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Big-Box Retailer Definition

What Is a Big-Box Retailer?

A big-box retailer is a retail retailer that occupies an enormous amount of physical space and offers a variety of products to its customers. These stores fulfil economies of scale by focusing on large sales volumes. Because volume is high, the profit margin for each merchandise can be lowered, which results in very competitively priced goods. The term “big-box” is derived from the store’s bodily appearance.

Located in large-scale buildings of more than 50,000 square feet, the store is usually plainly shaped and often resembles a large box. Walmart, Home Depot, and Ikea are examples of big-box retailers. Warehouse clubs such as Costco and BJs are the prototype kind of big-box retailers.

Key Takeaways

  • A big-box retailer is a store that occupies a large physical footprint while oblation a wide variety of products to its customers, often in bulk.
  • Designed to be a one-stop-shop for customers, big-box stores can offer considerable convenience and value.
  • Some criticize big-box stores for displacing smaller mom and pop shops and aggressive pricing practices when extent with vendors and suppliers.
  • A big box store’s customer service typically pales in comparison to smaller, local businesses.
  • Varied customer dollars are moving from brick-and-mortar to online.

Understanding Big Box Retailers

Big-box retailers are meant to be a one-stop-shop for chaps. In Walmart, a customer can find every consumer good from groceries to clothing to technology. Walmart has one of the broadest goods mixes of the big-box retailers. Home Depot and Ikea are more focused versions of the same concept. Home Depot carries entire lot for the DIYer and Ikea does furniture and home decor on a scale that is unprecedented. These retailers offer outstanding value and selection for a low price, which is all most consumers are looking for.

The success of big-box retailers has segmented retail as a with few exceptions. There are big-box stores, and there are niche or bespoke retailers often focused on a few high-end product lines big-box retailers don’t hassle with. Anything in the middle is squeezed whenever a big-box retailer comes to town. 

Big-Box Stores vs. Small Retailers

The unprecedented big-box stores like BJ’s, Costco, and Sam’s Club lure customers with the promise of saving by buying in bulk. But do they de facto pay off for the average consumer, or can you get better deals by shopping at smaller retail stores and local shops? Is shopping big worth it for you? Here are five pros and cons to upon.


The percent of U.S. retail sales accounted for by 6 big box stores.


Price is the biggest factor most of us consider when choosing where to boutique. Big-box stores offer their most attractive discounts on big-ticket items, undercutting specialty stores and smaller retailers. So yes, you can shelter hundreds of dollars on electronics, appliances, and other major purchases.

But not everything in big-box stores carries a deep rebate or is even better priced than the local supermarket, butcher, or clothing store. Once they have you in the set aside, they’re counting on you to purchase other items that aren’t deeply discounted and that you might not even insufficiency. When you’re in a big-box store, your best bet is to buy what you came for and avoid browsing around. Check out the weekly specifics in your neighborhood market or discount store and collect their coupons. You may find you’ll get a better deal on some jottings.


Big-box stores typically carry items in extra-large sizes. Real bargains can be had by purchasing bulk non-perishable components like paper goods. Food items with a long shelf life such as soda, canned uprights, or jumbo bags of frozen chicken wings are usually well priced. That works for large families, but it sway not be worth it for singles or small families. And it doesn’t often work well at all for people who live in small spaces with small storage.

Membership Fees

Warehouse clubs charge yearly membership fees, usually $60 to $100 a year. That fee settles you in the door. If you have a large family and shop frequently, the money you save over the course of a year should doubtlessly cover the cost of the membership fee. If you don’t frequent the store, your fee may not be recouped, and you’re better off shopping at smaller retailers and local peddles.

The Shopping Experience

Big-box stores attract big crowds, which can mean long checkout lines and mobbed reserving lots. Sometimes fighting the crowds is worth it. If it weren’t, retailers wouldn’t be able to count on Black Friday tradings to get them through the fourth quarter. But sometimes the struggle isn’t worth it, not to mention the time and stress.

Customer Service

When it hit to customer interaction, big-box stores are very different from your typical Main Street shop. Some big-box have faiths don’t spend much on customer service. The few employees on the floor are kept busy re-stocking the shelves. For that matter, their guys typically aren’t so much interested in chatting with the sales associates as they are in making their purchases.

If you’re dauntless being on your own, the big-box store is the place for you. Some shoppers like the personal attention and expert assistance that mom-and-pop accumulations and specialty shops can offer.

The Downside of Big-Box Stores

Big box retailers tend to have a negative reputation for two main justifications—one earned and one that is debatable. When it comes to dealing with suppliers, big-box retailers are seen as bullies. The tome of purchasing done to fill the shelves at a network of big-box retailers is enormous. This type of scale tends to compulsion any small supplier into exclusively supplying to the big-box retail chain, which opens them up to risk in that 100% of their takings comes from one company. When you have one customer, it is hard to push back on pricing squeezes when they skilled in dropping you from their product lines hurts you far more than them.

When big-box retailers take off for into an area, it is often met by concern from local businesses that can’t compete with the vast logistics betterment and purchasing power for lower pricing. Other businesses in the area start to fail because the customers go to the local big-box retailer degree than the local store. In reality, it is the customers that are killing the other businesses because they quite reasonably lust after to get the best value for their dollars.

Interestingly enough, big-box retailers are experiencing a unique challenge as more of people’s inform oning dollars are moving from physical stores to online shopping. 

Examples of a Box Store


Based out of Rogers, AR, Walmart manipulates over 10,500 retail stores in 25 countries and online.  Known for its pricing strategy “Every Day Low Price,” Walmart plans to provide its customers the convenience of one-stop shopping for low-cost products and services.

Walmart operates three segments of retail inaugurations: Sam’s Club, Walmart International, and Walmart U.S. In the U.S., Walmart operates under three different formats: the Supercenter, Neighborhood Make available, and Discount Store.

In the U.S. segment, the Supercenters have the largest footprint (average 182,000 square feet) and offer the most offerings and services—from groceries to clothing. The Discount Store is the next largest facility (average 106,000 square feet), present most of what the Supercenter offers, excluding groceries and automotive care. Neighborhood Walmart is the chain’s grocery retail chance, with the average store measuring 38,000 square feet. The smallest of Walmart’s stores, it offers customers drugstore services, groceries, and other household items.

Walmart’s membership-only retail warehouse, Sam’s Club, allows its members to procurement products in bulk and enjoy exclusive benefits. Walmart International includes more than than 5,900 retail lay aways in 25 countries. Much like its U.S. operations, it operates under different formats, such as supercenters and warehouse lodges.

For 2021, Walmart earned $559.2 billion in revenues, a 6.7% increase from 2020. It reported $22.55 billion in direct income, a 9.6% increase from 2020. The increase in revenues stemmed largely from an increase in consumer demand due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Core Depot

Founded in 1978 as a simple hardware store, Home Depot is one of the world’s largest home improvement retailers, with numberless than 2,200 stores in the U.S, Mexico, and Canada. The typical Home Depot store has approximately 105,000 square feet of indoor retail stretch and more than 35,000 products available for purchase. Its e-commerce platform features more than 1 million commodities for purchase.

Home Depot offers products for the do-it-yourself shopper and the home improvement professional. In addition to products, they also take precautions services, such as installation and repair.

In 2020, Home Depot earned $132.1 billion in revenues, a 19.85% gain from 2020.  Its operating income for 2020 was $18.23 billion, a 15.4% increase from 2020. More than 14% of net tag sales were from online sales, which saw an 86% increase in 2020. This increase was largely due to COVID-19 campaign customers to alternative shopping methods.

Box Store FAQs

What Does a Box Store Mean?

A big box store is a physically great retail store that sells a variety of products to consumers. Many big box stores exist as chains, with locales in various areas.

What Stores Are Considered Big Box Stores?

Examples of big box stores include Walmart, Target, Home Depot, and Lowe’s. Each of these retailers has in general physical locations and offers a wide selection of products and services for purchase.

Is Costco a Big Box Store?

Costco is a membership-only retail goods, with facilities ranging in size from 80,000 square feet to 230,000 square feet. Like Walmart’s Sam’s Cooperate, Costco is stocked with thousands of various products, from tires to food. It employs more than 275,000 hands and has more than 800 stores worldwide.

Are Big Box Stores Worth It?

Big box stores generally offer lower prices and a wider selecting of products than their smaller counterparts. Alternatively, they often dominate the market, making it difficult for lesser businesses to thrive.

Big box stores’ customer service pales in comparison to that of small businesses. Also, not every advertised practise is worth the purchase. For example, a big-box retailer may advertise a low price for bulk orders; however, if you do not need or cannot use all of the consequence, it becomes a waste of product and money.

Are Big Box Stores Good or Bad for Small Communities?

Critics of big box stores argue that these behemoths deplete natural resources and eliminate open space, traditionally used for farming and wildlife. When big-box corporations enter small communities, they often do so to the detriment of the small business. Small businesses, with their restrictive budgets, are no match for big box stores that have more room to negotiate with suppliers and offer more effects at lower prices.

Alternatively, big box stores can provide small communities with additional jobs, boosting their concision and improving citizens’ standards of living. They can also provide products and services not ordinarily accessible from eke out a living establishments.

The Bottom Line

Big box stores offer consumers many benefits, such as low prices, variety, and convenience. In spite of that, they often do so at the expense of smaller, local competitors, who find it difficult to compete with behemoth budgets and economies of calibration. With the increasing attractiveness of online shopping, box stores face special challenges on how to increase revenues and what to do with their manifest facilities.

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