Shopping, Place, and Identity

Shopping, Place, and Identity

Shopping, Place, and Identity

Shopping, Place, and Identity

Synopsis

This book engages in key debates in contemporary consumption and identity studies, yet presents a firmly grounded work that will complement the more speculative writing about shopping, place and identity that has developed in recent years.

Excerpt

In 1997, Brent Cross Shopping Centre celebrated its twenty-first birthday; it had officially come of age. Described in the Independent newspaper as 'the mother of malls' (9 March 1997), Brent Cross was Britain's first purpose-built regional shopping centre. Since its opening in 1976, Brent Cross has been overtaken by several bigger and more spectacular malls (Merry Hill, Meadowhall and Lakeside among them), but its claims to have been in some sense 'the first' have rarely been challenged. As such, it has attracted both praise and blame. Accused of destroying the traditional English high street, wrecking the environment and replacing freely accessible public places with sanitised and tightly patrolled private space, shopping centres such as Brent Cross (and their latter-day successors) have none the less proved extremely popular and financially successful places. At £300 a square foot, rents in Brent Cross are as high as in London's West End, offering consumers a safe and climate-controlled alternative to the perceived dangers and unpredictability of city-centre shopping. Over the years, Brent Cross has become an accepted part of many consumers' weekly (and in some cases daily) routine, no longer seen as a spectacular symbol of modernity and progress. Brent Cross has responded to the competition from more recent developments by undertaking a multi-million pound facelift, letting in more daylight, increasing the amount of free parking space and generally sprucing up its appearance, aiming to attract a younger generation of shoppers as well as those who grew up with the centre.

As Britain's first, Brent Cross is now its most fully established mall and those most concerned with the latest retail developments have moved their focus to other sites. As a suburban shopping centre, Wood Green Shopping City was also seen as innovative in its day. It was launched with high hopes as a combination of local political ideals and commercial plans. It was intended to ensure that the area would be able to maintain its claim to being one of the major suburban retail centres in North London. By the time of our fieldwork (in 1995) these sites had clearly lost any such sense of excitement and appeared merely as two of a mass of such suburban shopping centres. Becoming 'ordinary' meant they could serve as the foundation for our project. What we were seeking to establish through this research was less the 'meaning of the mall'

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