The paper "Background of Wal-Mart and the Discount Mass-Retail Industry" is a great example of a case study on business. Founded in the 1960’ s Wal-Mart has experienced most of its rapid growth since the early 1990s. The retail industry is vast; apart from Wal-Mart, the case study mentions other big US retailers such as Target, Costco, Home Depot, Best Buy, and Circuit City, and in the UK names like Tesco and Dixons could be added to the list. The trend in retail seems to be toward consolidation, offering customers “ one-stop shopping” .
One of Wal-Mart’ s best features from a customer point of view is the concentration of most everything a customer could be seeking in one store: groceries, clothing, household items, entertainment items, and services such as pharmacies, auto repair, and banking. Target stores are apparently organized in much the same fashion, and traditionally-focused stores such as Tesco are moving in that direction. Even more specialized stores such as Home Depot, which sells home improvement and building products, and Best Buy, which specializes in consumer electronics, offer what could be described as the maximum possible product mix within their particular segments. The reason that the retail industry is so large is that it primarily serves customers’ needs rather than wants.
People need to buy food and clothing and have their autos repaired; what they buy and how much they wish to spend are matters of discretion, certainly, but they really have no choice to simply forego spending entirely in these areas. Convenience, having the opportunity to purchase the greatest variety of products with the least amount of effort, seems to be a major driver of the retail business.
Shopping malls were successful against individual retailers because many different goods could be concentrated in a small area; major mass-retailers like Wal-Mart are another level of convenience because everything is concentrated in a single store. But there also seems to be an upper limit to how much generalization consumers find desirable. Quality may be perceived as lower for products coming from a mass-retailer than a more specialized one, and indeed Wal-Mart is sometimes criticized for sacrificing quality for the price.