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The Evolution of National Retail Chains: How We Got Here

Author

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  • Lucia Foster
  • John Haltiwanger
  • Shawn Klimek
  • CJ Krizan
  • Scott Ohlmacher

Abstract

The growth and dominance of large, national chains is a ubiquitous feature of the US retail sector. The recent literature has documented the rise of these chains and the contribution of this structural change to productivity growth in the retail trade sector. Recent studies have also shown that the establishments of large, national chains are both more productive and more stable than the establishments of single-unit firms they are displacing. We build on this literature by following the paths of retail firms and establishments from 1977 to 2007 using establishment- and firm-level data from the Census of Retail Trade and the Longitudinal Business Database. We dissect the shift towards large, national chains on several margins. We explore the differences in entry and exit as well as job creation and destruction patterns at the establishment and firm level. We find that over this period there are consistently high rates of entry and job creation by the establishments of single-unit firms and large, national firms, but net growth is much higher for the large, national firms. Underlying this difference is far lower exit and job destruction rates of establishments from national chains. Thus, the story of the increased dominance of national chains is not so much due to a declining entry rate of new single-unit firms but rather the much greater stability of the new establishments belonging to national chains relative to their single-unit counterparts. Given the increasing dominant role of these chains, we dissect the paths to success of national chains, including an analysis of four key industries in retail trade. We find dramatically different patterns across industries. In General Merchandise, the rise in national chains is dominated by slow but gradual growth of firms into national chain status. In contrast, in Apparel, which has become much more dominated by national chains in recent years, firms that quickly became national chains play a much greater role.

Suggested Citation

  • Lucia Foster & John Haltiwanger & Shawn Klimek & CJ Krizan & Scott Ohlmacher, 2015. "The Evolution of National Retail Chains: How We Got Here," Working Papers 15-10, Center for Economic Studies, U.S. Census Bureau.
  • Handle: RePEc:cen:wpaper:15-10
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    File URL: https://www2.census.gov/ces/wp/2015/CES-WP-15-10.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Steven J. Davis & John Haltiwanger & Ron Jarmin & Javier Miranda, 2007. "Volatility and Dispersion in Business Growth Rates: Publicly Traded versus Privately Held Firms," NBER Chapters,in: NBER Macroeconomics Annual 2006, Volume 21, pages 107-180 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Emek Basker, 2005. "Job Creation or Destruction? Labor Market Effects of Wal-Mart Expansion," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 87(1), pages 174-183, February.
    3. Ronald S. Jarmin & Shawn D. Klimek & Javier Miranda, 2009. "The Role of Retail Chains: National, Regional and Industry Results," NBER Chapters,in: Producer Dynamics: New Evidence from Micro Data, pages 237-262 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. John Haltiwanger & Ron S. Jarmin & Javier Miranda, 2010. "Who Creates Jobs? Small vs. Large vs. Young," Working Papers 10-17, Center for Economic Studies, U.S. Census Bureau.
    5. Jonathan Haskel & Raffaella Sadun, 2009. "Entry, Exit and Labor Productivity in U.K. Retailing: Evidence from Micro Data," NBER Chapters,in: Producer Dynamics: New Evidence from Micro Data, pages 271-302 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    6. Emek Basker & Michael Noel, 2009. "The Evolving Food Chain: Competitive Effects of Wal-Mart's Entry into the Supermarket Industry," Journal of Economics & Management Strategy, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 18(4), pages 977-1009, December.
    7. Chad Syverson, 2011. "What Determines Productivity?," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 49(2), pages 326-365, June.
    8. John Haltiwanger & Ron Jarmin & C. J. Krizan, 2010. "Mom-and-Pop Meet Big Box: Complements or Substitutes?," NBER Chapters,in: Cities and Entrepreneurship National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    9. Emek Basker & Shawn Klimek & Pham Hoang Van, 2012. "Supersize It: The Growth of Retail Chains and the Rise of the “Big-Box” Store," Journal of Economics & Management Strategy, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 21(3), pages 541-582, September.
    10. Javier Miranda & Shawn Klimek & Ron Jarmin, 2004. "Firm Entry and Exit in the U.S. Retail Sector, 1977-1997," Working Papers 04-17, Center for Economic Studies, U.S. Census Bureau.
    11. Ryan Decker & John Haltiwanger & Ron Jarmin & Javier Miranda, 2014. "The Role of Entrepreneurship in US Job Creation and Economic Dynamism," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 28(3), pages 3-24, Summer.
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    1. repec:eee:inecon:v:115:y:2018:i:c:p:99-114 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. Ryan Decker & John Haltiwanger & Ron S. Jarmin & Javier Miranda, 2018. "Changing Business Dynamism and Productivity : Shocks vs. Responsiveness," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 2018-007, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (US).
    3. Meinen, Philipp & Raff, Horst, 2018. "International trade and retail market performance and structure: Theory and empirical evidence," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 115(C), pages 99-114.
    4. Decker, Ryan A. & Haltiwanger, John & Jarmin, Ron S. & Miranda, Javier, 2016. "Where has all the skewness gone? The decline in high-growth (young) firms in the U.S," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 86(C), pages 4-23.

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