The Chain Store Problem in 1930

April 24, 1930

Report Outline
Growth of Chain Store Merchandising
Economic Significance of Chain Stores
Proposed Restrictions Upon Chain Stores

Sales by chain stores during the calendar year 1929 amounted to 18.9 per cent of the total retail business transacted in the United States, according to an estimate by W. J. Baxter, director of research for the Chain Store Research Bureau. In 1921, according to the same authority, chain-store sales amounted to only 4 per cent of total retail trade. Estimates, from various sources, of the volume of chain-store business in recent years are:

Year Total retail sales Chain-store sales Percentage
1927 $40,000,000,000 $5,000,000,000 12.5
1928 42,000,000,000 6,200,000,000 14.8
1929 45,000,000,000 8,525,000,000 18.9

Whether these figures give an approximately correct impression of the rate of chain-store growth is a question which cannot at present be answered with any degree of assurance because of the lack of comprehensive data covering the total retail business of the United States and the volume of chain-store business. Early in 1928, Herbert Hoover, then secretary of commerce, wrote: “We do not even know the volume of our retail trade nor can we guess at it within $10,000,000,000.” Pointing out that “there is relatively little specific information on the distribution of commodities,” Mr. Hoover urged that a national census of distribution be authorized. A census of distribution, as part of the 1930 decennial census, was authorized by the 1929 Census and Reapportionment Act, passed during the special session of the Seventy-first Congress, and the required data are now being collected by the Bureau of the Census, The date at which the results will become available is not yet known.

In the meantime, such figures as are available leave little room for doubt-that the chain stores have, in the course of the last decade, drawn to themselves an annually increasing proportion of the country's retail business. Students of marketing practices are generally agreed that the two outstanding merchandising shifts in the period since the war have been the expansion of instalment buying and the rapid increase in the operations of chain stores.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Chain Stores
Feb. 10, 2023  The Changing Retail Landscape
Jun. 08, 2018  Retailing Shakeout
Sep. 10, 2004  Big-Box Stores
Mar. 22, 1938  Equalization of Chain Store Competition
Aug. 28, 1934  Taxation of Chain Stores
Apr. 24, 1930  The Chain Store Problem in 1930
May 21, 1928  Development of Chain Store Merchandising
Retail Trade