it also has a number of specific features. In the German Democratic Republic, the Hungarian People’s Republic, the People’s Republic of Bulgaria, and a number of other countries, associations of state department stores and large cooperative trade enterprises are developing.

In the developed capitalist countries large private firms and medium- and small-scale merchants engage in retail trade. In the 1950’s through the 1970’s retail trade has been characterized by intensive monopolization, as well as by the concentration and centralization of commercial capital, which is closely associated with industrial and bank capital. Chain stores have become highly developed, as well as supermarkets, department stores, shopping centers, mail-order houses, and credit and catalog sales.


Gogol’, B. I. Ekonomika sovetskoi torgovli, 3rd ed. Moscow, 1971.
SShA: sfera uslug v ekonomike. Moscow, 1971.
Osnovy ekonomiki torgovli. Moscow, 1973.


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