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This article examines the interplay between retail changes and transformations in the material culture of Antwerp, a provincial town in the southern Netherlands. We argue that major changes in the eighteenth-century material culture and retail sector were not significantly linked to preconditions of economic growth and urbanization. The Antwerp ‘retail paradox’ is that of a shrinking economic horizon running parallel to material culture and retail transformations, usually connected to expanding urban economies and societies. Changing retail and consumer practices explain the growing and prospering retail sector, rather than a growing economy.