Set in the context of a review and critique of the retail change literature, this study conceptualizes the importance of cultural diversity in consumption practices, and their dialectical interplay with retail structures. Underpinned theoretically by concepts located in Critical Theory and Bourdieu's studies of 'Distinctions', a grounded approach at a macro-level of analysis is applied to the comparison of the French and Italian toy retail sectors, which serves as an empirical illustration of the conceptual categories and relationships posited. In the comparative analysis of the French and Italian toy retail industry, the links between market structures and macro-economic and demographic factors, on the one hand, and localized consumption habits, on the other, are discussed, highlighting the interplay of the properties of the emergent retail activity and consumption categories of analysis. The impact of global sourcing and market entry of international retailers is assessed. Conclusions point to the importance of the forcefield between localized meaning and the dynamics of toy retail capital. It is argued that the commodity form of toys, together with the values attached to them and the role they play in childhood, is influencing the structures of national toy retail sectors which are also dependent on the overall retail system and broader environmental factors. In this, retail change processes take place as a result of the interactions between the different spheres and their particular expressions cannot be generalized across borders as they depend on the specific dynamics within each system.