Are mini-boxes the next big thing? (Or are you a human lab rat?)

Average Americans aren't the only ones paring back. Big boxes are taking a mini-break, opening smaller concept stores and testing new formats.

The New York Times has a story about large retailers doing just that. OfficeMax has 2,000 sq. ft. convenience size stores called Ink Paper Scissors, while RadioShack and Best Buy both have mobile phone concepts up and running. Even Wal-Mart, Home Depot and Lowe's are tinkering with the standard store, going from mammoth to slightly less so.

In retail, everything is cyclical. Small stores turn into big stores, which turn into giant boxes. When those get too big for their own profitability and available real estate, or management senses push back from overwhelmed shoppers, little tests start popping up in some pretty odd places.