What Led to the Establishment of General Merchandise Stores?
A general store, general merchandise store, general dealer or village shop is a rural or small town store that carries a general line of merchandise. It carries a broad selection of merchandise, sometimes in a small space, where people from the town and surrounding rural areas come to purchase all their general goods.
The store carries routine stock and obtains special orders from warehouses. It differs from a convenience store or corner shop in that it will be the main shop for the community rather than a convenient supplement.
General stores often sell staple food items such as milk and bread, and various household goods such as hardware and electrical supplies. The concept of the general store is very old, and although some still exist, there are far less than there once were, due to urbanization, urban sprawl, and the relatively recent phenomenon of big-box stores.
The term “general merchandise store” is also used to describe a hybrid of a department store, with a wide selection of goods, and a discount store, with low prices. Examples include J. C. Penney and Sears.
General dealers were established in the 18th and 19th century in many remote populated places where mobility was limited and a single shop was sufficient to service the entire community. Due to its close connection and confinement to its customers, general dealers often adjusted their sales offerings to the specific preferences of their community.
General dealers existed—apart from mainland England and North America—in all colonies and generally in areas where settlers encroached communities that previously did not trade with money. In the colonies trade in local produce had existed long before official shops were opened.
The growing need for imported goods, both from European settlers and the indigenous population, led to the establishment of a network of merchants, and subsequently to the creation of a money economy.