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Sometimes this is done to obtain final goods, including necessities such as food and clothing; sometimes it takes place as a recreational activity.
Recreational shopping often involves window shopping (just looking, not buying) and browsing: it does not always result in a purchase.
It was first recorded as a noun with the meaning of a "sale in small quantities" in 1433 (from the Middle French retail, "piece cut off, shred, scrap, paring"). Archaeological evidence for trade, probably involving barter systems, dates back more than 10,000 years.
As civilizations grew, barter was replaced with retail trade involving coinage.
Modern retailers typically make a variety of strategic level decisions including the type of store, the market to be served, the optimal product assortment, customer service, supporting services and the store's overall market positioning.
Once the strategic retail plan is in place, retailers devise the retail mix which includes product, price, place, promotion, personnel and presentation.
These markets typically occupied a place in the town's centre.
Some of the earliest retailers were itinerant peddlers.
Local producers, who were generally poor, would sell small surpluses from their individual farming activities, purchase minor farm equipment and also buy a few luxuries for their homes.
Major producers such as the great estates were sufficiently attractive for merchants to call directly at their farm-gates, obviating the producers' need to attend local markets.
In around 1500 BCE, the Phoenicians developed a consonantal alphabet which was much easier to learn that the complex scripts used in ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia.
Phoenician traders and merchants were largely responsible for spreading their alphabet around the region.
The Phoenicians, noted for their seafaring skills, plied their ships across the Mediterranean, becoming a major trading power by the 9th century BCE.