In America, as in other societies where volume‐trading and out‐of‐town retailing are established features of the distributive system, the problems of the small retail unit have been evident for some time. Since 1939, the number of grocery outlets in America has been reduced from 427,500 to 198,130 in 1974. In recent years, however, evidence has emerged which suggests that the small retail unit is beginning to play an important part, once more, in the American retail system. Convenience stores (defined as small, compact, self‐service stores with an annual turnover of up to $250,000) increased in number from 5,000 in 1965 to 22,700 in 1974. Over the same period, their share of the total U.S. turnover in groceries increased from 1.1 to 4.1 per cent and it has been estimated that they are likely to double this achievement by the turn of the century. The aim of this paper is, therefore, to examine the nature of this development and to determine whether the phenomenon has implications for Britain.
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