SIC 5999

This category includes establishments primarily engaged in the retail trade of specialized lines of merchandise that are not included elsewhere, including art and architecture supplies; autographs, sets of coins, and related supplies; finished monuments and gravestones; cake decorating supplies; baby carriages; cosmetics; awnings and banners; candles; fireworks; rough gemstones and rock and stone specimens; home swimming pools (not installed); hearing aids; and trophy shops. It also includes ice dealers; hot tub and whirlpool bath dealers; orthopedic and artificial limbs stores; pet shops; rubber stamps stores; art dealers; auction rooms; typewriter stores; religious goods (other than books); telephone stores; and tent shops.

NAICS Code(s)

446120 (Cosmetics, Beauty Supplies, and Perfume Stores)

446199 (All Other Health and Personal Care Stores)

453910 (Pet and Pet Supplies Stores)

453920 (Art Dealers)

443111 (Household Appliance Stores)

443112 (Radio, Television and Other Electronics Stores)

448310 (Jewelry Stores)

453998 (All Other Miscellaneous Store Retailers (except Tobacco Stores))

The industry also includes establishments primarily engaged in selling a general line of their own or consigned merchandise at retail on an auction basis. Establishments primarily engaged in auctioning tangible personal property of others on a contract or fee basis are classified in SIC 7389: Business Services, Not Elsewhere Classified.

As part of the more than $2 trillion retailing business in the United States, these businesses are wide-ranging in size of operation and revenue generated. While many of the enterprises in this category can be classified as small business, their impact on the U.S. economy is substantial, accounting for as much as 30 percent of the gross domestic product. These businesses sell everything from light bulbs to sunscreen to mailing supplies to cat toys. The products are not always glamorous, but for many, they are necessities.

Depending on the segment of retailing being examined, the profit margin for these businesses hovers around the 2 percent range nationwide. In the late 1990s, some enterprises in this classification (e.g., typewriter stores, ice dealers) no longer enjoyed the same prominence or level of enterprise that they did 20 or more years ago. On the contrary, other enterprises like religious goods stores and pet stores have enjoyed healthy activity, even during difficult times.

The growth of discount stores and price clubs that carry a wide variety of durable and nondurable goods (e.g., Wal-Mart and its sibling operation Sam's Club) have seen an increase in popularity. Wal-Mart is by far the best known of these stores; with 910,000 employees in 3,600 stores and 1999 sales of $138 billion, it is larger than Sears, Kmart, and JC Penney combined, according to the Hoovers' Business Information Service.

It is difficult to predict future trends for this segment of the economy, given all of the variables involved and the "scrambling" of merchandise among the businesses. Although various individual businesses may have posted double-digit sales increases in the late 1990s, retailing as a whole posted less impressive numbers. Indeed, economic predictions are hard to make, but it is a fact that, in the mid-to late 1990s, thousands of retail companies sought protection from creditors in bankruptcy courts. Reports of bankruptcies, voluntary consolidations and hostile takeovers still occupy a regular place in business news columns.

One effect of retailing failures is the growth of liquidator-type stores. A liquidator will either purchase a store's inventory or run a going-out-of-business sale when a merchandiser cuts back its operation or closes down. In the late 1990s, liquidators moved billions of dollars' worth of inventory: Boston-based Gordon Brothers Group LLC alone estimates that it moves $2 billion of merchandise annually. Besides Gordon Brothers, the Schottenstein Bernstein Capital Group is another big name in the liquidation business. These companies have worked with Jamesway, Woodward & Lothrop, along with selected Kmart, Edison Brothers, and Petrie Stores.

Home-based shopping in the form of catalog offerings (e.g., Spiegel and Fingerhut) and broadcast-based presentations (like QVC and the Home Shopping Network) are also part of this diverse retailing segment, although their sales have slowed in the 1990s.

This general slowdown might be attributed to another trend that will surely have a long-term impact on retailing: the Internet. In less than five years, the Internet and the rise of electronic commerce has become an important, if not integral, part of many people's lives; and, often, it is these people who possess the most buying power. It is difficult to find businesses that have no presence on the Internet: moving companies, restaurants, and bakeries all seem to have their own Web sites. Sites that began with one specific product now sell a variety of items;, which started as a book dealer but now sells a variety of retail goods over the Internet, is the best known example.

Still, the Internet is subject to hype, and many of the companies that try to establish a presence on the web will fold, or sell out to competitors. Moreover, there are still a number of glitches in computerized retailing. The 1999 Christmas season was supposed to revolutionize how people bought gifts. Although more people shopped on-line than ever before, they also found themselves having to contend with overloaded Web sites that could not handle the volume. Besides, the products purchased on-line need to be delivered offline — and that step has to be done by ground or air transportation. Despite advances in security systems, a number of people are still leery about submitting their credit card information while online, and, consequently, many people search for the product they want on the Internet and then order it by telephone. This is expected to change as the technology becomes more trustworthy in the eyes of consumers. "Once secure transactions become more prominent, the Web will be for people of this century what the Sears Roebuck catalog was for consumers in the last century," according to Robert Marczak, an Internet marketing specialist and president of Marczak Business Services of Sharon Springs, New York.

Further Reading

"Internet-Based Businesses." The Futurist, July-August 1996.

Bongiorno, Lori. "Everything Must Go to the Liquidators." Business Week, 15 January 1996.

Changler, Susan. "Gloomy Days Are Here Again." Business Week, 8 January 1996.

Moukheiber, Zina. "Retailing: Hard Goods Were Relatively Weak Last Year, but the Rag Business Was Pretty Good." Forbes, 13 January 1997.

Rotenier, Nancy. "Want to Sell Consumer Products, from Bleach to Barbie? Better Know Which Buttons to Push." Forbes, 13 January 1997.

Vaughan-Nichols, Steven J. "On-Line Shoppers: 'Just Looking, Thanks."' Byte, March 1996.

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