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A big-box store (also supercenter, superstore, or megastore) is a physically large retail establishment, usually part of a chain. The term sometimes also refers, by extension, to the company that operates the store. The store may sell general dry goods in which case it is a department store, or may be limited to a particular specialty (such establishments are often called "category killers") or may also sell groceries, in which case some countries use the term hypermarket.
Typical architectural characteristics include the following:
- Large, free-standing, rectangular, generally single-floor structure built on a concrete slab. The flat roof and ceiling trusses are generally made of steel, the walls are concrete block clad in metal or masonry siding.
- The structure typically sits in the middle of a large, paved parking lot, sometimes referred to as a "sea of asphalt." It is meant to be accessed by vehicle, rather than by pedestrians.
- Floor space several times greater than traditional retailers in the sector, providing for a large amount of merchandise; in North America, generally more than 50,000 square feet (4650 m²), sometimes approaching 200,000 square feet (18,600 m²), though varying by sector and market. In countries where space is at a premium, such as the United Kingdom, the relevant numbers are smaller and stores are more likely to have two or more floors.
Commercially, big-box stores can be broken down into two categories: general merchandise (examples include Walmart and Target), and specialty stores (such as Menards, Barnes and Noble, or Best Buy) which specialize in goods within a specific range, such as hardware, books, or electronics. In recent years, many traditional retailers—such as Tesco and Praktiker—have opened stores in the big-box-store format in an effort to compete with big-box chains, which are expanding internationally as their home markets reach maturity.
Labor unions oppose big-box development because the employees of such stores are usually not unionized. Unions are especially concerned about the grocery market because stores such as Target, Walmart, and Kmart now sell groceries. Unions and cities are attempting to use land use ordinances to restrict these businesses.
Urban planning 
Some conservatives worry about the economic impact of big-box retailers on established downtown merchants or the sprawl-inducing impacts on character of such developments, as these stores are often associated with heavy traffic in the areas around the store locations. Some communities have adopted a higher level of architectural treatment and regulations to ensure that the superstores relate better to their environs and neighbours. Many regulate signage and landscaping.
There are also concerns surrounding traffic and roads. The increased traffic leads to more air pollution in an area and higher taxes in order to maintain the roads.
Big box stores in various countries 
The first company in Australia to use the big-box model was Bunnings Warehouse. Mitre 10 Australia adopted the model with the "Mitre 10 Mega" stores first opening at Beenleigh, Queensland in 2004. Ikea began operating in Australia in 1975.
Apart from major American big-box stores such as Walmart Canada, Home Depot and Lowe's, there are many retail chains operating exclusively in Canada. These include stores such as (combined with slashes by the owner) Zellers/Home Outfitters/The Bay, Loblaws/Real Canadian Superstore, Rona, Winners/Homesense, Canadian Tire/Mark's Work Wearhouse/Sport Chek, Shoppers Drug Mart, Chapters/Indigo Books and Music and many others.
The indigenous Loblaw Companies Limited has expanded and multiplied its Real Canadian Superstore (and Maxi & Cie in Quebec) branded outlets to try to fill any genuine big-box market and fend off the damaging competition that a large Walmart penetration would inflict on Canadian-based retailers.
In the early 21st century, commercial developers in Canada such as RioCan chose to build big box stores (often grouped together in so-called "power centres") in lieu of traditional shopping malls. Examples include Deerfoot Meadows (Calgary), Stonegate Shopping Centre and Preston Crossing (Saskatoon), South Edmonton Common (Edmonton), and Heartland Town Centre (Mississauga).
There are currently more than 300 power centres, which usually contain multiple big-box stores, located throughout Canada.
Many configurations exist: the hypermarket that sells many kinds of goods under one roof (like French chains Carrefour, Auchan, and E.Leclerc), most of them are integrated within a shopping mall; the supermarket that is a smaller version of a hypermarket; the market located in city centres; department stores which first appeared in Paris, then some opened in other parts of the world; the superstore that mainly sells goods in a particular domain (automotive, electronics, home furniture, etc.); and warehouse stores.
Hong Kong 
To contend against Carrefour, PARKnSHOP opened the first superstore in 1996 based on the concept of a wet market. Most superstores in Hong Kong emphasizes one-stop shopping, such as providing car park services. Today, PARKnSHOP has more than 50 superstores and megastores, making it the largest superstore network in Hong Kong. The first Wellcome superstore opened in 2000 and it has only 17 superstores. In addition, CRC also has four superstores in Kong Kong.
However, due to the fact that Hong Kong is a very densely populated city, the sizes of superstores are considerablely smaller than those in other countries. Some superstores are running at deficit (such as Chelsea Heights) therefore it stopped selling fresh fish. Furthermore, some PARKnSHOP superstores and megastores such as Fortress World, belong to the same corporation, Hutchison Whampoa.
India is currently going through a retail revolution with the introduction of Big Bazaar in 2001. However, large retail stores were not uncommon in India. Spencer's, a popular hypermart, traces its history as far back as 1863. Similarly, conglomerates, such as Bharti, Reliance, Godrej and TATA have over the last decade ventured into large format retail chains, though small and medium enterprises (SMEs) still account for the majority of the daily consumer transaction needs.
An attempt was made to allow international large format retailers such as Walmart into the country, however it was successfully opposed by small retailers citing job elimination due to increased efficiency,lowered prices due to less losses and lower costs.
In Ireland, large merchandise stores in the style of U.S. superstores were not a part of the retail sector until recent decades. Dunnes Stores have traditionally had a supermarket-plus-household-and-clothes model and now have some large stores as well as Tesco Ireland who now run upwards of 19 hypermarkets across the country.
New Zealand 
The big-box phenomenon hit New Zealand in the late 1980s, with the introduction of Kmart Australia, and later the "Warehouse" superstore, a local company. Mitre 10 New Zealand opened their first Mega in 2004 at Hastings, New Zealand six months before the Australian Mega store, it opened to great success with 20 more stores opening in the year two years. Australian-owned Bunnings Warehouse opened its first store in New Zealand in 2006.
United Kingdom 
In the United Kingdom, large warehouse style general merchandise stores along the lines of U.S. superstores are not a traditional part of the retail sector but in recent times shopping styles have changed. Some large-scale retailers are developing, e.g., Tesco Extra stores, and the largest branches of Asda, but these are supermarkets which have evolved into hypermarkets selling a broader range of non-food goods. The term superstore is not much used in the UK. When it is used, it may refer to a supermarket that is larger than a convenience store but smaller than a hypermarket, but such establishments are nearly always referred to as "supermarkets" in practice, or simply as the name of the chain in question. It is also sometimes used by non-food retailers for stores which are larger than their normal store, in which case the meaning varies from company to company, but usually bears no resemblance to the U.S. definition. It is mainly used by downmarket retailers and confers little prestige.
As in the U.S., the term anchor store is used to denote a larger-than-normal branch of a chain store which is considered to draw a particularly large volume of customers to a shopping centre or retail park. Across Britain, large-scale shopping malls on the edges of towns and cities, containing "hypermarket" anchor stores (e.g., large ASDA or Tesco) are increasingly popular, especially since the 1980s.
United States 
Usually associated with large chains such as Target and Walmart, a superstore sells a wide range of products, such as toys, electronics, clothing, groceries, furniture, sporting goods and automotive supplies. These types of stores advertise "one stop shopping", where customers can stop just once at their store and buy everything they need or want. Most superstores are located on a single level, unlike other department stores which are often multi-leveled.
Meijer is generally credited with pioneering the superstore concept in the United States. The first Meijer Superstore opened in Grand Rapids, Michigan in 1962. By contrast, Walmart didn't open its first Supercenter until 1988.
Superstores should not be confused with warehouse club stores, such as Sam's Club, Costco, and BJ's Wholesale Club. While many superstores are as large as some warehouse stores and most are architecturally similar, they differ commercially. Superstores do not require the customer to purchase large quantities of items. Warehouse club stores are still considered "big-box stores."
The term "superstore" is also used for some large specialist retailers, such as Menards which deals in building supplies. Another example is Best Buy which stocks mostly high technology/electronics items, with occasional home appliances.
See also 
- List of superstores
- List of hypermarkets
- Supplier convergence
- Warehouse store
- Category killer
- Kelbaugh, Douglas (2002). Repairing the American Metropolis. USA: University of Washington Press. p. 165. ISBN 0295982047.
- CQ Researcher: Big-Box Stores. September 10, 2004.
- TWO WAL-MARTS FOUGHT BY GROCERY UNIONS
- Dunham-Jones, Ellen (2011). Retrofitting Suburbia,. New York, NY, USA: John Wiley & Sons. p. 51. ISBN 1118027671.
- Yin, Jordan (2012). Urban Planning For Dummies. New York, NY, USA: John Wiley & Sons. p. 220. ISBN 1118101685.
- Pacetti, M. (2012). The Sustainable City VII: Urban Regeneration and Sustainability. USA: WIT Press. p. 231. ISBN 1845645782.
- Big-Box Sprawl (And How to Control It)
- American Independent Business Alliance, non-profit specializing in helping communities support local businesses and stop big box sprawl
- Howard, Theresa, "Big-box stores squeeze into Big Apple," USA Today, October 18, 2004
- Big Box Sprawl PDF from the National Trust for Historic Preservation
- bigboxreuse.com  Site about how big boxes are reused after retailers abandon them for larger buildings.
- "Big Box Mart" by JibJab
- "Big box retailers versus boutique shops" by TV3 (New Zealand)
- "The Big Box" parody of Big Box stores
- Business Alliance for Local Living Economies (BALLE) for information about solutions to big box sprawl