Retailing is a vital commercial activity, providing customers with an opportunity to purchase goods and services from various types of merchants. The first retail outlets in America were trading posts and general stores.
At trading posts, goods obtained from Native Americans were exchanged for items imported from Europe or manufactured in other parts of the country. As villages and towns grew, trading posts developed into general stores and began to sell food, farm necessities, and clothing.
Typically run by a single person, these stores sometimes served as the post office and became the social and economic center of their communities. Since World War II, giant supermarkets, discount houses, chain stores, and shopping malls have grown in popularity. Even so, individually owned businesses thrive, often giving customers more personal and better-informed service.