BEFORE THE TURN OF THE CENTURY, several entrepreneurs opened stores that would become some of the largest chains in the country. In 1852, Potter Palmer opened a dry goods store in Chicago, which eventually became Marshall Field & Co. In 1881, Joseph Lowthian Hudson opened his first store in Detroit, and in 1883, Barney Kroger established a grocery store in Cincinnati.
Sears began when Richard Sears started selling watches in 1886 to supplement his income, and later hired watchmaker Alvah C. Roebuck to join his venture. In 1887, David May opened the first store of what would become The May Department Stores Co. in Leadville, Colo. And in 1897, F.W. Woolworth first opened for business.
These stores opened as America gradually shifted from an agrarian-based to a manufacturing-based society. People had more free time and more income. Automobiles became affordable and people were mobile, making them eager to get out of their houses and go shopping. What follows is a timeline that highlights some of the most significant events in retail in the 20th century.
1900 through 1909 1901 Marshall Field & Co. Incorporates.
1901 Merchant Henry Siegel forms a syndicate of stores that includes Siegel-Cooper's stores, Simpson-Crawford-Simpson store, Manhattan, and the Schlesinger and Mayer store, Chicago.
1901 Shoe merchant J.W. Nordstrom, a Swedish immigrant and former gold miner, opens his first store in the Seattle area.
1902 R.H. Macy moves from Manhattan's Ladies Mile (Sixth Street) to 34th Street and Broadway.
1902 J.C. Penney opens his first store called the Golden Rule in Kemmerer, Wyo.
1903 Carson Pirie Scott & Co. opens on State Street, Chicago.
1905 The Spiegel Co. publishes its first catalog in Chicago and mails to customers within a 100-mile radius.
1906 Lehman Brothers and Goldman, Sachs finance the expansion of Sears, Roebuck & Co. The mail-order company first incorporates in 1893. Sears' first catalog, featuring only watches and jewelry, debuted in 1888.
1907 Herbert Marcus Sr., his sister, Carrie Marcus Neiman, and her husband, A.L. Neiman, open the first Neiman Marcus store, Dallas.
1908 Edward A. Filene begins selling excess merchandise in the basement of his father's store on Washington Street, Boston.
1910 through 1919 1910 May Department Stores, St. Louis, incorporates in New York City.
By 1910, the number of chain stores operating is probably less than 5,000.
1911 May acquires the William Barr Dry Goods Co. and combines it with The Famous Clothing Co., both in St. Louis, to form Famous-Barr.
1912 The same banking firms that financed Sears in 1906 finance and reorganize F.W. Woolworth Co., increasing its stores from 18 in 1892 to 600, in America and Europe.
1912 John Wanamaker opens 24-story department store on Market Street, Philadelphia.
1913 Famous-Barr opens its flagship in downtown St. Louis.
1913-14 J.P. Morgan helps reorganize the businesses of merchants Henry Siegel (Siegel-Cooper's) and John Claflin (owner of 40 department stores including Lord & Taylor, McCreey's and Hahne's) into the Associated Dry Goods Corp.
1914 B. Altman moves to a 12-story Italian Renaissance building at Fifth Avenue and 34th Street, New York City.
1915 R.H. Macy, B. Altman's, Lord & Taylor, Sterns, Arnold Constable and Saks Fifth Avenue all operate stores in Manhattan ranging from 34th Street to 52nd Street.
1917 Barnes & Noble opens its first bookstore at 31 W. 15th Street, New York City.
1920 through 1929 1922 J C Nichols opens Country Club Plaza in Kansas City, Mo. It is the first shopping district constructed as a business district for a large-scale residential development.
1923 Barney Pressman opens a men's discount clothing store at Seventh Avenue and 17th Street, New York City.
1924 The first Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade takes place in New York City. Dubbed the "Christmas Parade," the five-mile event is watched by 10,000 people.
1924 Macy's Herald Square location becomes largest store in the world, following completion of Seventh Avenue addition.
1924 Loehmann's opens its first store in Brooklyn.
1925 Sears Roebuck & Co. opens first store in a catalog center on Chicago's west side. Another unit opens in Evansville, Ind.
1926 Cataloger Montgomery Ward opens its first store in Plymouth, Ind.
1928 Grandview Shopping Center in suburban Columbus, Ohio, opens. It features a straight line of 30 shops with parking for 400 cars in front.
1928-29 In Seattle, three brothers buy out their father and his partner, taking over a couple of shoe stores, changing their name from Wallin & Nordstrom to Nordstrom.
1929 Federated Department Stores is founded as a holding company and includes the family-owned department stores of Abraham and Straus and F&R Lazarus and Co.
1930 through 1939 1930 The first true self-service store, a King Kullen supermarket opens in Jamaica, Queens, N.Y.
1930 Bloomingdale's joins Federated.
1931 Hugh Parther develops Highland Park Shopping Village, Dallas, the first planned shopping center. Unlike Country Club Plaza, storefronts face inward and occupy a single site not bisected by public streets.
1931 Bloomingdale's opens at 59th and Lexington, New York City.
1934 Hendrik Meijer opens his first grocery store In Greenville, Mich.
1935 According to the U.S. Bureau of Census, the number of chain stores operating is 127,482.
1937 First shopping cart introduced at Humpty Dumpty stores in Oklahoma City, Okla.
1940 through 1949 1941 Congress establishes Thanksgiving as the fourth Thursday of November rather than the fifth Thursday. Fred Lazarus Jr. (Federated Stores) convinces President Franklin Roosevelt that changing the date (thereby extending the Christmas shopping season) would be good for the nation's business.
1941 Japanese invasion of Pearl Harbor effectively ends The Great Depression Labor, building material and merchandise shortages follow.
1942 Sears catalog shrinks in size. 1942 edition is nearly 200 pages shorter than 1941. Material shortages and government regulations put new store construction on hold.
1943 Variety store retailer W.T. Grant opens first non-food, self-service store in Glen Cove, N.Y. Labor shortage and increase of working women combine to make self-service a necessity.
1947 Film "Miracle on 34th Street" premieres.
1948 The McDonald Brothers open a limited-menu, drive-thru restaurant in San Bernardino, Calif.
1948 E.J. Korvette opens first discount store in New York.
1949 Minimum wage grows from 40 to 75 cents per hour.
1949 Thom McAn develops a standardized store design beginning with establishing a standard size for shoe boxes.
1950 through 1959 1950 Northgate Shopping Center, the first open-air pedestrian mall, opens in Seattle featuring two strip centers face-to-face with a pedestrian walkway in between.
1951 Shoppers World, the first two-level center, opens in Framingham, Mass.
1954 Northland Center opens in Southfield, Mich. It is the first center to feature central heating and air-conditioning.
1956 Southdale Shopping Center opens in Edina, Minn. It is the first fully-enclosed, two-level regional mall.
1956 After six years of planning, the open-air Old Orchard Shopping Center opens in Skokie, Ill. Originally anchored by Marshall Field's, The Fair and later, Montgomery Ward, the center was redesigned and redeveloped as a "village square" in 1994, nearly doubling the number of tenants.
1957 Garden State Plaza, an open-air center, opens in Paramus, N.J., anchored by Bamberger's. Periodic expansions and renovations brought about the addition of Gimbel's and JCPenney. Now enclosed, the center is anchored by Macy's, Nordstrom, JCPenney and Neiman Marcus.
1957 Baby Furniture and Toy Supermart (today's Toys 'R' Us) opens in Washington.
1957 The International Council of Shopping Centers forms in Chicago.
1959 Lenox Square opens in Atlanta as an open-air center anchored by Rich's and Davison's. Located a considerable distance from major interstates, it is the Southeast's first mall. In 1972, the center's first major renovation includes enclosing the center and adding Neiman Marcus.
1960 through 1969 1962 First Wal-Mart store opens in Rogers, Ark.
1962 Dayton Hudson Stores open first Target store in Roseville, Minn.
1963 Leslie Wexner opens first Limited store in Kingsdale Shopping Center, Columbus, Ohio.
1965 Mace Siegel founds The Macerich Real Estate Co., Santa Monica, Calif.
1966 Sound of Music store opens, changes name to Best Buy in 1983.
1966 First B. Dalton bookstore opens.
1967 Dayton Hudson Stores Corp. goes public.
1968 Federated Department Stores Co. enters discount arena with debut of Gold Circle stores in Ohio. Its Rich's division opens Richway discount stores in Georgia.
1969 Donald and Doris Fisher open the first Gap store on Ocean Street, San Francisco.
1969 Limited goes public.
1970 through 1979 1970 Wal-Mart goes public.
1972 The U.S Supreme Court contends that a shopping center is quasi-public and serves as a community business area, and that states cannot exclude those wishing to exercise their First Amendment rights on the premises.
1972 Shopping Center World begins publication with its February issue.
1974 First electronic scanner installed in a Marsh Supermarket store, Troy, Ohio.
1975 Water Tower Place, the first vertical mall, opens on North Michigan Avenue, Chicago, anchored by Lord & Taylor and Marshall Field's.
1976 The Rouse Co. opens Faneuil Hall, Boston, signaling the beginning of festival marketplaces and urban revival.
1976 The industry grows to 17,523 U.S. shopping centers, or 2.3 billion sq. ft., producing annual sales of $217 billion.
1977 White Flint Shopping Center in North Bethesda, Md., offers the first shopping center credit card.
1977 S.S. Kresge Co. changes its name to Kmart Corp.
1978 The Home Depot's first store opens in Decatur, Ga.
1980 through 1989 1980 E. J. Korvette liquidates after unsuccessful turnaround attempt.
1981 West Edmonton Mall - the largest mall in North America - opens in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, occupying 5.5 million sq. ft. of space.
1982 Food courts become focal points in malls.
1985 The Home Shopping Network debuts.
1985 The Mills Corp. opens its first center, Potomac Mills, a 1.6 million sq.ft. off-price entertainment center in Prince William, Va.
1985 The Hahn Co. opens Horton Plaza in downtown San Diego.
1986 Gimbel's flagship closes in New York City.
1986 QVC debuts.
1987 Australian developer L J Hooker acquires B. Altman, Bonwit Teller, Sakowitz and Parisian.
1987 First Disney mall store opens in Glendale, Calif.
1988 Canadian developer Robert Campeau acquires Federated Department Stores.
1989 Both L J Hooker and Campeau declare bankruptcy.
1989 SCW calls Homart Development Co. the most active developer.
1990 through 1999 1990 Federated Department Stores declares bankruptcy.
1990 Wal-Mart is number one U.S. retailer in sales.
1991 SCW calls Crown American the year's most active developer with 9.1 million sq. ft. under construction.
1992 BAA Pittsburgh devotes 100,000 sq. ft. of space to typical mall tenants, with merchants promising "street pricing," at the Pittsburgh International Airport. Original tenants include Gap, Body Shop and Sunglass Hut.
1992 Federated emerges from bankruptcy.
1992 Macy's files Chapter 11.
1992 Woolworth Corp. announces it will close 900 of its 6,500 U.S. specialty stores.
1992 Simon Property Group opens Mall of America, the country's largest mall, in Bloomington, Minn., modeled after the successful West Edmonton Mall in Alberta, Canada. The center covers 4.2 million sq. ft. and includes a seven-acre amusement park, nightclubs and restaurants.
1992 Simon opens The Forum Shops at Caesar's Palace, Las Vegas, complete with animatronic statues, a painted sky and Italian architecture.
1993 Sears ceases publication of its "Big Book" catalog.
1990 through 1999 1993 To ease capital concerns, many developers go public and become real estate investment trusts. The REITs raise $15 billion.
1994 Macy's is acquired by Federated.
1995 The merger of Horizon Outlet Centers and McArthur/Glen Realty Corp. creates the largest owner of outlet centers. The new company is called HGI Realty.
1995 Bookseller Amazon.com opens for business on the Internet with 2.5 million titles.
1996 General Growth Properties completes the purchase of Homart and becomes the largest operator of U.S. shopping centers, only to lose the title when Simon Property Group merges with DeBartolo Realty Corp.
1997 Woolworth Corp. closes all its general merchandise stores.
1997 Montgomery Ward declares bankruptcy.
1998 Proffitt's acquires Saks Fifth Avenue.
1999 Filene's Basement declares bankruptcy.
1999 Service Merchandise declares bankruptcy.
1999 Loehmann's declares bankruptcy.