Concise annotation of the given article - Essay Example

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Three major theories are to be recognized as primary retail evolution theories: (1) The Environmental theory, (2) The Cyclical theory, and (3) The Conflict theory (Brown, 1987). These theories are united by the basic premise that an external force (e.g., environment, conflict) can cause a retail institution type to evolve and to change into a new institution type or as a result of need, conflict or other forces, a new institution type can emerge.
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Concise annotation of the given article
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Variations on a Marketing Enigma: The Wheel of Retailing Theory Stephen Brown Three major theories are to be recognized as primary retail evolution theories: (1) The Environmental theory, (2) The Cyclical theory, and (3) The Conflict theory (Brown, 1987). These theories are united by the basic premise that an external force (e.g., environment, conflict) can cause a retail institution type to evolve and to change into a new institution type or as a result of need, conflict or other forces, a new institution type can emerge.
There is a growing number of retail businesses worldwide and it naturally leads to "overstoring" of countries. The competitive advantages of one retail institution type over another form the most important consideration in retail changes evaluation. Goldman (1978) mentioned that among the major factors for achieving competitive advantage are not only price, but also location, promotion, post-sale services and last, but not least - organization.
The life cycle concept applied to products and stores (Davidson, Bates, and Bass, 1976) executed a significant study that defined the concept of the retail life cycle. Prior to that, the key explanation for retail development was the wheel of retailing concept.
The main assumption in Brown's (1991) retailing theory is that businesses usually start with low service / low price product mixes. The main motivation for shopping on this initial stage is price. As the "wheel" revolves, and it usually does, the stores start adding more services (such as credit, sales-support staff, display, etc.) When this happens, the store does not attract the consumers who buy based on price any more. The store then becomes full service and supports higher prices.

Author Critique

Stephen Brown's article is a highly academic piece of work. This valuable theoretical research around the topic of retail change and evolution of retail institutions is deeply credible, regarding the author's background. Brown is professor of Marketing Research at the University of Ulster, Newtownabbey, situated in Northern Ireland. His name is best known in the so-called "postmodern marketing" area of academic research. He has written and co-edited 14 books. Stephen Brown's articles have been published in popular journals of repute, such as: Harvard Business Review, Journal of Marketing, Journal of Advertising, Journal of Retailing, Business Horizons and many others.

Intended Audience

In my opinion, Brown's target audience are other researchers and academics, but the text could also be of interest to graduate and undergraduate students of marketing and retail sales. However, the lack of practical examples, the high level of academic language and the rich retailing literature review may restrict the intended audience to those who are strictly interested in the evolution of retail theory rather than the evolution of retail businesses in practice. Of course, it is a very suitable text for marketing study and theoretical preparation, which leads me to the conclusion that the main readers, most probably, are students.


Compared to the The Wheel of Retailing Theory, Brown's Multi-Polarisation Principle seeks a more practical approach towards retailing principles and theories in general. It seeks connection among different academic statements which claim that the popular trend towards fewer but larger retail institutions is counterbalanced by the so-called "small shop sector renaissance". The polarisation principle, which examines the foundations of The Wheel of Retailing Theory as well, describes the retail change through a different dimension, mainly the size of the retail institutions. The theoretical research in this paper combines the dynamic processes of the wheel of retailing (and its high cost/low cost shifts), the accordion theory (concerning wide / narrow range of goods) and the polarisation principle (counterbalancing small / large institutions) (Brown, 1987).


What I've learned from this article is that many researchers have dedicated their lifetime to study retail evolution in the US and in Europe, based on the assumption that a certain pattern exists in all retail evolution and that this pattern could provide an insight into the past and future of retail changes. A more practical conclusion, extracted from theory may be that retail institutions need to gain identity by creating advantages, and especially ones that are not easily imitated by competitors. In order to achieve competitive advantages, retailers modify their marketing mix based on their target consumers' values. This modification usually results in the evolution of retail institutions.


Brown, S., 1987. An integrated approach to retail change: the multi-polarisation model, Services Industries Journal, 6.
Brown, S., 1991. Variations on a Marketing enigma: The Wheel of Retailing Theory, Journal of Marketing Management, (7), pp. 135-155
Davidson, W.R., Bates, A.D., Bass, S.J., 1976. The retail life cycle, Harvard Business Review, 54.
Goldman and Johansson J.K., 1978. Determinants of Search for Lower Prices. An Empirical Assessment of the Economics of Information Theory, Journal of Consumer Research, (12), pp. 176-186. Read More
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