A department store is a place where a wide variety of goods and products are sold. Department stores usually sell products including clothes, furniture, home appliances, toys, cosmetics, gardening, toiletries, sporting goods, electronics and hardware.
Most department stores started as small shops that grew into larger stores. Delany’s New Mart in Dublin, Ireland, was the first store to actually start as a department store. The word department store had not been coined at that time so it was referred to as the “Monster House”. A hotel was built on top of the department store. Unfortunately, the store and its hotel were destroyed in a fire in 1916. In 1922, the store was rebuilt and named Clery’s Department Store, which is still open today.
In New York City in 1846, Alexander Stewart established the “Marble Palace”. Although customers usually had to pay money just to enter most stores in those days, Stewart admitted anyone in his department store without paying. In 1862, Stewart built another huge department store with eight floors and that sold clothes, furniture, housewares, and sports equipment. The area in New York between Stewart’s stores became very popular for shopping and was nicknamed the “Ladies’ Mile” because so many women walked along this street to shop.
Before the 1950s, department stores were a very important part of North American urban life. Since then, however, they have suffered from strong competition from other stores such as malls and large discount stores. Changes in cities also hurt department stores’ business. Most department stores were built in the center of urban areas but from 1950, more people preferred to live away from the city center. Most people did not want to drive all the way to the city center (“downtown”) to do their shopping. As a result, newer shopping malls built closer to the outside area of the city (“the suburbs”) have become more popular than department stores.
Outside of North America, however, department stores are still very prominent. In South Korea, for example, there are more than 30 Lotte department stores throughout the country. The Shinsegae Department Store in Centum City, Busan, is the largest department store in the world. Shoppers there can find a wide range of products, from fashion items to electric appliances. Every weekend, lots of people enjoy going to Lotte department stores because they are conveniently located and have a wide variety of goods.