use of "store" (other than department store) in BE

meijin

Senior Member
Japanese
Hi, I've read quite a few threads (in and outside this forum) and articles about the differences between the nouns "store" and "shop", but there's one thing I still haven't found out.

A long time ago, the only place in the UK that sold goods and was referred to as a "store" was the department store, if I'm not mistaken.

Later, some people started calling some shops stores, and I don't know if this occurred before most ironmongers were superseded by DIY shops/stores,
but now some people call it a DIY shop and some people call it a DIY store even when the size of the establishment is the same.

Meanwhile, I see some village shops (if they still exist) in the photos I found online say "General Store" at the front of their shops. And some people use the American term "convenience store" when referring to corner shops.

I've given three examples above (DIY store, general store, and convenience store).

Now, in general, is it the shops themselves (e.g. the shop owners) or perhaps the media who first started calling these shops stores and then some consumers liked it and started calling them that way while others found it ridiculous and kept calling them xxx shops?

If so, would the shop owner say, for example, "I run a DIY/general/convenience/book store in {area/city name}. Oh, you want to visit us? Hang on, I'll let you know the precise location of the store." even when the shop is rather small?


This is a bookshop called No Alibis Bookstore in Belfast, Northern Ireland.
 
  • heypresto

    Senior Member
    English - England
    I ran a bookshop for some time, and it was always a bookshop. I believe bookstore is a relatively recent arrival in BE, from AE. Whenever I see it, it always feels AE to me.

    But with DIY, general, and convenience, 'store' sounds natural and BE. None of these would collocate with 'shop'.


    I suspect you won't find any nice, simple, logical rules in all this.
     

    PaulQ

    Banned
    UK
    English - England
    The OED first records store (n.), in the 17th century, in its meaning of
    a. A place where stores are kept, a warehouse; a storehouse.
    1667 Milton Paradise Lost vii. 226 The golden Compasses, prepar'd In Gods Eternal store, to circumscribe This Universe.

    The word “store” (in the sense of “retail premises”) seems to have taken first and firmest hold in the American Colonies.
    12. A place where merchandise is kept for sale.
    a. Chiefly N. Amer. and elsewhere outside the U.K. In early use, a shop on a large scale, and dealing in a great variety of articles (see quot. 18082). Now, equivalent to the British use of shop1. Also in phr. to keep, tend store. The use of the word in this sense has not become common in the U.K. except in Comb., as chain store n. at chain n. Compounds 3, department store n.at department n. 5 (see under the first elements), store detective n. at Compounds 1d(a), in which it still refers to a large shop.

    1731 Pennsylvania Gaz. 3 June 4/1 (advt.) Job Rawlinson, Removed..to his New open'd Store next to Dickinson's burnt Houses in Water-street; Giveth hereby Intelligence that he hath a fine fresh Choice there, of most kinds of Merchandize, which he will sell at very inviting Cheap Rates.
    1808 T. Ashe Trav. Amer. 1806 I. 40 It [Pittsburg] possesses upward of forty retail stores.

    From 1800 onwards, the separation between store and shop was clear in BE – stores are where they are stored, shops are where they are sold.
    In AE, this distinction was not made.

    After 1940 and the arrival in the UK of American troops in vast numbers and the huge increase in American films/movies, in BE the word “store” to mean “retail premises” started to gain popularity although it is still not as popular as “shop.”

    You will have to switch between AE and BE in the following Google Ngram to see the distinct differences: bookshop,bookstore,book shop,book store



    1”Shop” originates from the Old English verb “to make, to create” and first (in the early 14th century) meant a place at which something was made – this quickly incorporated a place from which something was sold. (compare machine shop; workshop, etc.)
     

    natkretep

    Moderato con anima (English Only)
    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    I lived in the UK in the 1980s, and I never heard 'convenience store'. I certainly encountered 'convenience store' on shop signs around the UK in my recent trips. 'Village store' is also used to refer to a shop that sells basic necessities.

    Here is the usage note in the OED at sense 12a.
    The use of the word in this [American] sense has not become common in the U.K. except in Comb., as chain store n. at chain-n. Compounds 3, department store n. at department n. 5 (see under the first elements), store detective n. at Compounds 1d(a), in which it still refers to a large shop.
    And note also sense 12b.
    In Great Britain after about 1850, the word became current in the designationco-operative store, denoting the shop in which a co-operative trading society exposes goods for sale (originally to its own members only, but later usually also to the outside public).
     

    meijin

    Senior Member
    Japanese
    Thank you all very much for the replies. I'll reread the quotes from the dictionaries, but I first need to know this. Most people would say "I'm going to the shop(s)", not "I'm going to the store", when going to a general store or convenience store, would they? So who usually use the term "general store" or "convenience store"? Shop owners? Shop employees? Journalists? Newscasters? Narrators in TV ads?

    But with DIY, general, and convenience, 'store' sounds natural and BE. None of these would collocate with 'shop'.
    It's interesting that "DIY shop" isn't commonly used. Is it because it sounds like a workshop or because the establishments are usually large like department stores?
     

    heypresto

    Senior Member
    English - England
    We have a small local shop that sells a lot of what could be called DIY stuff. Being a very small family business, I suppose I could call it a DIY shop. But I tend to call it a hardware shop (or store).

    A DIY store, for me, is a much larger place:



    Some places call themselves DIY centres:

     

    heypresto

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Most people would say "I'm going to the shop(s)", not "I'm going to the store", when going to a general store or convenience store, would they? So who usually use the term "general store" or "convenience store"? Shop owners? Shop employees? Journalists? Newscasters? Narrators in TV ads?
    Yes, I think most people would say 'I'm going to the shops'. If they were going to a supermarket they might say 'I'm going to the supermarket', or, probably more likely, 'I'm going to Morrisons (or Tesco or Aldi or whatever)'.

    I think most people would use the term "general store" or "convenience store" to describe the establishments, but they would still usually say 'I'm going to the shop/s' when visiting them.
     

    Keith Bradford

    Senior Member
    English (Midlands UK)
    Bookshop is still twice as popular in Britain as bookstore (the spelling as two separate words is quite uncommon). See Google Ngram Viewer.

    As for the DIY pair, the positions are completely reversed; the "store" variant is almost four times more frequently used.

    However, the runaway surprise is hardware store which is far and away the most frequently used of all. See Google Ngram Viewer.
     

    meijin

    Senior Member
    Japanese
    Thank you both very much for the explanations.

    I think most people would use the term "general store" or "convenience store" to describe the establishments,
    Are general stores and convenience stores virtually the same thing and the only difference is that general stores are in rural areas while convenience stores are in urban areas?

    (the spelling as two separate words is quite uncommon)
    Yes, I decided not to connect "book" and "store" in the statement in the original post ("DIY/general/convenience/book store") because the other three stores would have spelled DIYstore, generalstore, and conveniencestore.

    However, the runaway surprise is hardware store which is far and away the most frequently used of all. See Google Ngram Viewer.
    Maybe because there are more smaller stores selling mainly ironmongery (=hardware stores) than bigger stores selling mainly home improvement tools (=DIY stores)?
     

    Keith Bradford

    Senior Member
    English (Midlands UK)
    ... I decided not to connect "book" and "store" in the statement in the original post ("DIY/general/convenience/book store") because the other three stores would have spelled DIYstore, generalstore, and conveniencestore...
    Faulty logic. Just because one expression is written as a single word, it doesn't mean you have to spell others likewise. English doesn't work like that!

    It's as if you said "I didn't draw a squirrel with a long tail, because rabbits would have to have long tails too".
     

    meijin

    Senior Member
    Japanese
    A long time ago, the only place in the UK that sold goods and was referred to as a "store" was the department store, if I'm not mistaken.
    I'm starting to wonder if that is true. Google Ngram Viewer suggests that there were more "general stores" than department stores in the UK around 1900. Is it just that they existed but consumers called them "shops" while they called department stores "stores"?


    Google Ngram Viewer
     

    Uncle Jack

    Senior Member
    British English
    "Post office and general store" used to be quite a common sign on local shops (they would almost always be called a "shop" by customers, though), and someone else referred to "village store" in the same way. These might not have pre-dated department stores in bringing the term to Britain.

    [Edit: I am not sure "general store" and "village store" weren't "general stores" and village stores", and maybe both singular and plural were used. In BrE, both "store" and "stores" are used for a place where a wide variety of things are stored, such as tools and materials in a factory.]

    In general, though, these titles displayed above the door would not be said by most people, apart from the sort of person (there are rather a lot of them in Britain) who insist on calling things by their "proper" name. Therefore a few people would have said "I am just going to the General Store", but most people would have said "shop" (or sometimes "shops", even though there was only one).

    Who says that we call(ed) department stores "stores"? We may well call them "department stores", but only rarely "stores" on its own. The usual terms used are "shop", "department store" and the name of the shop in question ("Beatties", for instance).
     
    Last edited:

    meijin

    Senior Member
    Japanese
    Thanks for those details that I really wanted to know, Uncle Jack!
    So...does that mean even department stores, which are quite big, are called "shops" by general consumers (depending on the circumstances)?

    e.g.
    (a conversation between a couple living next to a department store)
    Wife: Where were you?
    Husband: Oh, I was at the shop. Just browsing.
     

    sound shift

    Senior Member
    English - England
    When what we the UK public call a 'shop' is due to close down (a common scenario these days:() the notice placed in the window by the owners invariably says "This store will be closing down on [date]". Why such wording? The reasons go beyond the realm of language; I don't want to be ruled off-topic:D.
     

    Uncle Jack

    Senior Member
    British English
    e.g. (a conversation between a couple living next to a department store)
    Wife: Where were you?
    Husband: Oh, I was at the shop. Just browsing.
    Rather an unlikely scenario, since department stores are only ever found in large town centres or out-of-town shopping centres, surrounded by other shops. I cannot imagine one ever just being referred to as "the shop". But department stores would be included in "the shops" ("I was at the shops, looking at some clothes"). If you want to refer to one department store in particular, you could call it "the department store" (if there is only one in the town) or, far more likely, by its name ("I was in House of Fraser looking at their net curtains").
     

    meijin

    Senior Member
    Japanese
    Thanks for the explanations, Uncle Jack. So, likewise, a big retail establishment selling DIY tools is referred to as a "DIY store" (not "DIY shop") as Heypresto mentioned, but it's still a shop, not a store. Very interesting.

    When what we the UK public call a 'shop' is due to close down (a common scenario these days:() the notice placed in the window by the owners invariably says "This store will be closing down on [date]".
    This is a great example. Thank you very much, SS.
     

    PaulQ

    Banned
    UK
    English - England
    I am developing a theory for BE shop/store:

    Store is inextricably linked to its meaning of “a place in which to place many items that will later be available for use.” (The squirrel has a store of nuts.) Thus, “store” for “shop” goes to the amount of goods in a retail premise; it primarily indicates a large amount from which to choose and then, if satisfied, buy.

    Shop originally was a place where things were made, e.g. workshop. Because of the small-scale of industrial production, there would also have been the sale of those goods. Shop thus goes to the smaller retailing aspect of a particular type of item– to the exchange of money for goods that are [made] on the premises;

    It seems to me that AE “Store” probably had its origins in 17th century America in which the population was thinly spread in small groups and required a central place at which everything was kept and made available to the local population. This was probably the language of the early colonists who had left a UK and found themselves in a very large country in which a small retail “shop” was not a viable economic proposition.

    The words diverged: In the USA by the early 18th century, ‘store’ came to mean any retail premises, but in the UK as the movement of the population from the land to the towns took place, shops of all types sprung up and “shop” (a butcher’s, a baker’s, and a candlestick-maker’s shop) was established .

    It was not until the late 19th century that American influence of size and variety took hold in the UK and “stores” - the commercial idea of premises upon which large quantities of stock of unrelated goods (not made on the premises) were sold, - hence BE “department stores.”

    After WWII, and the further AE influence that it brought, some retailers started calling their shops, “stores”, and this led to the confusion (which is not seen as “confusion” in BE).
     

    heypresto

    Senior Member
    English - England
    While waiting to see what else this thread has in store for us, I think we can set great store by that theory. I don't think we'll need to shop around for anything better. Probably best to shut up shop now. :D
     

    meijin

    Senior Member
    Japanese
    I am developing a theory for BE shop/store:

    Store is inextricably linked to its meaning of “a place in which to place many items that will later be available for use.” (The squirrel has a store of nuts.) Thus, “store” for “shop” goes to the amount of goods in a retail premise; it primarily indicates a large amount from which to choose and then, if satisfied, buy.

    Shop originally was a place where things were made, e.g. workshop. Because of the small-scale of industrial production, there would also have been the sale of those goods. Shop thus goes to the smaller retailing aspect of a particular type of item– to the exchange of money for goods that are [made] on the premises;

    It seems to me that AE “Store” probably had its origins in 17th century America in which the population was thinly spread in small groups and required a central place at which everything was kept and made available to the local population. This was probably the language of the early colonists who had left a UK and found themselves in a very large country in which a small retail “shop” was not a viable economic proposition.

    The words diverged: In the USA by the early 18th century, ‘store’ came to mean any retail premises, but in the UK as the movement of the population from the land to the towns took place, shops of all types sprung up and “shop” (a butcher’s, a baker’s, and a candlestick-maker’s shop) was established .

    It was not until the late 19th century that American influence of size and variety took hold in the UK and “stores” - the commercial idea of premises upon which large quantities of stock of unrelated goods (not made on the premises) were sold, - hence BE “department stores.”

    After WWII, and the further AE influence that it brought, some retailers started calling their shops, “stores”, and this led to the confusion (which is not seen as “confusion” in BE).
    I know it's a theory, but some of these explanations really helped me think more about the difference between store and shop in BE.
     

    meijin

    Senior Member
    Japanese
    I cannot imagine one ever just being referred to as "the shop". But department stores would be included in "the shops" ("I was at the shops, looking at some clothes").
    I really have to ask this to make sure I'm not mistaken. If I were in the UK and saw my British female friend carrying this bag she had bought from Harrods, I would want to ask "Did you buy it online or at the store?" Would she think my English is under American influence? Should I ask "online or at the shop"?

     

    Uncle Jack

    Senior Member
    British English
    "Store" is now reasonably common in BrE (and it has been recognised as a term, even if it was not used much, ever since I've been alive), that I don't think she'd notice. Harrod's is perhaps more likely to be called a "store" than other shops, and I would not be at all surprised to hear that "store" was now the more common term. However, I am sure my father would say "at the shop".

    Incidentally, I have edited my post #12.
     

    heypresto

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Assuming you won't allow me to say the more likely 'Online or in Harrods itself?', even though it is a department store, I would say 'Online or in the shop?'.


    Others may differ.


    Cross-posted.
     

    meijin

    Senior Member
    Japanese
    So, it seems the use of the noun "store" on its own (referring to a shop) is on the increase especially among younger people when the building is large, but even they would still say "I bought it at/in the shop", "The shop is closing soon, so hurry up!", "My dad runs a clothes shop", etc. when the building is small.

    Is that right? Or is it more complicated? :D
     

    heypresto

    Senior Member
    English - England
    And just to confuse things a little more, the term 'in store' has crept into BE in recent years. A shop, or store, might promote something as being "Available in store now!'. I hate it. :(

    'In shop' doesn't exist, which is a blessing.
     

    PaulQ

    Banned
    UK
    English - England
    Is that right?
    Yes
    Or is it more complicated? :D
    Yes. :D
    I certainly think that that "shop" is far more personal and intimate - I know and probably see the person who owns the shop - I have no idea who might own the store and I have probably never seen them.

    On the other hand "shop" is very much generic for any general sales outlet particularly in the plural. We never "go to the stores"; we go to the shops, regardless of the size. "There are expensive shops on the High Street.":thumbsup: "There are expensive stores on the High Street." :thumbsdown:
    But
    A: "There are expensive shops on the High Street."
    B: "Yes, but some of the stores are quite cheap." (with the meaning of "bigger shops/department stores")

    Compare
    A: "I could do with a new jacket. What about the shops (stores) in town? Do they have much of a choice?"
    B: "It's possible that one of the bigger shops might have."
    C: "There's a shop with men's clothing near the police station that's recently opened."
    A: "What's it called?"
    C: "I don't know but it's like those on the trading estate - one of those big discount stores - I know they've got a men's section."

    Can't you get Tokyo University to give you a grant to investigate this? :D
     

    meijin

    Senior Member
    Japanese
    The difference between "shop(s)" and "store" in BE is now very clear to me and I'd like to thank everyone in this thread for being very patient and giving clear explanations. (The slang "cop shop" is new to me! :thumbsup:)
     
    < Previous | Next >
    Top