A big-box store
, 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 (mostly in Europe) use the term hypermarket.
Typical architectural characteristics include the following:
- Large, free-standing, cuboid, generally single-floor structure built on a concrete slab. The flat roof and ceiling trusses are generally made of steel, and 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 & Noble, or Best Buy
) which specialize in goods within a specific range, such as hardware
, books, or consumer electronics respectively. 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.