The Origin of the Word "Store"

Three weeks ago, I learned about the origin of the word “store,” on an expert panel organized by Cate Trotter’s Insider Trends.  And since then, it has been my favorite trivia drop on calls with other retail professionals.  Surprisingly, to date, no one knew the origin either.  So let me share why the origin of the word “store” is so important and what it tells us about how retail needs to change. 

Back in the “old” days, goods were transported by ship to local ports.  The products were then put in the “store,” on shelves literally to store the products. “The Store” = Storage. 

Some thousand years later, surprisingly many stores are still just that – products sitting on the shelves as storage. Long aisles upon aisles at grocery stores. Home Depot. When you look at the product turnover at drug stores like CVS, you might conclude that they are glorified warehouses.  (Too) Many stores are just that, products on shelves - and for good prices you earn the right to be your own stock picker!

As we embark into the 2020s, many stores have evolved into better shopping experiences, particularly at the high end, but many are still reluctant to move beyond basic merchandising storage.   The mindset shift is transformative. For example, listen to this interview with Bed, Bath and Beyond’s CEO Mark Tritton as he discusses the migration from “merchandise heavy” and “warehouse-like” (at 30 secs) to shopping destination in their new Chelsea store launch. Jim Cramer is predictably giddy in his Crameresque exuberant, shouty way.  

And we are seeing this shift everywhere. Even big box retailers like Target are looking to enhance experiences, opening up Apple or Ulta’s within their doors. Mobile, in-store digital media and better sales associate tools are all being used to enhance shopping experiences with digital content, better information and personalized experiences.   

With billions pouring into unicorn rounds to enable real-time delivery, perhaps the “store” as storage will be no more.  Forget being inventory storage on shelves. Put it back where it belongs – in the back, not on the shelves.  Imagine if all shelves just had single units of items will be more of a showrooming experience - retailers as experience designers. What digital experiences would hone your product engagement marketing?

Whatever the future holds, we know that retail has finally, yes finally, moved from the traditional concept of store. And it’s about damn time!

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