Thomas Lee, a business columnist with the San Francisco Chronicle, writes about the rapidly changing landscape of big-box retail stores in his book, “Rebuilding Empires.”

Electronics giant Best Buy was born of a catastrophe. In the aftermath of a tornado, the owner sold his remaining undamaged goods at a discount – advertised as a “best buy” — to snatch victory from disaster. “They kept expanding and it was a pure muscle game,” Lee said. “He eventually got really good at cut throat competition…and Best Buy was the last one standing.”

Similarly, the brothers who owned upscale Dayton department stores created the discount chain Target, employing some of the same clean, artfully arranged merchandizing that had made the department stores successful.

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