Chain Store
A Kmart chain store
A Walmart chain store

Chain store(s) or retail chain(s) are retail outlets that share a brand and central management, and usually have standardized business methods and practices. In retail, dining, and many service categories, chain businesses have come to dominate the market in many parts of the world. A franchise retail establishment is one form of chain store. In 2004, the world's largest retail chain, Wal-Mart, became the world's largest corporation based on gross sales.[1][]


In 1792, Henry Walton Smith and his wife Anna established W.H. Smith as a news vending business in London that would become a national concern in the mid-19th century under the management of their grandson William Henry Smith.[2] The firm took advantage of the railway boom by opening news-stands at railway stations beginning in 1848.[2] The firm, now called WHSmith, had more than 1,400 locations as of 2017.[3]

In the U.S., chain stores began with the founding of The Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company (A&P) in 1859. Initially the small chain sold tea and coffee in stores located in New York City and operated a national mail order business. The firm grew to 70 stores by 1878 when George Huntington Hartford turned A&P into the country's first grocery chain. In 1900, it operated almost 200 stores.

Post card ad listing eight cities and towns where Dewachter Frres offered "ready-to-wear clothes and by measure for men and children," ca. 1885

Isidore, Benjamin and Modeste Dewachter originated the idea of the chain department store in Belgium when they incorporated Dewachter frres (Dewachter Brothers) on January 1, 1875,[4] three years before A&P began offering more than coffee and tea. The brothers offered ready-to-wear clothing for men and children and specialty clothing such as riding apparel and beachwear.[5] Isidore owned 51% of the company, while his brothers split the remaining 49%.[4] They started with four locations: the tiny crossroads village of Leuze, La Louvire and two at Mons.[4] Under Isidore's (and later his son Louis') leadership, Maison Dewachter (House of Dewachter) would become one of the most recognized names in Belgium and France with stores in 20 cities and towns. Some cities had multiple stores, such as Bordeaux, France.[6][7][8] Louis Dewachter also became an internationally known landscape artist, painting under the pseudonym Louis Dewis.

By the early 1920s, the U.S. boasted three national chains: A&P, Woolworth's, and United Cigar Stores.[9] By the 1930s, chain stores had come of age, and stopped increasing their total market share. Court decisions against the chains' price-cutting appeared as early as 1906, and laws against chain stores began in the 1920s, along with legal countermeasures by chain-store groups.[10]

Restaurant chains

A Cracker Barrel chain restaurant
A Subway franchise restaurant

A restaurant chain is a set of related restaurants in many different locations that are either under shared corporate ownership (e.g., McDonald's in the U.S.) or franchising agreements.[11] Typically, the restaurants within a chain are built to a standard format through architectural prototype development and offer a standard menu and/or services.

Fast food restaurants are the most common, but sit-down restaurant chains (such as Timber Lodge Steakhouse, Buffalo Wild Wings, Outback Steakhouse, T.G.I. Friday's, Legal Sea Foods, Ruby Tuesday and Olive Garden) also exist.[12] Restaurant chains are often found near highways, shopping malls and tourist areas.


The displacement of independent businesses by chains has sparked increased collaboration among independent businesses and communities to prevent chain proliferation. These efforts include community-based organizing through Independent Business Alliances (in the U.S. and Canada) and "buy local" campaigns. In the U.S., trade organizations such as the American Booksellers Association and American Specialty Toy Retailers do national promotion and advocacy. NGOs like the New Rules Project and New Economics Foundation provide research and tools for pro-independent business education and policy while the American Independent Business Alliance provides direct assistance for community-level organizing.

Regulation and exclusion

A variety of towns and cities in the United States whose residents wish to retain their distinctive character--such as San Francisco;[13]Provincetown, Massachusetts and other Cape Cod villages; Bristol, RI;[14]McCall, Idaho; Port Townsend, Washington; Ogunquit, Maine; and Carmel-by-the-Sea, California--closely regulate, even exclude, chain stores. They don't exclude the chain itself, only the standardized formula the chain uses. For example, there could often be a restaurant owned by McDonald's that sells hamburgers, but not the formula franchise operation with the golden arches and standardized menu, uniforms, and procedures. The reason these towns regulate chain stores is to protect independent businesses from competition.[15]

See also



  1. ^ "Wal-Mart Stores on the Forbes Global 2000 List". Forbes. Retrieved . 
  2. ^ a b W.H. Smith history from company's website
  3. ^ WHSmith website
  4. ^ a b c Annexes to the Belgian Monitor of 1875. Acts, Extracts of Acts, Minutes and Documents relating to Corporations, Book #3, Page 67
  5. ^
  6. ^
  7. ^ Maison Dewachter Bordeaux 1904 letterhead listing 20 cities and towns and three stores in Bordeaux itself
  8. ^ "Dewachter" stores were still operating in 2017.
  9. ^ Hayward WS, White P, Fleek HS, Mac Intyre H (1922). "The chain store field". Chain Stores: Their Management and Operation. New York: McGraw-Hill. pp. 16-31. OCLC 255149441. 
  10. ^ Lebhar GM (1952). Chain Stores in America: 1859-1950. New York: Chain Store Publishing Corp. OCLC 243136. 
  11. ^ Jakle, J.A.; Sculle, K.A. (2002). Fast Food: Roadside Restaurants in the Automobile Age. The road and American culture. Johns Hopkins University Press. p. 68-. ISBN 978-0-8018-6920-4. Retrieved 2017. 
  12. ^ "The 20 best chain restaurants in America". Business Insider France (in French). Retrieved . 
  13. ^
  14. ^
  15. ^ "Cape Cod Residents Keep the Chain Stores Out" article by Beth Greenfield June 8, 2010

Further reading

  • Carroll, Glenn R., and Magnus Thor Torfason. "Restaurant Organizational Forms and Community in the US in 2005." City & Community 10#1 (2011): 1-24.
  • Ingram, Paul, and Hayagreeva Rao. "Store Wars: The Enactment and Repeal of Anti-Chain-Store Legislation in America." American Journal of Sociology 110#2 (2004): 446-487.
  • Lebhar, Godfrey Montague, and W. C. Shaw. Chain stores in America, 1859-1962 (Chain Store Publishing Corporation, 1963).
  • Matsunaga, Louella. ;;The changing face of Japanese retail: Working in a chain store (Routledge, 2012).
  • Newman, Benjamin J., and John V. Kane. "Backlash against the 'Big Box', Local Small Business and Public Opinion toward Business Corporations." Public Opinion Quarterly 78#4 (2014): 984-1002.
  • Phillips, Charles F. "The Chain Store in the United States and Canada," American Economic Review 27#1 (1937), pp. 87-95 in JSTOR
  • Schragger, Richard. "The Anti-Chain Store Movement, Localist Ideology, and the Remnants of the Progressive Constitution, 1920-1940." Iowa Law Review 90 (2005): 1011 .
  • Scroop, Daniel. "The anti-chain store movement and the politics of consumption." American Quarterly 60#4 (2008): 925-949.
  • Winship, Janice. "Culture of restraint: the British chain store 1920-39." Commercial Cultures: Economies, Practices, Spaces 31 (2000).

External links

  This article uses material from the Wikipedia page available here. It is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.


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