Retail Glossary

From Retailpedia

Welcome to the Retailpedia Retail Glossary! Here you can find terms that are commonly used in the retail community.

  • A-frame: A building style common for 1960s supermarkets; A-frame building structures are composed of a gabled roof and ceiling tiles directly underneath, as well as a large glass facade on the front.
  • Actionway: (action alley, racetrack) - Wide pathways through a store, that guide customers. Actionways are typically lined with pallets, coffin coolers or displays of new, sale, or specially marketed products. Also known as an action alley or racetrack.
  • Anchor: - A large store that draws in customers for the rest of a mall or shopping center.
  • Anchoritis:- A "disease" or blight, typically in a mall, when all or the majority of anchor tenants have vacated. This may result in many tenants vacating, primarily on the account of decreased mall traffic and negative effects of abandonment. This is especially true for stores adjacent to the vacant anchor space(s).
  • Back-end: Stockrooms, breakrooms, and employee bathrooms, located behind doors in areas not accessible to the public without permission or supervision of staff.
  • Backfilling: The practice of finding a new tenant to lease a vacated space.
  • Big-box store: - A large, typically boxy store, typically part of a national or multi-national chain that will in many cases lack much distinct architecture.
  • Broken chain: A chain of stores or restaurants that has lost the majority of its locations due to various reasons. This can stem from corporate mismanagement or shifting demographics and a resulting lack of action. This term can apply to retail stores (such as Ben Franklin or Great American) and restaurants (such as Zantigo). Broken chains may have an extremely varying level of corporate oversight, and may, in some cases, have no corporate parent at all.
  • Boat: An arrangement of counters/shelves serving as a service desk, typically used for electronics or customer service setups.
  • Box: A build out for a department within a store, typically with four walls. For example, a pharmacy department enclosed within four walls would be a "pharmacy box".
  • Brick-and-mortar: Retailers with physical retail operations, as defined by their facades and exterior walls (sometimes made of bricks and mortar gluing together to form walls).
  • Cartwell: Located within a vestibule, the sales floor, or outdoors beside the store, cartwells present carts to shoppers entering the store. These setups are often arranged with carts stacked to present a wide array to the shopper, and may sometimes hold unused carts by locks.
  • Cart corral: Large fixtures within parking spaces or on walkways where customers store shopping carts after use. These structures are often made of a metal frame, sometimes accompanying plastic bumpers or a covered roof, and may feature signs or banners related to the store's branding.
  • Category killer: A large, hyper focused big-box store that tends to "kill" almost all competition in its category.
  • Centennial: A colonial-themed A&P design created in honor of A&P's 100th anniversary in 1958, used through the early 1970s. Many of these buildings still retain this architecture after being converted to other uses.
  • Center store - The shelving and aisles that comprise the majority of a store, away from perimeter walls.
  • "Chasing Rooftops": A phrase used to refer to expansion of retail chains or shopping center planning based on the growth of suburbs.
  • Coffin cooler: Frozen or refrigerated coolers, typically with open or slide-open tops. They are typically low to the ground, and their design resembles that of a coffin.
  • Dead mall: a mall that has been struggling based on a variety of factors. Dead malls may be riddled with vacancies, disrepair, low customer volume, or crime.
  • Décor: Refers to all the elements (signage, flooring, branding, etc) that makes up the interior details of a store. Often named using revisions (such as "Classy Market 1.0" or "Project Impact") or nicknames (such as "Grocery Palace"/"ACME Theme Park").
  • Department: Refers to a certain "section" of a store, such as the electronics department, jewelry department, etc.
  • Directory: A map of a business or mall, that labels departments or stores on a map.
  • Drop ceiling: A ceiling with clear tiles that can be "dropped" or removed easily for replacement or maintenance. While they maintain continuous use over alcoves or staffed areas, drop ceilings have fallen out of favor over open-truss ceilings in new retail buildings.
  • Endcaps: Shelving and displays added onto the end of an aisle or set of shelves, typically displaying new products or products on sale.
  • Expansion: When a store adds additional square footage to its building, either by constructing additional space or by subsuming nearby storefronts. Typically coincides with an extensive remodel for other aspects of the store, but this is not necessary.
  • Facade: The front-facing exterior of a storefront.
  • Fixture: A piece of equipment or decor used in the store, examples include cash registers, clothes racks, coolers, display tables, handbaskets, shelving, shopping carts, and signage.
  • Franchise: A business model wherein a retail chain (the “franchiser”) licenses its operation to a local businessperson (the “franchisee”). Franchises are operated locally, but with varying degrees of corporate oversight, and franchisees must remit franchise fees and other payments to the franchiser on a regular basis. Franchises are most commonly used in the fast food industry, but may also be found in any retail situation (e.g. Merle Norman or Ace Hardware stores).
  • Frankenmall: A mall that, instead of having been built as one cohesive structure, was created from the result of several expansions over the years or by connecting multiple adjacent malls together, creating a look or layout that is not very cohesive. The mall may feature a clashing of architectural styles between two sections built at different times, and may have a confusing and/or twisting layout.
  • Front-end: Referring to the checkouts, service counters, and in-store departments typically located at the front of stores.
  • Gable: A vaulted element on a store's exterior.
  • Gondola: A standard shelving unit, typically sold in predetermined lengths and sizes.
  • Grand aisle: In a grocery store, a wide-open aisle, typically along a perimeter wall and encountered soon after entering, that usually features the produce section, deli, bakery, meat, seafood, and extensive displays.
  • Grand opening: When a store is opened with great fanfare, in a celebration typically including public events and/or celebrity appearances.
  • Hallway mall: A small mall, usually with only 1-2 anchors and a small corridor. The corridor is referred to as a mallway.
  • Hardlines: General merchandise departments such as electronics, toys, home goods, home improvement etc.
  • Job Lot: A collection of random fixtures and merchandise, purchased and sold together, usually from auctions of companies liquidating stores or selling off outdated stock, often at closeout stores.
  • Labelscar: The "scar" or outline left behind when a sign is removed, typically created due to the difference in color between the wall behind a sign, and that surrounding it, due to a combination of weathering and repainting.
  • Lifestyle center: A high end, typically open-air development, consisting of a combination of retail, restaurants, housing, and amenities such as fitness centers.
  • Liquidation: A store closing sale in which everything is sold, including merchandise, fixtures, and "internal" items, such as rolls of receipt paper or bulk icing from a cake department. Often a result of Chapter 7 Bankruptcy.
  • Mall store: A non-department (inline) store that is often found in shopping malls (Such as GNC, Hot Topic, Bath & Body Works, etc.)
  • Marina: A term for barrel-roof Safeway designs in the 1950s and 1960s.
  • Market exodus: A phenomenon in which a retailer closes stores in an entire geographical area at once.
  • Mercury-vapor hood lamps: Domed lighting using mercury vapor. These have frequently been implemented in stores in previous decades, however have fallen in popularity in favor of modern LED fixtures. New installations have been outlawed in the United States since 2008, and all installations have been gradually phased out as they reach the end of their useful lives. These have existed both in drop ceilings and as open-truss models. The latter has found continuous use following such regulations.
  • Mezzanine: Refers to store offices that are above the main sales floor.
  • Monument sign: A shorter sign, typically supported by a full width base. These signs usually face access roads, and are put up due to local ordinances prohibiting larger signs. Also known as a low-rise sign.
  • Non-perishables: Grocery store items which do not require refrigeration. These are often located in the center of a store.
  • Open-truss ceiling: A ceiling without any covering, where the metal trusses that make up the support are completely visible.
  • Paint-out: A cost-effective remodel, in which identifying decor or architectural elements are simply painted over in order to disguise them.
  • Perishables: Refers to food and beverages in grocery stores which are often refrigerated and prone to spoiling if not properly maintained or cycled. This category includes produce, meats, bakery, frozen foods and dairy, and many layouts contain these goods around the perimeter of the store.
  • Polished concrete flooring: - Developed in the 1990s, polished concrete maintains a frequently gray, orange, or brown look in retail applications. Since the 2000s, polished concrete has enjoyed consistent popularity in retail settings.
  • Power center: A shopping center that consists primarily of "big-box" stores, without smaller tenants.
  • Previously-Owned Building (POB): - A status named for a building in which a current retail tenant has filled a space occupied by a previous tenant, often retaining exteriors, floorplans, or decor packages from the previous tenant.
  • Pylon sign: A tall sign located outside a store, to advertise the store to those on nearby roads. Extremely tall pylon signs are typically placed near interstates and highways, and, due to the difficulties in reaching them for replacement, can sometimes become outdated and maintain old logos, or in the case of store closure, logos of defunct stores. Also known as a high-rise sign.
  • Relocation: When a store closes with a direct replacement opening shortly thereafter, in the same area. New stores are sometimes also used as an excuse to close older locations nearby, creating a de facto relocation. Many retailers carry the original store number to subsequent replacement stores while some assign a new number to replacement stores.
  • Remodel: A refreshing or rebuilding of a store, consisting of a decor update and/or exterior remodelling.
  • Reset: The process in which retail employees clear shelving or other displays in a given aisle or department in order to present new product or fixture arrangements. This may be done when a new product line is introduced or a renovation of varying degrees is conducted.
  • Rogue franchisee: A franchisee who breaks corporate ties, but maintains a similar business, with varying levels of familiarity. Some rogue franchisees can form new chains, such as Donut Connection (broken off of Mr. Donut), or can simply remain single locations, such as Burger 81 (broken off of Hot n' Now). Some rogue franchisees become the last remnants of their chains, due to the larger chain's collapse, such as The Chef in Cleveland, Tennessee, a rogue Burger Chef franchisee.
  • Salesfloor: The portion of the store open to customers, where merchandise is stocked and shelved.
  • Signage swap: A cheap remodel, in which only basic signage (possibly only the sign inserts) are changed, leaving significant pieces of the old decor behind.
  • Soft opening: When a store is actually opened a few days before "grand opening" celebrations, in order to acclimatize and train new employees in preparation.
  • Softlines: Clothing and accessory departments.
  • Solarium: A separate room, typically on the front of a restaurant, that is entirely made of glass panels, typically with a curved edge along the roof. They are a trademark of some restaurants, such as Rax and early Wendy's. These can also more rarely be found on the exterior of some retail stores, typically as part of a "store-within-a-store" cafe or restaurant. Also known as greenhouse windows.
  • Store-within-a-store: Also known as a shop-in-shop, a store-within-a-store can either refer to when a separate business operates within another (such as a Sephora inside JCPenney, or a Starbucks inside Target) or to a department that is designed to appear unique from the rest of the store, as if it were a unique store.
  • Storefront: May be used to describe a store’s physical exterior, or in some cases to refer to the number of locations a store has (“ABC Mart has over 1,000 storefronts nationwide”). Storefronts are typically distinctive in design and apply both to traditional buildings and stores within indoor shopping malls.
  • Sublease: An arrangement with the lessee to lease out a vacant space to a third party, such as Dollar Tree to a vacant Walgreens building.
  • Super-regional mall: As defined by the ICSC, malls with over one million square feet of space.
  • Tenant: The occupant of a building.
  • Tenant rot: When a shopping center or mall begins to see national tenants (such as The Gap or Foot Locker) replaced with local or lower end ones (such as an independent "trendy" fashion store or a vape shop), or simply vacated entirely. Can commonly arise in a specific wing of a mall that has a weak anchor, such as Sears or other low performing department store.
  • Terrazzo: A flooring style once popular in retail stores prior to the 1990s; such installations have fallen out of favor due to their cost and the cheap, modern alternatives of polished concrete.
  • Tile scarring: A phenomenon in which exposed concrete shows scarring from residual mortar from the edges of the old vinyl tile.
  • Vaulted ceiling: A ceiling that peaks in the middle, and slopes downwards towards the edges.
  • Vestibule: The area between a store's exterior facing doors and a second set of interior doors. In many cases, this area is used to store carts.
  • Vinyl composition tile: A tiled floor that is the most common throughout retail. These have maintained popularity over the years, though in recent years they have been supplanted by, or entirely replaced in stores, by polished concrete.
  • Wayfinder: A directory sign typically placed at actionway intersections, that directs the shopper to different departments within the store.
  • Zombie mall: A mall with high occupancy rates and is well maintained, but has low customer traffic.
  • Zombie retailer1: A retailer that has, at some point, completely ceased operations, and been revived. Many retailers are revived only as online stores, but some exist in physical retailers as well, such as Grand Union. Examples include Montgomery Ward, F.W. Woolworth, and Toys R Us. In many cases, retailer revivals may be announced, but never get off the ground, such as KB Toys and Circuit City.
  • Zombie retailer2: A retailer which has been closing locations slowly for several years, leaving the remaining locations in a "zombie-like" state, such as Kmart and Sears.

Fan terms[edit | edit source]

  • Beacha Hut - a nickname for older Hollister stores, derived from the store fronts looking like a beachside surf shack. The name is kind of parody on Pizza Hut. (coined by BigSpinCoaster)
  • Eyebrow (McDonald's) - a nickname for McDonald's "Forever Young" restaurant design, derived from the eyebrow-shaped element perched above the main facade and windows. Occasionally, the "eyebrow" may form the roof of the restaurant.
  • Food Dixie - a Winn-Dixie converted into a Food Lion.
  • Harris Kroger - a Harris Teeter converted into a Kroger. (coined by BatteryMill)
  • Kroger Teeter - a Kroger converted into a Harris Teeter. (coined by BatteryMill)
  • Kroger Jack - a Farmer Jack converted into a Kroger. (coined by SoutheastMichiganRetail)
  • Krogersons - a Albertsons converted into a Kroger.
  • McBox - to simplify a restaurant design to a minimalist, cubic design, a trend common since the 2000s decade. The term is derived from McDonald's stores with gray facades, and applied to other fast food/restaurant chains which have ditched dynamically-shaped architectural elements.
  • Pub-Dixie - a Winn-Dixie converted into a Publix. (coined by the Albertsons Florida Blog)
  • Pub Lion - a Food Lion converted into a Publix. (coined by the Albertsons Florida Blog)
  • Publixsons - an Albertsons converted into a Publix. (coined by the Albertsons Florida Blog)
  • Safelixsons - an Albertsons rebranded to Safeway and later converted into a Publix. (coined by the Albertsons Florida Blog)
  • The Cycle - a Grand Union store converted to Tops, back to Grand Union, and back to Tops. (coined by Retail Regents)
  • Weis Lion - a Food Lion converted into a Weis Markets store. (coined by BatteryMill)
  • Walget - a Target converted into a Walmart. (Coined by DZ Retail)

References[edit | edit source]

Definitions provided by Retail Regents, Retail Retell, and BatteryMill, with some taken with permission from the Retail Glossary on DZ's Retail Blog.