What is a Discount Store?

Cassie L. Damewood

A discount store is a retail operation that offers goods for sale that are less expensive than comparable items at traditional department stores. The discount store may carry a wide range of clothing and household goods or sell only one type of item, such as office supplies, shoes, beauty products or electronics. Some discount stores are parts of chains or franchises, and others are independently owned.

A discount store may offer office supplies, such as printer toner.
A discount store may offer office supplies, such as printer toner.

Unlike the popular 99-cent stores that are commonly found throughout the world, a discount store typically sells mainstream brands that are well-known to local consumers. The marketing strategy of a discount store generally heavily relies on their prices being lower than another store in the same region. Some discount store proprietors prominently advertise that their store’s prices will beat any competitor’s advertised price. A significant number of these stores also promise a percentage discount above and beyond the cheaper retailer’s price.

Discount stores may carry a wide range of clothing and other goods.
Discount stores may carry a wide range of clothing and other goods.

Although discount stores are found in most industrialized countries, the United States is generally considered the leader in the development of discount retail store operations. This trend is normally attributed to the consumer need for affordable goods that accompanied the aftermath of World War II. Many major retailers found during this time that their clientele no longer had the spending power they enjoyed in the pre-war era and created discount departments often referred to as bargain basements.

Groceries from a discount store.
Groceries from a discount store.

From the 1950s until the early 1990s, discount stores proliferated. Most cities, towns, suburbs and rural areas had at least one discount store. By the end of the trend, Target, K-Mart and Wal-Mart emerged as the top three discount store retailers in the United States.

Electronics discount stores can be found in most cities throughout the U.S.
Electronics discount stores can be found in most cities throughout the U.S.

Interestingly, these three retailers all opened their first stores in 1962. Around that same time, other major retail stores such as Montgomery Ward, J.C. Penney and Woolworth, created discount branch operations under similar names to the original stores. By the early 1980s, most of these ventures had closed due to low sales. Some went out of business, and others were sold to larger, thriving competitors.

The latest development in the evolution of discount stores was the mid 1990s creation of the superstore or supercenter. This retail location format typically has a grocery store and general merchandise store under the same roof. Many large discount retailers adopted this structure.

Meat department in a discount store.
Meat department in a discount store.

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Discussion Comments

Sporkasia

Dollar stores, especially the ones that sell food items do particularly well doing tough economic times. And these stores retain many of the customers they attract in hard times when the economy improves; thus increasing their share and influence in the marketplace.

Drentel

In general, discount stores can be addictive. I was never much of a shopper. I would go to the mall when I needed to buy gifts or when I absolutely had to have a new pair of shoes or some other item of clothing, but I shopped out of necessity, not for fun like so many people.

One day I needed something from the supermarket and the store was packed, so I went to the discount store in the same shopping center, thinking I might be able to find what I needed there. I found what I needed and spent more time than I expected browsing the aisles. The prices were very good and I have been going back ever since.

Animandel

Since I discovered designer discount clothing stores I refuse to pay anywhere near full price for clothing for me or my family. There may have been a few exceptions when someone wanted something I couldn't find at a discount store, but other than situations like that, you will find me in the discount stores and outlets.

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