Skip to Content

Discount Stores

Discount stores, as the name implies, sell goods at lower prices than do department stores or conventional specialty retailers. They usually display their merchandise in one extensive area, using separate aisles for the various types of products, and having centralized checkouts.

The first discount stores, a deep part of American culture, were the “five and ten cents” stores, so-called because F.W. Woolworth’s began offering products for five and ten cents more than 100 years ago. Every town and neighborhood had one, or several. You can see these stores, with their soda fountains, lunch counters, and small specialty departments, in classic American films.

Today’s discount store might be twenty times bigger than yesterday’s “five and dime.” Wal-Mart, K-Mart and Target are some of the largest American discount store chains selling general merchandise and clothing, but every American region has its own chains. What these stores have in common is that they compete aggressively with each other on price. Nearly all sell name-brand merchandise as well as products under their own brand names.

The big discount stores do not generally use the word “discount” in their store names. Smaller stores that call themselves “discount” stores may or may not actually offer prices lower than their competitors. On American commercial roads and in shopping centers, stores advertise discount beverages, cigarettes, clothing, cosmetics, vitamins, furniture, electronics, and many other types of goods. In all cases in which a major purchase is involved, it pays to do careful research to make sure you are actually getting the same product for less.

Next Section:Small Specialty Stores

Public Services I: Chapter Home

Life in the USA Home Page.