5 Jan /15


It was 100 years ago that the word superstore made its first appearance in the English language, in an advertisement published in The Times. The newspaper ad claimed that Barkers was a “great superstore, designed on the newest and approved principles of hygiene.” It further promised that “London’s superstore” would deliver customers’ orders by means of “a specially organized van service several times daily” throughout London. For those residing outside of the capital, there was also the option that “country orders [were] attended to by a separate staff and promptly delivered by a fleet of swift motor cars.”

The key message of convenience was repeated several times in varying advertisements, each taking up a third of a page. Interestingly, Barkers’ inaugural ad already defined the key features associated with a superstore today: a large retailer that stocks and sells a wide variety of goods and is easily accessible. Originally, this variety of products mainly referred to groceries and basic household items. Today, superstores carry everything from creamer to camping equipment. Other names used for these kinds of stores today are big-box store, hypermarket, super center or megastore.

From the beginning, the idea was to combine huge volumes within a single store and achieve one-store shopping with all the products under one roof, thus reducing cost and time. As the advertisement suggests, there was originally a high level of service and concentration on one geographical location.

Walmart is the best example of the superstore in its modern form. Similarly to its historic counterpart, Walmart’s focus has always been on size and accessibility – floor spaces upwards of 15,000 square feet and parking lots that serve as RV parks at night characterize the typical Walmart layout. This shift to bigger stores resulted in shopping moving from the inner cities to locations that were accessible by car. As more families left the inner cities, suburbia became the preferred home of the big-box retailers.

As brick and mortar stores face increasing competition from online retailers, many superstores are offering a superstore website with same-day delivery. This idea is not new. 100 years ago, Barkers promised that those who needed food could call in “their requirements directly to the salesmen and be assured of orders being delivered on time,” i.e. same-day delivery within 30 miles of the store.