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Selling of merchandise directly to the consumer. Retailing began several thousand years ago with peddlers hawking their wares at the earliest marketplaces. It is extremely competitive, and the failure rate of retail establishments is relatively high. Price is the most important arena of competition, but other factors include convenience of location, selection and display of merchandise, attractiveness of the establishment, and reputation. The diversity of retailing is evident in the many forms it now takes, including vending machines, door-to-door and telephone sales, direct-mail marketing, the Internet, discount houses, specialty stores, department stores, supermarkets, and consumer cooperatives.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on retailing, visit Britannica.com.