Weighting the Scale: Store Size and the Performance of Retail Organisations in the United States and Britain, 1950-1973

Tom Buckley

The productivity of retail organisations is influenced by factors at the firm and store level. This paper concentrates on the store level. It does so by examining the relationship between physical store size and the productivity of retail firms operating a chain of stores selling principally clothing merchandise, during the golden age of productivity growth between 1950 and 1973. Using store level accounts collected from the corporate archives of a retail firm operating in the United States, J.C. Penney, and a retail firm operating in the United Kingdom, Marks and Spencer, in four benchmark years, this paper seeks to answer the question, ‘what has been the effect, historically, of physical store size on the productivity of retail firms?’ The conclusion presented in this paper is that the relationship between store size and productivity is significant, but that it is a relationship conditioned by characteristics of the local market.

Keywords: Retail Organisations, J.C. Penney, Marks and Spencer, Productivity.