In capitalist countries, the concentration of commercial capital led to the emergence of trading monopolies, which, by garnering most of the trade turnover, came to occupy a dominant position in the sphere of trade. After World War II, the marked growth of competition in the domestic and world markets of capitalist countries accelerated the process of capital concentration in trade, with the result that trading monopolies were considerably strengthened.
The greatest growth and consolidation were achieved by the trading monopolies in the USA. At the beginning of the 1970’s, for example, 50 trading firms conducted almost half of the country’s total commodity trade. The largest trading monopoly, both in the USA and in the entire capitalist world, with respect to total turnover is Sears, Roebuck and Co. In 1973 its total turnover was $11 billion. The other top trading firms in the USA during the same period were J. C. Penney Company, Inc. ($6.2 billion), S. S. Kresge Co. ($4.6 billion), F. W. Woolworth Co. ($3.7 billion), Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Co., Inc. ($1.8 billion), and Safeway Stores, Inc. ($1.7 billion).
In Great Britain, 12 trading monopolies accounted for one-fourth of the country’s total commodity turnover in 1973. Among them were Marx & Spencer Ltd. (with a total turnover of £550 million); Great Universal Stores Ltd. (£457 million); Tesco Stores Ltd. (£395 million); F. W. Woolworth & Co. Ltd., a daughter company of the trade firm of the same name in the USA (£361 million); Boots Ltd. (£346 million); and Associated British Foods Ltd. (£261 million). In France, the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG), Italy, Japan, and other capitalist countries, domestic trade is similarly dominated by large trading monopolies.
Yet, competing with these large firms in the retail trade of capitalist countries are many small, independent traders. Their share, however, of a country’s trade turnover is constantly dimininishing, so that they are being converted more and more into trade outlets for big industry or trade capital. One of the new forms of trading monopolies is the “voluntary” merger of private wholesale and retail traders, which began in some Western European countries and in the USA during the 1950’s. The most extensive merger occurred in the Netherlands, where 70 percent of the small, independent grocers conducted 70 percent of the trade in foodstuffs in the mid-1970’s, and in Great Britain, where 25 percent of such grocers accounted for 46 percent of the total turnover of the grocery trade in 1966. Internationally, the largest voluntary merger is represented by Spar-Grosshandelszentrum Südwest-GmbH & Co. KG, which includes (as of the early 1970’s) 18 wholesale and 2,100 retail trade companies in the Netherlands, 50 wholesale and 12,000 retail companies in the FRG, and 35 wholesale and 3,500 retail companies in Great Britain. In 1972, Spar’s turnover amounted to £125 million.
The large trading monopolies, in searching for new and profitable ways to increase their capital, have created their own production facilities. Almost every one of them controls various industrial enterprises. In the USA, for example, Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea has its own bakeries, fish canneries, and cheese plants. Similarly, Safeway has more than 120 industrial enterprises engaged in the production of foodstuffs. In Great Britain, Sears, Holdings, a trade and industrial concern, controls 45 footwear companies, which turn out one-tenth of the total number of boots and shoes produced in that country, selling them in the 2,000 stores owned by Sears.
The activities of the largest trading monopolies of the developed capitalist countries extend beyond their national borders. Sears, Holdings, for example, has stores in Latin America and Spain. Woolworth owns a network of stores in Canada, the FRG, Mexico, Spain, and Great Britain. A Canadian trading company, Steinberg’s Ltd., established a food market firm in France, Supermarchés Montreal. Great Universal Stores controls several department stores in the USA, Canada, the Netherlands, France, Spain, Israel, and Australia. Associated British Foods has a vast network of food stores in South Africa and Australia. Finally, Allied Suppliers Ltd., another British firm, controls a network of stores in the FRG and Pakistan. More than 50 percent of Allied’s shares are owned by the huge food-processing monopoly Unilever Ltd., a jointly owned British and Dutch concern, which has industrial and trdae monopolies in countries throughout the capitalist world.
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V. F. SOROKINA