The Rise of Consumer Society in Britain, 1880-1980

By John Benson | Go to book overview

Chapter 3
SHOPPING

The study of consumption remains bedevilled by the lack of interest shown in the mechanisms by which demand and supply were brought into contact with each other. Thus it seems extraordinary that shopping, by far the most important of these mechanisms, is still almost completely overlooked. For even those scholars who have shown some interest in consumption have tended to concentrate their attention more upon ownership and usage than upon selection and purchase while even those scholars who have shown some interest in selection and purchase have tended to concentrate their attention more upon marketing and retailing than upon spending and shopping. 1

Accordingly, it is the purpose of this chapter to consider the British experience of shopping. It will examine, in particular, the ways in which the changes in demand and supply that were discussed in the previous chapters interacted with one another to influence the ways in which shoppers selected and purchased the products that they consumed. This chapter, like those before it, is divided into two. The first, rather brief, section considers the changing experience of shoppers generally; the second, and considerably longer, section examines the changing experiences of elderly, adolescent, female and working-class shoppers, the groups whose growing purchasing power suppliers and retailers made such determined efforts to capture.

It will be argued that the past hundred years have seen what amounts to a total transformation in the British experience of shopping. It will be shown that there have been three major developments: a large increase in the amount of money spent; a major shift in the type of retailer patronised; and a substantial change in the type of product purchased.

It is clear, of course, that there has been an enormous increase in the amount of money spent on shopping. None the less, it is surprisingly difficult to quantify the scale of the increase, for the statistics of retailing/shopping are neither as easy to obtain nor as

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The Rise of Consumer Society in Britain, 1880-1980
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS vi
  • LIST OF ABBREVIATIONS viii
  • Introduction 1
  • Part One CONTEXT 9
  • Chapter 1: CHANGES IN DEMAND 11
  • Chapter 2: CHANGES IN SUPPLY 35
  • Part Two CHANGES 57
  • Chapter 3: SHOPPING 59
  • Chapter 4: TOURISM 82
  • Chapter 5: SPORT 110
  • Part Three CONSEQUENCES 141
  • Chapter 6: THE CONSOLIDATION OF NATIONAL IDENTITY? 143
  • Chapter 7 the Creation of Youth Culture? 164
  • Chapter 8: THE EMANCIPATION OF WOMEN? 180
  • Chapter 9: THE DEFUSION OF CLASS TENSION? 204
  • Conclusion 233
  • NOTES AND REFERENCES 235
  • GUIDE TO FURTHER READING 236
  • Index 240
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