Since the beginning of the 1990s, Soviet urban residential communities have experienced rapid inflows of new urban functions. In this research project, two post-Soviet urban areas - Vilnius and St. Petersburg - are examined to indicate contrasting development paths over the last 30 years. The term “retail sprawl” describes correctly one of the important processes which have reshaped the former socialist microdistricts. We used data from the years 1987-1989, the last years of the socialist economy, and 2016 for 36 comparable research areas. By 2016 the structure of these formerly monofunctional areas made them functionally very similar to that of the urban core, including them in the intra-urban circulation of goods and capital, redirecting flows and making the city centre’s service burden much lighter. The results of the study provide a controversial contribution to the virtual discussion on universalism vs. uniqueness in post-socialist urban development. On the one hand, irrespective of contrasting “path-dependent” impacts, the structural results of retail development turned out to be generally identical in the studied cities at present, as well as in a prototypical North-American city 25 years ago. On the other hand, we found very pronounced differences compared to international patterns in morphological outcomes.