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Entries / Commerce (general)

Commerce (general)

Categories / Economy/Commerce

COMMERCE. Favorably located, St. Petersburg has always played a major role in the country’s foreign trade (see Sea Port). The life of the city itself has been mainly supported by home trade, retail trade above all. Markets were the most popular form of retail trade in the 18th and 19th centuries (see Markets). Trade also conducted in trading courts called Gostiny Dvor, where imported goods were sold, two courts called Mytny Dvor - on Peterburgsky Island and Rozhdestvenskaya Chast, and rows of stalls, totaling about 100 in 1790s, as well as in numerous stalls, cellars, sheds, booths, and other small shops. Bolshoy Gostiny Dvor erected in Nevsky Prospect by 1785 remains the largest shopping center of the city. The first stores equipped in the European style sprang up in St. Petersburg in the 1750-60s, originally trading in luxury goods only. The public catering system was formed during the 18th century, taverns gaining the largest popularity along with sutleries where working people had their meals. The network of pubs developed as a part of the public catering system. Merchants became the major trading class by the end of the 18th century (see Merchants), all wholesale trade and a significant part of retail trade were concentrated in their hands. They were followed by the petty bourgeoisie and peasant traders. Well-equipped specialty stores, restaurants, and coffee houses sprang up in the early-to-mid 19th century. Passage, the prototype of a department store, housed dozens of stores under one roof. There were about 12,000 commercial establishments in St. Petersburg in 1866, with 308 wholesale enterprises and about 11,700 retail stores. Their number exceeded 15,000 by 1900. Food trade remained the most important industry with 3,776 establishments operating in 1866 and over 16,000 by 1900. A significant part of the products was sold in markets, food was served in restaurants, taverns, food shops, and other establishments that totaled more than 900 in 1866 and more than 3,000 by 1914 including 32 public wine shops. Bolshoy Gostiny Dvor maintained its position as the leader in selling consumer goods in the 19th century, with 150 million roubles of annual income and four to five thousand workers employed by its stores in the early 1890s. Industrial companies started opening their stores in the late 19th century. Thornton’s Factory, a woolen cloth manufacturer, alone owned five stores in Bolshoy Gostiny Dvor. Wholesale of raw materials such as metal, tobacco, and cement grew more concentrated and monopolized in the early 20th century. Trade was monopolized by the state after October 1917, all trading enterprises were closed down and a distribution system was introduced to supply people with food and other commodities. After the New Economic Policy was implemented in 1921, private trade revived with over 9,200 trading permits given by the end of the year and 95% of all retail establishments privately owned by the autumn of 1923. As the New Economic Policy was being cut down, private traders were gradually displaced by government and cooperative enterprises. Private trade was actually liquidated by the early 1930s. Population figures growing, trade and public catering had to be expanded. There were over 6,800 shops and stalls and 3,000 public catering enterprises working in Leningrad by 1940, doubling in number since 1932. Large department stores - Frunzensky and Kirovsky - were built. The trading network was greatly reduced during the war with only 1,254 stores opening in 1945. After the rationing system was abolished in 1947, trade started developing actively, with over 3,200 stores and about 1,900 stalls operating in Leningrad and its suburbs by 1956 and the public catering system approaching the pre-war level. The first self-service store in the country was opened in Leningrad in 1954. Self-service gained popularity in public catering, too, with about a third of canteens and cafes operating on a self-service basis in 1965. Trade specialization brought to establishment of auctions such as Lenobuv, Lenodezhda, Lengalantereya, Khlebtorg, Rybtorg, etc. Four out of five stores became specialised by the end of 1965 and their equipment was upgraded including installation of new scales, cash registers, conveyors, and elevators. In food trade, pre-packing and self-service spread widely, leading to appearance of self-service stores, the first of them - Frunzensky - opening in 1970. Self-service grocery stores were united into a trading company in 1969. A network of companies was organised instead of Lenodezhda, selling clothes according to various sex and age groups, which included Leningrad Trading House, specializing in children’s goods, Passage – women’s goods, and Frunzenskaya – men’s goods. Many of large groceries opened order departments in the 1970s to supply Party members attached to them. There were 125 order departments in the early 1980s, handling up to 14 million requests per year. The economic crisis of the mid-to-late 1980s to the early 1990s led city authorities to introducing a rationing system for distributing several kinds of food and basic commodities. The free trade policy declared in 1992 was the first step on the way of radical economic reforms. Privatization followed to produce an avalanche of new department stores, shops, restaurants, bars, cafes, etc. and led to revival of market trade.

Reference: Петербург: История торговли: В 2 т. СПб., 1999-2000.

V. G. Avdeev.

Nevsky prospect/Saint Petersburg, city

The subject Index
Sea Port
Markets (general)
Gostiny Dvor
Bolshoy Gostiny Dvor
Passage, department store
Frunzensky Supermarket
Leningrad Trading House