Large department stores, big boxes, and other national chain retailers are notorious for putting local retailers out of business and supplying a more homogenized product. Now with Walmart and others struggling to grow in the U.S., the retail industry, reshaped by the entry of big boxes, is entering a maturity phase. A recent story in the Times highlights the localization trend for Macy’s:

Macy’s tested its new local approach in a handful of stores in 2008, introducing it in all 810 stores last year. In essence, Macy’s requires sales clerks and store managers to examine the local population almost like anthropologists — studying, for example, what churchgoing black women here in Atlanta shop for compared with the shopping habits of Microsoft wives, as employees call one segment of shoppers in the store in Bellevue, Wash.

The trend is not just happening with department stores like Macy’s, but with other retailers and big boxes as well:

After decades of acquiring, consolidating and centralizing, the department store chain is rediscovering — and financially exploiting — its multiple local roots, advancing a trend that is quickly being adopted by other retailers like Saks Fifth Avenue and Best Buy.

Perhaps localization and less of an emphasis on price competition will help reduce opposition to large retailers upper-income residents with aesthetic objections to them. This may also help local stores, who are more capable of competing along local knowledge dimensions than competing by price alone.