CHORD Conference

RETAILING AND DISTRIBUTION HISTORY
10 September 2015
University of Wolverhampton

 

Programme

 

Abstracts

 

Information

 

Registration

(this link will take you to the University of Wolverhampton e-store)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

PROGRAMME

 

9.00 – 9.30 Room MC331

Registration and coffee

 

9.30-11.00 - MC331

Selecting the goods

Chair: Karin Dannehl, University of Wolverhampton

 

Shelley Tickell, University of Hertfordshire

Selecting shops to steal from in the eighteenth century metropolis – which retailers were most vulnerable to shoplifting?

ABSTRACT

Christine Atha, University of Leeds

Shopping in the design museum: curating, collecting and shopping for design
ABSTRACT

 

Bruno Blondé, University of Antwerp and Jon Stobart, Manchester Metropolitan University

The language of value: a comparative approach to newspaper advertisements for auctions of second-hand household goods in eighteenth-century England and the Low Countries

ABSTRACT

 

 

11.00 – 11.30 Room MC331

Coffee

 

 

11.30 – 13.00 Room MC331

Fashion and apparel

Chair: Jenny Evans, University of Wolverhampton

 

Rika Fujioka, Kansai University

The development of Japanese department stores along with the growing ready-made clothes market from the 1950s to the 1970s

ABSTRACT

 

Emily Baines, De Montfort University

Concentrating on Fashion: the home market retail and distribution structure for British dress textiles 1919-40

ABSTRACT

 

Richard Hawkins, University of Wolverhampton and Hildegard Norton-Uhl, University of Wolverhampton

Paprika Schlesinger: The Development of a Luxury Retail Shoe Brand in Belle Époque Vienna

ABSTRACT

 

 

11.30 – 13.00 Room MC301

Business and competition

Chair: TBC

 

Clare Hoare, King’s College London

Female business owners: a study of grocers in Edwardian London

ABSTRACT

 

Lucile Peytavin, University of Lyon 2

 Female haberdashers and haberdashers in La Motte-de-Galaure and in the north of Drome in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries

ABSTRACT

 

Graham Harding, St Cross College, Oxford

Competition is useless: Gilbey's and the emergence of modern retailing, 1855-1914

ABSTRACT

 

 

 

13.00 – 14.00 Room MC331

Lunch

 

14.00 – 15.00 Room MC331

Rural retailing

Chair: Richard Hawkins, University of Wolverhampton

 

Gabi Schopf, Universität Bern

Buying and selling consumer goods in the eighteenth century: rural retailing in the Canton of Bern

ABSTRACT

 

Sarah Laurenson, University of Edinburgh

‘In enclose herewith five compasses’: retailing jewellery and small luxuries in rural Scotland during the long nineteenth century

ABSTRACT

 

14.00 – 15.00 Room MC301

Retailing in the seventeenth century

Chair: TBC

 

 

Alex Taylor, University of Sheffield

Tobacco retailing in 1630s England: formal and informal

ABSTRACT

 

Jennifer Holt,

Retailing and wholesaling c 1600: a Lune Valley case study

ABSTRACT

 

 

15.00 – 15.30 Room MC331

Coffee

 

15.30-16.30 - MC331

Change and adaptation

Chair: Andrew Alexander, University of Surrey

 

Janina Gosseye, Delft University of Technology

The Janus-faced suburban shopping centre: the Low Countries in search of a suitable shopping paradigm

ABSTRACT

 

Martin Purvis, University of Leeds

Retailing in English suburbs during the 1920s and 1930s: development, deficiency and diversity

ABSTRACT

 

 

 

ABSTRACTS

Christine Atha, University of Leeds

Shopping in the design museum: curating, collecting and shopping for design

 

“More than 250 items ranging from a 15cent glass to a $500 sofa will be shown in a colorful setting especially designed by Ray and Charles Eames. The exhibition, directed by Edgar Kaufmann, Jr., will be on view in the first floor galleries from November 22 through January 28. For the convenience of visitors a small catalog will be sold for 15 cents listing New York retail stores where the objects in the exhibition can be bought and giving approximate retail prices.”

Press Release for the first showing of the Good Design exhibition at MOMA, New York, 1950

 

“We believe in the value of good design; our suppliers and partners share this belief and support us in offering a design-led approach to our product development and selection. This collaboration ensures our retail offer is relevant to our collection, exhibitions and installations, features classic and surprising brands whilst enabling us to both innovate and introduce new designers to the market.”

Shop statement, Design Museum London, 2015

 

This paper examines the relationship between the design museum, its curatorial remit and the choice of designed objects for sale in a design museum shop. As we know the museum, the shop, the visitor and their aspirations are all tightly interlinked. However, the museum that concentrates on the presentation of design and the designed object faces quite specific issues somewhat different from certain other museums where the offering is of quality reproductions of the objects on display. In the design museum the selfsame designed object is available in the museum shop and exhibited in the museum gallery.

 

From the earliest examples of design exhibitions in museums, many of which promoted good taste in design, we have developed a retail culture in museums that seeks to promote taste and aspirational shopping experiences in much the same way as any regular retailer might.  The Walker Art Center Everyday Art Gallery established in 1946 gave opportunities to shop from the display directly in the Useful Gifts Christmas exhibitions and the Good Design exhibitions at MOMA in New York from 1950 provided details of retail outlets where the exhibits could be purchased.

 

So then the ties between museum object, everyday commodity culture and retailer are never stronger than when they appear in the context of the design museum. In fact increasingly the displays of contemporary design work in the context of the museum gallery are indistinguishable from those in the shop. Where does the museum gallery end and the shop begin? How does this affect our attitudes to and experiences of objects in the museum, everyday objects in the home and the construction of retail environments?

 

Emily Baines, De Montfort University

Concentrating on Fashion: the home market retail and distribution structure for British dress textiles 1919-40

 

This paper will examine changes in the home market retail and distribution structure for British dress fabric. Increasing concentration of retail firms, with a transition to sales of ready-to-wear clothing rather than drapery fabrics for home dressmaking, was combined with challenges to the existing wholesale distribution structure by both manufacturers and retailers. This encouraged the establishment of a volatile fashion-driven consumer market in the interwar period.

 

The retail structure in the home market changed significantly during the period, with the expansion of chain stores, establishment of manufacturers’ brands (supported by fixed retail prices) and broadening of access to consumer goods through the increasing availability of credit. Retailers and wholesalers changed their ordering practices in response to uncertainty of economic conditions and changes in demand, with smaller stocks held and a wider range of lines offered. A concentration of drapery sales in department stores, due to the costs of carrying a wide variety of lines, was intensified by the amalgamation of department stores. Further concentration away from the small independent drapery stores and wholesalers occurred with the establishment of large urban Co-operative retail stores and expansion of multiples that focused on sales of ready-to-wear clothing. A more dynamic competitive environment developed, with forwards integration from producers and backwards integration from retailers. The increase of branded lines by manufacturers and printers demonstrates their emergence in a more active entrepreneurial role rather the usual, passive commission-processing system. Some retail chains initiated controversial direct trading with manufacturers while department stores took on a merchanting role and commissioned textile prints or even produced small experimental ranges themselves.

 

A fundamental shift in the production/ consumption process was the widening of the relevance of fashionability to all classes of textiles and across the social scale, with the consequent displacement of the ideal of durability. These changes led to a disappearance of the trickle-down time lag from couture to mass fashion whilst increasing market volatility. The establishment of the new model of consumption was viewed with concern by print companies due to the unpredictability of demand and higher production and promotion costs. However, the establishment of a fashionability model for all price levels of dress fabric increased personal choice and raised the significance of design in mass-market printed dress fabrics. These changes in the textiles retail and distribution structure indicate the transition to a recognisably modern mass consumer society.

 

 

Bruno Blondé, University of Antwerp and Jon Stobart, Manchester Metropolitan University

The language of value: a comparative approach to newspaper advertisements for auctions of second-hand household goods in eighteenth-century England and the Low Countries

 

A lot has been written about the spread and significance of newspaper advertisements during the eighteenth century. Indeed, they are often seen as central to the so-called consumer revolution that swept across Europe during this period: they promoted novelty and fashion, encouraged new forms of consumption and formed crucial part of modern retail practice. And yet, alongside advertisements for novelties, new tradesmen and new goods, newspapers also carried notices for a wide variety of old and second-hand goods, including ordinary household goods. These advertisements have received comparatively little attention, being overlooked in analyses that focus on the novelties and high-street retailers. Drawing on a large and growing database of advertisements for auctions of second-hand household goods in England and the Low Countries, we intend not so much to describe the practices of these commercial outlets, but rather to explore the cultural values surrounding the objects described. In particular, we focus on the ways in which second-hand goods were described and presented as desirable, useful and valuable goods, arguing that newspaper advertisements are unique sources that allow the cultural construction of different material goods to be studied in a comparative way. As a direct challenge to grand narratives of an eighteenth-century consumer revolution based on new consumers and consumer practices, we show how used goods also appealed to consumers and how specific goods appealed to different bundles of consumer characteristics. Moreover, we highlight the false divide that is seen as separating both new and old goods, and new and traditional consumer practices.

 

Rika Fujioka, Kansai University

The development of Japanese department stores along with the growing ready-made clothes market from the 1950s to the 1970s

 

Department stores first developed between the 1900s and the 1930s, but then underwent a second major stage of development between the 1950s and the 1970s, a period of great economic growth in Japan. After the Second World War, many department stores increased their sales, their sales areas, the number of their stores, and their workforces, and many new department store companies were established. New department stores became common not only in metropolitan areas but also in smaller cities across Japan. This quantitative expansion was made possible by developments in both supply and demand: first, the growth of clothing companies was a major driver of increasing sales in department stores; second, the growth in consumers’ incomes due to the high economic development in Japan from 1954 to 1973, along with the modernization of these consumers’ lifestyles during this period, meant an increased demand for fashionable Western-style ready-made clothing. Before the Second World War most middle-class people wore kimonos in Japan, while some upper-class people wore tailored Western-style clothes; ready-made clothes did not exist in Japan at that time. However, with the introduction of Western weaving machines and the Western production system, clothing companies were able to produce ready-made clothes, and therefore expanded and increased their sales.

 

The Japanese ready-made clothes market expanded in parallel with the development of department stores. As department stores were crucial sales outlets for clothing companies, they removed the risk for the stores by introducing consignment sales, providing them with stock on a sale or return basis; the clothing companies also provided the shop-floor staff for every store. With these new arrangements in place, department stores easily and rapidly expanded their merchandise and their business, without any risk from purchasing large quantities of stock that may or may not sell, or from growing their own workforces. Clothing companies were also able to increase their sales rapidly and could communicate with customers directly at the point of sale through their staff members, thereby gaining valuable feedback. This study examines in detail this successful relationship between department stores and clothing companies along with the increasing ready-made clothes market between the 1950s and the 1970s in Japan.

 

Janina Gosseye, Delft University of Technology

The Janus-faced suburban shopping centre: the Low Countries in search of a suitable shopping paradigm

 

Between Delft and The Hague, in Rijswijk, a modern shopping centre, of the type that has been in existence in Amstelveen for some time now, is being built. Other parts of the country are also considering the construction of such a ‘shopping centre’. Even more places are studying or developing plans. The situation is similar in other Benelux-countries… All of this following the example of America. Will the shopping streets of Amsterdam, Antwerp, Brussels, The Hague, Luik, Luxemburg or Rotterdam all be de-populated?1

 

When the American suburban shopping centre concept arrived in the Low Countries in the early 1960s, countless concerns were voiced and numerous questions raised about the impact that this commercial typology would have on the region’s spatial structure. Initially conceived in the mid 1940s by Victor Gruen, a Viennese architect who migrated to the United States in 1938, America’s first ‘purebred’ suburban shopping centre, Northland, opened in Detroit in 1954. Two years later, Gruen’s most famous creation opened in Edina, just outside of Minneapolis. The result was a sensation. Reporters from all of the country came for the shopping centre’s opening, leading Institutions Magazine to declare that Southdale represented ‘America’s newest institution, the suburban shopping centre.’

 

Not long after Southdale opened, America’s ‘newest institution’ arrived in Europe, where it quickly forced architects and planners as well as retailers, economists and politicians to come to grips with this novel commercial phenomenon. Many European countries, including Belgium and The Netherlands sent ‘missions’ to the United States to investigate this new shopping typology first hand. In 1960 the Comité Belge de la Distribution (Belgian Service for the Advancement of Productivity) sent a delegation charged with investigating the development of shopping centres to the United States, and one year later, in 1961, the Dutch Overheidsadviescommissie voor de Harmonische Ontwikkeling van de Detailhandel (Governmental Advice Commission for the Harmonious Development of Retail) also journeyed across the Atlantic where they travelled to Detroit, Washington and New York. The discoveries that this Dutch mission made, led to the Kopen en Knopen (Shopping and Tangles) exhibition, which was held in the Rotterdam Bouwcentrum between June 5th and September 1st 1962. The mission of the Belgian delegation in turn gave rise to the publication of a report recounting the experiences from the United States.

 

The goal of these foreign missions and their ensuing exhibition and publication was twofold; on the one hand they endeavoured to educate the population of the Low Countries about the new ‘shopping centre’ phenomenon, and on the other hand they sought to proffer guidelines and recommendations on how this new typology could be successfully adapted to and integrated in the region. This paper investigates what specific recommendations regarding urban and suburban retailing and distribution were proffered from these missions, and how these suggestions were implemented in or translated into the first shopping centre designs in Belgium and The Netherlands.

 

1 A.W. Luyckx, ‘Winkelcentrum: Van Markt tot Shopping Center,’ Actuele Onderwerpen, 15 March 1963, no. 953, p. 1

 

Graham Harding, St Cross College, Oxford

Competition is useless: Gilbey's and the emergence of modern retailing, 1855-1914

 

In 1860, William Gladstone set about creating a light wine revolution in the UK. He was determined to end the threat to the nation’s well-being that he felt was posed by the widely distributed, highly alcoholised and often adulterated ports and sherries that dominated the UK wine market in the first half of the century. Gladstone’s 1860 budget shifted the duty advantage away from the ‘black, sweet and strong’ liquid ‘warmers’ towards the light, natural wines of continental Europe.

 

The elite London wine merchants had fought this duty change for fear that it would reduce prices and threaten their profitable monopoly. They were right on both counts. According to the wine trade paper, the demand was such that ‘all sorts and conditions of shopkeepers rushed into the Trade almost as impetuously as, ten years before, inexperienced youths had flocked to the goldfields of Ballarat. Grocers, Confectioners, Florists, Druggists […] procured cheap licenses and filled their shop-windows with cheap Wines’.

 

Most failed in short order but one new entrant came to dominate the market with a maximum share that may have approached 60-70% off the national wine market through their thousands of local agents. This paper will look at how the now largely forgotten W & A Gilbey not only revolutionised the British wine trade but arguably anticipated both the arrival of ‘modern retailing’ in the 1870s and many of the retailing and marketing techniques of the twentieth century. They used a pioneering retailer brand and effective database marketing to drive sales through a franchise-based business system managed through analytical sales data.

 

At the end of his life Gladstone compared them favourably to Thomas Cook with his judgment that ‘you stand outside and above the rank of ordinary commercial Houses’. Another member of the wine trade put it more succinctly – ‘competition is useless’.

 

Richard Hawkins, University of Wolverhampton and Hildegard Norton-Uhl, University of Wolverhampton

Paprika Schlesinger: The Development of a Luxury Retail Shoe Brand in Belle Époque Vienna

 

This paper looks at the history of a pioneer in the development of luxury retail brands, Robert Schlesinger (1853-1902).  Schlesinger was a Hungarian born Jew who founded a retail business in the late 1870s at 2 Wallfischgasse in the centre of Vienna, in the vicinity of the Vienna State Operahouse, retailing a strange combination of tinned paprika and high class shoes.  From the very beginning of the business Schlesinger placed small column panel advertisements for both tinned paprika and shoes in Vienna’s leading quality newspaper, the Neue Freie Presse.  However, Schlesinger wanted to establish a brand for his business which he had named “Paprika Schlesinger”.  In 1885 Johann Palisa, an astronomer at the Vienna Observatory, offered the opportunity to name a newly discovered asteroid in return for a donation to help fund a fieldtrip to observe a total solar eclipse that was to take place the following year.  Schlesinger paid 500 florint for the privilege of naming the asteroid “Paprika Schlesinger” which generated significant publicity for his business throughout the Austro-Hungarian dual monarchy, the wider German speaking world, and also in Britain and America.  In 1893 “Paprika Schlesinger” was being used as the brand name for the tinned paprika in the newspaper advertising.  However, Schlesinger continued to use “Robert Schlesinger” in his advertising for the shoe business.  But he was also using the Paprika Schlesinger brand for the shoe business having ceased advertising tinned paprika in the Neue Freie Presse although he continued to retail this product.  A full page advertisement in the Christmas 1897 issue of the Neue Freie Presse was headed by a “Paprika Schlesinger” logo incorporating a paprika pepper motif. 

 

By the late 1890s Schlesinger had built up a substantial business.  In addition to the Viennese store, there were branch stores in Budapest and three Austrian spa towns, Bad Ischl, Marienbad, and Carlsbad.  The latter two towns were premier resorts patronized by wealthy people, including European royalty and aristocrats, North American millionaires, and upper middle class Jews.  (Several years later, after Schlesinger’s death, the business achieved the ultimate royal accolade, “By Appointment to the Austrian Emperor”, in December 1910.)  Schlesinger also sought to enhance the marketing of the Paprika Schlesinger brand by paying Viennese playwrights to incorporate references to his business in their plays. 

 

In the last months of his life Schlesinger experimented with the use of fine art in the marketing of business.  Raphael Kirchner, a well known Austrian artist, whose paintings of scantily clad young women were disseminated as postcards, produced an advertising postcard for Schlesinger showing the heads and feet of a group of young women in a changing room cubicle.  During the same period Schlesinger also commissioned another Austrian artist, Giulio Angelo Liberali, to produce an advertising poster for his business featuring a young lady portrayed in the style of the paintings of Gustav Klimt. 

 

Schlesinger died in April 1902 at the age of 49 while on a visit to Tulin an der Donau in Lower Austria.  After his death his widow Anna and later his son Walter continued to develop the business.  However, they lacked the marketing flair of Robert “Paprika” Schlesinger.  After the First World War with the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Empire the business was reduced to the original store in Vienna.  In 1938 what remained of the business was Aryanised by the German authorities after the Anschluss.  After the Second World War the Austrian government declined to restore the business to Walter Schlesinger offering him derisory compensation instead.

 

Clare Hoare, King’s College London

Female business owners: a study of grocers in Edwardian London

 

The historical experience of women in a business context is a relatively underexplored area which has meant that some of the stereotypes have gone unchallenged due to lack of evidence. Further, the way that business is discussed and defined (both historically and in the present) has prevented our building a clear picture of women’s business activities. This paper aims to contribute, albeit in a small measure, to the growing body of work on female business owners. The research behind this paper focussed on female proprietors of grocery shops in Edwardian London, and compared them to a sample of their male counterparts. A database was constructed using information from trades directories linked with that from census returns. This paper, which comprises only part of the analysis arising from the research, concentrates on the apparent differences between women’s businesses and men’s. These differences correspond with the criticisms of female business owners that have frequently been raised: they were mainly widows forced into business to escape destitution; they inherited businesses and did not start them; and their businesses were short lived. However, this paper will argue that, in each of these cases, a more detailed analysis of the data reveals a different or, at least, a more complex interpretation.

 

Family is a theme which recurred throughout this research. It was crucial in the everyday operation of a small retail business, frequently a determinant of its aims, and instrumental in its survival. Small grocery shops were often open for long hours and household members, including children, were ideally placed to help. The aims of businesses included providing for dependants, which may have determined the location and nature of the operation – living above the shop, for example, was more practical for a widow with young children. The longest-surviving businesses in the study were, not surprisingly, run by a variety of family members over the years. Business and family were frequently interlinked for the proprietors in this study.

 

Jennifer Holt,

Retailing and wholesaling c 1600: a Lune Valley case study

 

Kirkby Lonsdale is still a market centre for those living in adjacent areas of Lancashire, Yorkshire and what is now Cumbria. However, at an earlier time, the mercers who lived there also supplied the smaller market towns such as Hornby. In the late sixteenth-century at least two men - James Backhouse of Kirkby Lonsdale and Henry Wilson of Kirkby Kendal - had shops in both centres with the latter also trading in Hornby market. Other families who combined a shop in Hornby with their main base in Lancaster included the Newtons of Whittington and the Westmore family. Although James Backhouse was first identified (and extracts from his inventory published) in 1853 the full list is outstanding by any measure. However, although the number of items Backhouse stocked is so very large, the range of goods may be replicated in the inventories of others who followed him in Kirkby Lonsdale.

 

The proposed paper will discuss the inventories of several men who were based in and around Kirkby Lonsdale before about 1700. Comparisons will be drawn between these records whilst the networks to which they belonged will be explored.

 

The Inventory of James Backhouse was only one of those edited by James Raine and published by the Surtees Society in 1853; Wills and Inventories from the Registry of the Archdeaconry of Richmond, extending over portions of the counties of York, Westmerland, Cumberland and Lancaster.

 

Sarah Laurenson, University of Edinburgh

‘In enclose herewith five compasses’: retailing jewellery and small luxuries in rural Scotland during the long nineteenth century

 

In the summer of 1869, there was a gold rush in the Scottish Highlands. Jewellers in the area experienced a particularly busy spell during this time. Local elites who owned the land where the gold was discovered commissioned Inverness jewellers to make objects from local gold. Ordinary working people in the surrounding area were able to capitalise on the gold rush, exchanging their finds for small luxuries from local jewellers’ shops such as stickpins, watches and compasses. Jewellers offered customers a choice by sending small packets of objects by post or with trusted friends and neighbours as they travelled around the region, and often tried to tempt recipients by including fancy goods outwith their budget.

 

Surviving letters between one Inverness jeweller, Robert Naughten, and a local schoolmaster who set himself up as a gold agent for the summer, document the flurry of retail activity in the area. The letters show how precious metals, semi-precious stones like garnets and crystals, and finished jewellery objects were ferried around the Highlands between producers and consumers during the gold rush. Using these letters, together with photographs and surviving objects, this paper explores the retail and distribution of jewellery in the Scottish Highlands. Complex and dynamic networks between jewellers and customers in the area are revealed to provide a new perspective on the urban focus which dominates the study of luxury retail and consumption.

 

Working out from the time of the gold rush, the paper shows how rural customers were important for jewellers in Scotland’s many small, remote towns and in the country’s larger urban centres throughout the long nineteenth century. Trade cards and advertisements assured customers that they would receive excellent standards of service and would not be charged higher prices than visitors to the shop. The focus is on issues of security, trust and customer choice posed by the geographical distance between jewellers and their rural customers, and the ways in which these problems were negated or, in some cases, used to the retailer’s advantage. It is argued that satisfying the desires of ‘country customers’ was fundamentally important to the jewellery trade in Scotland, particularly during periods of economic decline. Forging dynamic networks of supply and distribution, and building and maintaining relationships with rural customers was crucial for business success.

 

Lucile Peytavin, University of Lyon 2

Female haberdashers and haberdashers in La Motte-de-Galaure and in the north of Drome in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries

 

There is no historical study focusing on French rural shopkeepers’ activity during the 19th and 20th centuries.

 

I intend to start filling this gap by concentrating on the case of haberdasher activity. This type of shopkeeper emerged in rural areas in the early 19th  century and was active until the end of the 20th  century.

 

To reconstruct the history of this profession, my study relies on private archival holdings concerning the life and work of Jeanne Thivolle, a female haberdasher, who managed her own shop from 1929 to 1969 in a village located in the north of Drôme, in the Galaure valley. These archival holdings consist mainly of notarial archives; facts that have been supported by the testimony of the shopkeeper’s children and former customers.

 

Jeanne Thivolle’s work has been contextualized in a broader economic history: with the help of the Fournier and Didot-Bottin commercial directories, I retraced the demography of small businesses in this time period and area. This database allowed me to reveal a recurring commercial logic in these small rural businesses. To be specific, pluriactivity and diversification, as well as business transfer to a male descendant are recurrent patterns. Jeanne Thivolle, for instance, was also managing a funeral directors with her husband, who in turn was also a carpenter (the carpentry trade has been transferred from father to son for three generations in the family). These commercial strategies enabled small rural owners to cope with the weak demand of the rural population and to adapt to changing consumer habits.

 

Martin Purvis, University of Leeds

Retailing in English suburbs during the 1920s and 1930s: development, deficiency and diversity

 

In Dunroamin: The Suburban Semi and its Enemies (1981) Oliver, Davis and Bentley argue that English suburbia of the interwar years was characterised by a diversity which stemmed in part from its geographical position at the meeting point between town and country. It follows that patterns of living and – by extension – patterns of consumption reflected influences other than the new ideal of domesticity. Continuing financial constraints limited the extent to which many households could convert suburban dreams into reality; for this and other reasons suburbanisation did not always constitute a total break from existing social attitudes and systems of provisioning and distribution.

 

The paper thus explores important aspects of this diversity as it relates to retailing. Suburbia is often characterised as an early stronghold of multiple retailing; not least because these large concerns were better able than their smaller competitors to afford the purpose-built premises that were the most visible face of retailing on many new estates. Previous studies have, indeed, shown the extent of co-operation between major multiples and property companies in the commercial development of many expanding suburbs. However, more focused investigation of retail provision in particular suburbs – in London and major provincial cities – reveals the importance of less familiar alternatives to the major national chains. In part this is a reminder of the diversity to be found amongst multiple retailers themselves, especially in sectors such as grocery and provisions. The suburbs of many major cities were penetrated by multiples specific to that particular locality, which were a more influential force in shaping interwar retailing than is often acknowledged. But diversity also reflected the desire of some suburbanites to perpetuate existing shopping habits, and the convenience and friendliness which they associated with markets and corner shops. Moreover, in some contexts – particularly major municipal estates – suburbanisation breathed new life into non-shop retailing as a response to the initially inadequate provision of retail premises. Hawkers and other forms of door-to-door selling – in guises both modern and traditional – were often seen by contemporaries as a particular feature of suburban life. Individual enterprise also saw houses used as shops, sometimes on a clandestine basis in contravention of planning regulations and tenancy agreements.

 

Academic studies of retailing in interwar England have frequently focused on the changing balance of commercial advantage between different scales and styles of retailing. Suburbia merits attention as a key site in which this retail competition was played out, not always in ways which accord with widely held assumptions about the overall trend of retail evolution.

 

Gabi Schopf, Universität Bern

Buying and selling consumer goods in the eighteenth century: rural retailing in the Canton of Bern

 

In 1753 Bernese merchants complained “that in the whole country there are more than twelve hundred shops (Kramläden) in the villages.” Although this was probably an exaggeration, rural retailing in the mid-eighteenth century had spread wide enough to raise the concerns of the established merchants in the city. Using a survey on village trade conducted by the Council of Commerce in 1753, this paper presents a case study about rural retailing in the Swiss canton of Bern.

 

In the resent years scholars have noted that retailers played a crucial role in changing patterns of consumption in the eighteenth century. Recent research on the subject, however, suffered from what Bruno Blondé termed “looking for the modern in the early modern”. This resulted in scholars seeking primarily the emergence of modern retailing techniques, like fixed shops, window displays, and newspaper advertisements. Further they focused on urban areas at the forefront of these developments, not rural areas.

 

This paper has two aims: first, it probes rural retailing to assess how deeply these changes in retailing and consumption penetrated early modern society. It will ask, what role new, fashionable, foreign consumer goods, like printed cottons, tobacco or porcelain played in rural retailing. Which of these goods were available to country folk in mid-eighteenth century? Further, it will investigate how often and where village people had access to these desired goods: permanently in small village shops, periodically on local markets, or only by travelling to the city of Bern?

 

Second, instead of the emergence of innovative marketing and retailing techniques, this paper investigates the places and actors that supplied rural people with consumer goods, such as local markets, village shops, and illicit trading spaces like country inns as well as urban wholesalers, rural retailers, and peddlers. How did all these actors work together (or against one another) to supply rural areas?  This way it will show that the supply of consumer goods to rural areas in the early modern age depended on deeply interconnected retail circuits.

 

Alex Taylor, University of Sheffield

Tobacco retailing in 1630s England: formal and informal

 

In 1634, the Privy Council introduced a licensing system for tobacco retailers. This was ostensibly intended to reduce consumption levels of the plant but in reality was a revenue-raising device for the crown. The scheme was met with mixed reception throughout the country. On the one hand, licensed retailers were able to monopolise the selling of tobacco within one locality. On the other hand, unlicensed individuals continued to retail the plant, and employed a variety of strategies that allowed them to circumvent the monopolies of legitimate traders.

By using exchequer court depositions, this paper will outline how a distinction between town and country was one factor in determining how the tobacco retail trade functioned. Generally speaking, for cities, tight networks amongst the civic elite enabled them to successfully control the licensed retail trade. Prominent merchants of the town were able to purchase licences and then delegate the actual business of retailing to deputy retailers. In provincial communities, however, unlicensed retailing was much more common. This was largely due to the difficulty of policing trade across large areas as well as the absence of civic networks. Moreover, those who were engaged in such informal retailing had access to a repository of tactics that enabled them to carry out their pursuits. The extent of this informal trade should not be understated and reveals the paucity of formal retailing in early modern England more broadly.

 

Shelley Tickell, University of Hertfordshire

Selecting shops to steal from in the eighteenth century metropolis – which retailers were most vulnerable to shoplifting?

 

Shoplifting was prevalent in eighteenth-century London but there has been little scholarship on which retailers in this conurbation were most at risk of loss.  The capital’s glass-fronted window displays were the pride of the nation and its leading shopping streets such as Cheapside, the Strand, Covent Garden and Oxford Street commented on admiringly by visitors. Stylish west end shops selling novel goods and the latest fabrics served both a local and national market. Polite, leisured shopping in these stores by the middling and elite has been the focus for numerous historical studies. But were these shops equally attractive to shoplifters?  A spatial analysis of urban shoplifting enables us to identify the size, class and location of shops most vulnerable to plunder, and suggests there was a clear distinction between the shopping streets targeted by shoplifters and those patronised by the elite.

Employing transcripts from Old Bailey trials, this paper examines the implication for retailers of the criminal strategies variously adopted by professional and amateur offenders.  Both primarily sought retail outlets specialising in textiles and clothes. But with the bonus of criminal intelligence and a greater vested interest in avoiding capture professional shoplifters operated with less geographical restriction. Evidence suggests that the majority of shoplifters, casual offenders from plebeian communities, selected targets in more localised areas, seeking shops that were familiar and where they would appear least conspicuous. This infers that the retailers most frequently victimised were predominantly smaller shops and those catering to a lower-class clientele. A mapping of incidents in the capital at two time periods supports this premise.  Matching the geographical location of affected stores to a late-century tax status profile of shops in the metropolis also indicates such a pattern. But ultimately the most telling confirmation may be found in work on the personal shopping habits of the elite.

 

 

 

 

INFORMATION

 

The conference will be held in rooms MC301 and MC331, Millennium City Building, University of Wolverhampton.

 

The Millennium City Building is located on City Campus Wulfruna (South), a short walk from Wolverhampton’s bus and train stations. For maps and directions see:

http://www.wlv.ac.uk/default.aspx?page=6856

 

The fee is £26

 

To register, please complete the registration form, available here (this link will take you to the University of Wolverhampton’s E-store)

 

For further information, please e-mail: Laura Ugolini at l.ugolini@wlv.ac.uk or Karin Dannehl at k.dannehl@wlv.ac.uk


Last updated: August  2015