In ancient Greece, the agora served as a marketplace where merchants kept stalls or shops to sell their goods. Ancient Rome utilized a similar marketplace known as the forum. For example, there was Trajan's Market with tabernae that served as retailing units.
Shopping lists are known to have been used by Romans, as one was discovered near Hadrian's wall dated back to 75–125 CE written for a soldier.
Fairs and markets were established to facilitate the exchange of goods and services. People would shop for goods at a weekly market in nearby towns.
The modern phenomenon of shopping is closely linked to the emergence of the consumer society in the 18th century. Over the course of the two centuries from 1600 onwards, the purchasing power of the average Englishman steadily rose. Sugar consumption doubled in the first half of the 18th century and the availability of a wide range of luxury goods, including tea and cotton saw a sustained increase.
Marketplaces dating back to the Middle Ages, expanded as shopping centres, such as the New Exchange, opened in 1609 by Robert Cecil in the Strand. Shops started to become important as places for Londoners to meet and socialise and became popular destinations alongside the theatre. Restoration London also saw the growth of luxury buildings as advertisements for social position with speculative architects like Nicholas Barbon and Lionel Cranfield.
Much pamphleteering of the time was devoted to justifying conspicuous consumption and private vice for luxury goods for the greater public good. This then scandalous line of thought caused great controversy with the publication of Bernard Mandeville's influential work Fable of the Bees in 1714, in which he argued that a country's prosperity ultimately lay in the self-interest of the consumer.
These trends were vastly accelerated in the 18th century, as rising prosperity and social mobility increased the number of people with disposable income for consumption. Important shifts included the marketing of goods for individuals as opposed to items for the household, and the new status of goods as status symbols, related to changes in fashion and desired for aesthetic appeal, as opposed to just their utility. The pottery inventor and entrepreneur, Josiah Wedgewood, pioneered the use of marketing techniques to influence and manipulate the direction of the prevailing tastes.
As the century wore on a tremendous variety of goods and manufactures were steadily made available for the urban middle and upper classes. This growth in consumption led to the rise of 'shopping' - a proliferation of retail shops selling particular goods and the acceptance of shopping as a cultural activity in its own right. Specific streets and districts became devoted to retail, including the Strand and Picadilly in London.
The first display windows in shops were installed in the late 18th century in London. Retailer Francis Place was one of the first to experiment with this new retailing method at his tailoring establishment in Charing Cross, where he fitted the shop-front with large plate glass windows. Although this was condemned by many, he defended his practice in his memoirs, claiming that he:
sold from the window more goods...than paid journeymen's wages and the expenses of housekeeping.
Retailers designed attractive shop fronts to entice patronage, using bright lights, advertisements and attractively arranged goods. The goods on offer were in a constant state of change, due to the frenetic change in fashions. A foreign visitor thought that London was "A world of gold and silver plate, then pearls and gems shedding their dazzling lustre, home manufactures of the most exquisite taste, an ocean of rings, watches, chains, bracelets, perfumes, ready-dresses, ribbons, lace, bonnets, and fruits from all the zones of the habitable world".
The next stage in shopping was the transition from 'single-function' shops selling one type of good, to the department store where a large variety of goods were sold. As economic growth, fueled by the Industrial Revolution at the turn of the 19th-century, steadily expanded, the affluent bourgeois middle-class grew in size and wealth. This urbanized social group was the catalyst for the emergence of the retail revolution of the period. The first reliably dated department store to be established, was Harding, Howell & Co, which opened in 1796 on Pall Mall, London.
This venture was described as being a public retail establishment offering a wide range of consumer goods in different departments. This pioneering shop was closed down in 1820 when the business partnership was dissolved. Department stores were established on a large scale from the 1840s and 50s, in France, the United Kingdom and the US
A larger commercial zone can be found in many cities, more formally called a central business district, but more commonly called "downtown" in the United States, or in Arab cities, souks. Shopping hubs, or shopping centers, are collections of stores; that is a grouping of several businesses.
Typical examples include shopping malls, town squares, flea markets and bazaars.
A shopping hub or centre, is a collection of retail, entertainment and service stores designed to serve products and services to the surrounding region. Traditionally, shopping hubs were called bazaars or marketplaces which were generally an assortment of stalls lining streets selling a large variety of goods. The modern shopping centre is now different from its antecedents, the stores are commonly in individual buildings or compressed into one large structure (Mall). The first modern shopping mall was The Country Club Plaza in Kansas City which opened in 1922, from there the first enclosed mall was designed by Victor Gruen and opened in 1956 as Southdale Centre in Edina, Minnesota, a suburb of Minneapolis. Malls peaked in America in the 1980s-1990s when many larger malls (more than 37,000 sq m in size) were built, attracting consumers from within a 32 km radius with their luxurious department stores. There are different types of malls around the world, the Superregional malls are very large malls that contain at least five department stores and 300 shops, this mall can appeal to a broad radius (up to a 160-km). A regional mall can contain at least two department stores or "anchor stores". The smaller malls are often called open-air strip centres or mini-marts and are typically attached to a grocery store or supermarket. The smaller malls are less likely to include the same features of a large mall such as an indoor concourse, but are beginning to evolve to become enclosed to comply with all weather and customer preferences.
Stores are divided into multiple categories of stores which sell a selected set of goods or services. Usually they are tiered by target demographics based on the disposable income of the shopper. They can be tiered from cheap to pricey.
Some shops sell secondhand goods. Often the public can also sell goods to such shops. In other cases, especially in the case of a nonprofit shop, the public donates goods to these shops, commonly known as thrift stores in the United States, charity shops in the United Kingdom, or op shops in Australia and New Zealand. In give-away shops goods can be taken for free. In antique shops, the public can find goods that are older and harder to find. Sometimes people are broke and borrow money from a pawn shop using an item of value as collateral. College students are known to resell books back through college textbook bookstores. Old used items are often distributed through surplus stores.
Various types of retail stores that specialize in the selling of goods related to a theme include bookstores, boutiques, candy shops, liquor stores, gift shops, hardware stores, hobby stores, pet stores, pharmacies, sex shops and supermarkets.
Other stores such as big-box stores, hypermarkets, convenience stores, department stores, general stores, dollar stores sell a wider variety of products not horizontally related to each other.
Home mail delivery systems and modern technology (such as television, telephones, and the Internet), in combination with electronic commerce, allow consumers to shop from home. There are three main types of home shopping: mail or telephone ordering from catalogs; telephone ordering in response to advertisements in print and electronic media (such as periodicals, TV and radio); and online shopping. Online shopping has completely redefined the way people make their buying decisions; the Internet provides access to a lot of information about a particular product, which can be looked at, evaluated, and comparison-priced at any given time. Online shopping allows the buyer to save the time and expense, which would have been spent traveling to the store or mall. According to technology and research firm Forrester, mobile purchases or mcommerce will account for 49% of ecommerce, or $252 billion in sales, by 2020
Convenience stores are common in North America, and are often called "bodegas" in Spanish-speaking communities or "dépanneurs" in French-speaking ones. Sometimes peddlers and ice cream trucks pass through neighborhoods offering goods and services. Also, garage sales are a common form of second hand resale.
Neighbourhood shopping areas and retailers give value to a community by providing various social and community services (like a library), and a social place to meet. Neighbourhood retailing differs from other types of retailers such as destination retailers because of the difference in offered products and services, location and popularity. Neighbourhood retailers include stores such as; Food shops/marts, Dairies, Pharmacies, Dry cleaners, Hairdressers/barbers, Bottle shops, Cafés and take-away shops . Destination retailers include stores such as; Gift shops, Antique shops, Pet groomers, Engravers, Tattoo parlour, Bicycle shops, Herbal dispensary clinics, Art galleries, Office Supplies and framers. The neighbourhood retailers sell essential goods and services to the residential area they are located in. There can be many groups of neighbourhood retailers in different areas of a region or city, but destination retailers are often part of shopping malls where the numbers of consumers is higher than that of a neighbourhood retail area. The destination retailers are becoming more prevalent as they can provide a community with more than the essentials, they offer an experience, and a wider scope of goods and services.
The party plan is a method of marketing products by hosting a social event, using the event to display and demonstrate the product or products to those gathered, and then to take orders for the products before the gathering ends.
Shopping frenzies are periods of time where a burst of spending occurs, typically near holidays in the United States, with Christmas shopping being the biggest shopping spending season, starting as early as October and continuing until after Christmas.
Some religions regard such spending seasons as being against their faith and dismiss the practice. Many contest the over-commercialization and the response by stores that downplay the shopping season often cited in the War on Christmas.
The National Retail Federation (NRF) also highlights the importance of back-to-school shopping for retailers which comes second behind holiday shopping, when buyers often buy clothing and school supplies for their children. In 2006, Americans spend over $17 billion on their children, according to a NRF survey.
Seasonal shopping consists of buying the appropriate clothing for the particular season. In winter people bundle up in warm layers and coats to keep warm, while in summer people wear less clothing to stay cooler in the heat. Seasonal shopping now revolves a lot around holiday sales and buying more for less. Stores need to get rid of all of their previous seasonal clothing to make room for the new trends of the upcoming season. The end-of-season sales usually last a few weeks with prices lowering further towards the closing of the sale. During sales items can be discounted from 10% up to as much as 50%, with the biggest reduction sales occurring at the end of the season. Holiday shopping periods are extending their sales further and further with holidays such as Black Friday becoming a month-long event stretching promotions across November . These days shopping doesn't stop once the mall closes, as people have more access to stores and their sales than ever before with the help of the internet and apps. Today many people research their purchases online to find the cheapest and best deal with one third of all shopping searches on Google happen between 10:00 pm and 4:00 am. Shoppers are now spending more time consulting different sources before making a final purchasing decision. Shoppers once used an average of five sources for information before making a purchase, but numbers have risen to as high as 12 sources in 2014.
The pricing technique used by most retailers is cost-plus pricing. This involves adding a markup amount (or percentage) to the retailers' cost. Another common technique is manufacturers suggested list pricing. This simply involves charging the amount suggested by the manufacturer and usually printed on the product by the manufacturer.
In Western countries, retail prices can be referred to as psychological prices or odd prices: a little less than a round number, e.g. $6.95. In Chinese societies, prices are generally either a round number or sometimes some lucky number. This creates price points.
Often, prices are fixed and price discrimination can lead to a bargaining situation often called haggling, a negotiation about the price. Economists see this as determining how the transaction's total economic surplus will be divided between consumers and producers. Neither party has a clear advantage because the threat of no sale exists, in which case the surplus would vanish for both.
When shopping online, it can be more difficult to negotiate price given that you are not directly interacting with a sales person. Some consumers use price comparison websites to find the best price and/or to make a decision about who or where to buy from to save money.
"Window shopping" is a term referring to the browsing of goods by a consumer with no intent to purchase, either as a recreational activity or to plan a later purchase.
Showrooming, the practice of examining merchandise in a traditional brick and mortar retail store without purchasing it, but then shopping online to find a lower price for the same item, has become an increasingly prevalent problem for traditional retailers as a result of online competitors, so much so that some have begun to take measures to combat it.