Generally speaking, retail is quite the opposite of wholesale, where the latter refers to selling in large quantities, while retail usually acting as the link between wholesale and the end customer. Or with other words, a retailer gets wholesale goods to later sell those back directly to individual customers at a relatively higher price, as naturally, additional costs are generated down the sale cycle.
The very term retail derives from the Old French verb retaillier (to cut back, reduce), to enter English circa 14th century with the meaning of ‘to sell goods by the piece,’ where the notion of the English word most likely comes from cognate Italian ritaglio, which carries the same sense, and first recorded in use as a noun to indicate the retailing business, in The manuscripts of the Marquis of Ormonde, circa 1365: “The retailing or sales of the common wine called prisage”, to refer to the former privilege of the English monarch to receive two tuns of wine from every ship importing twenty tuns or more (where one tun was defined as 256 wine gallons) .
The verb was first used circa 1420, as A Book of London English, 1384-1425, edited by R. W. Chambers & M. Daunt suggests, accounting for numerous retail sales from the period, for example: “William Grome..used to sell dyuerz wares to the Fraternity of Grocerz, And after retailed to diuerz men of the country.”
The first record to oppose retail to wholesale comes from 1417, from the York Memorandum Book where a ban on selling belts and wrappers was recorded as: “That no man of the gyrdelercraft passe out of this cite into no market and cried open fairs …to sell any gyrdeles by retail or wholesale.”
And the difference between retail and sell comes first recorded in a King Charles II proclamation from 1660: “No Vintner; Inkeeper, Victualler, Ale-house-keeper..That Retails or Sells Ale or Beer, shall Brew his own Beer or Ale, unless he give security to pay the Excise thereof” (and for the record, some 15 years later, in another proclamation, he tried to ban coffee houses, declaring them places of sedition.)
By the 17th century not only coffee houses were popping up in Britain, but permanent shops with more regular trading hours were beginning to supplant markets and fairs as the main retail outlet.
By the end of the 18th century, the first department store in Britain was opened, the Harding, Howell & Co’s Grand Fashionable Magazine at 89 Pall Mall in St James’s, London, divided into four departments, offering furs and fans, haberdashery, jewellery and clocks, and millinery, or hats.
And last year saw nearly 300 000 retail outlets in the country and 200 000 registered retailers, with transaction occurring through a number of different sales channels, yet the number of the online sales growth surpassing 3 times the growth of the rest.