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THE CHANGING FACE OF THE RETAIL INDUSTRY: 1948 to 1992
While the aggregate numbers are of interest, the composition of the industry provides insights to the changing face of retail. While the changing descriptions of retail businesses over time make comparisons a little difficult, particularly with the widespread existence in 1947-48 of the general store and the mixed business store, broad comparisons can be made with reasonable confidence. For example in 1947-48 over 40% (45,941) of retail locations in Australia were primarily involved in food retailing (table 21.8), the largest categories being grocers, a group comprising confectioners, milk bars and cafes, and mixed businesses.
In 1991-92, on the other hand, while the number of food retailing locations had increased by 43% to 65,734 locations (see table 21.9), food retailing accounted for less than a third of all retail locations. Furthermore, by 1991-92 over 50% (34,443 locations) of the food retailing locations were involved in either takeaway food (20,034 locations) or cafes and restaurants (14,409 locations). The comparable sector in 1947-48, namely confectioners, milk bars, cafes etc., accounted for only 8,659 locations. In the absence of the rapid growth in takeaway food retailing, and in cafes and restaurants, there would have been a decline in the number of food retailing locations.
The emergence of the takeaway food store was not the only phenomenon during the period, which also saw the emergence of the supermarket to replace the many corner grocery stores and mixed business stores operating in 1947-48. Whereas in 1947-48 there were 18,577 grocers and mixed business locations, by 1991-92 there were only 9,476 supermarkets and grocery stores. Of course the impact of the supermarket was not restricted to grocery and mixed business stores. In the same period the number of fruit and vegetable retailers declined by 27%; fresh meat, fish and poultry retailers declined by 5%; and the number of bread and cake retailers remained largely unchanged.
Offsetting the low growth in food retailing were a number of areas of rapid increase. The most notable increase, not surprisingly given the expanding role of the motor vehicle in the period, was in motor vehicle retailing and services. In this category the number of locations increased more than fourfold, from about 7,500 in 1947-48 to over 32,000 locations in 1991-92, and turnover increased from $264m in 1947-48 to $44b in 1991-92. Other retail areas experiencing large increases in the number of locations were hairdressers (from 8,400 to 15,700 locations), clothing stores (from 10,200 to 15,600 locations), newsagents and bookstores (from 2,700 to 6,900 locations) and chemists and cosmetic stores (from 3,000 to 5,600 locations).
The takeaway store was not the only industry to emerge in the period. Also contributing to the growth in the number of locations was the emergence of new retail activities such as video hire outlets (3,200 locations in 1991-92) and photographic film processing (1,500 locations).
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