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What is a Hypermarket?

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  • Written By: Malcolm Tatum
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 07 September 2016
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Also known as superstores, hypermarkets are large retail establishments that combine the product lines found in a grocery store with those found in a grocery store. The latest incarnation of these types of markets may also include a full-service pharmacy, as well as a small number of specialty shops located near the entrance to the store. Considered one of the most convenient of all big-box store designs, the hypermarket has become a worldwide phenomenon, with retail chains in just about every country of the world utilizing this retail model.

The history of the hypermarket is usually traced to the early 1960’s. Two prototypes for the later hypermarket design emerged. In the United States, a superstore known as Thrifty Acres opened for business in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Within a year, the European retailer Carrefour launched a hypermarket in Sainte-Geneieve-des-Bois, France. While the retail model worked well, the general format did not begin to take off until the latter part of the 1980’s, when large retailers in the United Kingdom and the United States developed their own unique hypermarket formats, and began to build these combination stores in more areas.

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While most retailers have created their own particular hypermarket layout that is associated with their brand, most have a few basic components in common. Pharmacies are usually located near the front of the stores, a factor that sets them apart from most stand-along drugstores, where prescription are filled in the rear of the establishment. Many also position food and other supermarket fare at one end of the open floor design, and the department store merchandise at the opposite end. Checkout lanes are normally located within the middle area of the floor, allowing easy access from any department within the store. Since 2000, many hypermarket designs call for the inclusion of self-service kiosks, allowing customers to scan, bag, and pay for their items without the assistance of a store associate.

On of the major benefits of shopping at a hypermarket is the chance to manage most shopping needs at one central location. It is possible to do the grocery shopping, select clothing and electronics, purchase plants, and fill prescriptions all under one roof. In superstore designs that include specialty shops, it is also possible to visit a styling salon, conduct banking transactions, and even get an eye examination and purchase eyewear. In addition to the convenience, hypermarkets also often offer extremely competitive pricing, which is especially helpful for people with a tight household budget

While there is no doubt that the hypermarket offers convenience and can save money, many communities have begun to oppose the building of these superstores within their boundaries. Local businesses often can't compete with the prices offered by the larger competitors, and even large chain grocers and department stores may find it difficult to remain in business when a superstore is built nearby. Opponents fear that if the proliferation of hypermarkets is not kept in check, other retailers would eventually close, and thus limit the shopping options open to consumers.

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