CHORD Conference

Retailing and Distribution History

9 and 10 September 2009

A conference to mark 10 years of CHORD



Information and fees

Registration and bursary form




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Details of past CHORD events (since 2004)can be found here

The conference is supported by the:

Economic History Society

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Economic History Society

and the Royal Historical Society

Click here for more information on the: Royal Historical Society



Wednesday 9 September

9.00 - 10.15. Welcome and coffee

10.15 - 11.15. Exhibition Area. Plenary session

Chair: John Benson, University of Wolverhampton

Welcome to delegates by Judith Burnett, Dean, School of Law, Social Sciences and Communications, University of Wolverhampton 

Plenary session:

Andrew Alexander, University of Surrey, 'The past, present and future of retailing history: A view from business and management'

Jon Stobart, University of Northampton, 'A history of shopping: the missing link between retail and consumer revolution?'

11.30 - 13.00. Parallel Session 1. Exhibition Area

Selling principles

Chair: TBC

1 Janice Winship, University of Sussex, UK 'Speaking of change, holding to principles: precarious order at Marks & Spencer in the mid-1990s'


2 Carolyn Downs, University of Salford, UK 'Selling gambling: social change and the marketing of vice 1906-2007'


3 Sean O'Connell, Queen's University, Belfast, UK 'Credit and the ‘Co’, 1920-1970'


11.30 - 13.00. Parallel Session 2. Stephenson Room

Distribution chains

Chair: Richard Hawkins, University of Wolverhampton

1 Isabelle Gaillard, University of Grenoble II, France ‘From “traditional” retailers to hypermarkets: retailing the black and white TV set in France from 1950 to 1987’


2 Kazuo Usui, Saitama University, Japan & University of Edinburgh, UK ‘Conflict and cooperation among Keiretsu retailers, independent retailers and manufacturers in the industry of household electric appliances in Japan’


3 Richard Vahrenkamp, University of Kassel, Germany 'Automobile retail and distribution in Germany 1920 – 1930'


11.30 - 13.00. Parallel Session 3. Armstrong Room

Food distribution

Chair: Nancy Cox, University of Wolverhampton

1 Ramón Agustín Banegas López, Université de Versailles Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines, France ‘The meat supply in two European cities in the Late Middle Ages: Barcelona and Rouen’


2 Preston Perluss, Université Pierre Mendes France Grenoble, France ‘The microhistory of a bakery  in a late 18th and 19th century Paris neighborhood’


3 Joshua Bamfield, UK ‘Early Victorian consumer flour and bread societies: the consumerist backlash against retailers and millers’


13.00 - 14.00. Lunch. Dining Area

14.00 - 15.30. Parallel Session 4. Exhibition Area

Selling tactics

Chair: TBC

1 Nancy Cox, University of Wolverhampton, UK ‘What is love? An exploration of the meaning of language in early-modern trade’


2 Hiroki Shin & Alex Medcalf, University of York, UK ‘Fashioning the passengers: holiday marketing by Britain’s railway companies, 1923-1939’


3 Olga Kravets and Özlem Sandıkcı, Bilkent University, Ankara, Turkey ‘Marketing modernity in the Soviet Union: the case of TeZhe’


14.00 - 15.30. Parallel Session 5. Stephenson Room

Towns and neighbourhoods

Chair: Ian Mitchell, University of Wolverhampton

1 Marie Gillet, University of Franche-Comté, Besançon, France, ‘The progress and changes in the retailing system in the small French provincial town of Besançon during the 19th Century’


2 Claire Leighton, Royal College of Art, London, ‘Designing a political space:  the impact of the International Exhibition on the consumption of the elite’


3 Danielle van den Heuvel, Girton College, University of Cambridge, UK ‘Who owns the streets? Conflict and tolerance amongst street sellers and shopkeepers in early modern Dutch towns’


15.30 - 16.00. Coffee. Dining area

16.00 - 17.00. Parallel Session 6. Exhibition Area


Chair: Margaret Ponsonby, University of Wolverhampton

1 Ian Mitchell, University of Wolverhampton UK ‘Noble quadrangular building or glass umbrella: markets and market halls in nineteenth century England’


2 Janet Redmond, The rise and decline of Dublin’s South City markets 1875-1894’


16.00 - 17.00. Parallel Session 7. Stephenson Room

Retail spaces

Chair: Alison Toplis, University of Wolverhampton

1 Sonia Ashmore, Bronwen Edwards, Leeds Metropolitan University, David Gilbert, 'Mini skirts and asset strippers – a carry on at the wrong end of Oxford Street'


2 Jo Lintonbon, University of Sheffield, UK ‘The nineteenth century high street in Sheffield: a spatial and architectural analysis’


19.00: Conference reception (including 2009 CHORD New Research Prize winner announcement) and dinner, Novotel Hotel, Wolverhampton

 Thursday 10 September

9.00 - 9.30. Coffee. Dining area

9.30 - 11.00. Parallel Session 8. Exhibition Area

Techniques of selling

Chair: Andrew Alexander, University of Surrey

1 Fredrik Sandgren,  Uppsala University, Sweden ’A new quest for efficiency: the post war programme of the Swedish Federation of Wholesalers’


2 Michael French, University of Glasgow, UK ‘Rewards for selling: the incomes and wealth of British commercial travellers, 1840s-1930s’


3 J. Carles Maixé-Altés, University of Leicester, UK and Universidad de A Coruña, Spain ‘Early stages of the self-service revolution in Europe: the Americanisation of food retailing in Spain, c.1947-1972’


9.30 - 11.00. Parallel Session 9. Stephenson Room

Selling and Buying at Auction (17th - 19th Century). Session abstract

Chair: TBC

1 Koen Jonckheere, University of Amsterdam, Marketing the exceptional: actors in Dutch art auctions around 1700


2 Ilja Van Damme, University of Antwerp, Belgium, Auctions on the crossroads of transition: the profession of the public crier in Belgium (late eighteenth-early nineteenth century)


3 Anne Wegener Sleeswijk, Université Paris-1 Panthéon-Sorbonne, France, Brokers’ Power: Insiders and Outsiders at Dutch Wine Auctions in the 18th Century


9.30 - 11.00. Parallel Session 10. Armstrong Room

Changing the 'Local' High Street. Moving from 1950 to a Sustainable 2050. Session abstract

Chair: TBC

1 Claire Seaman, Queen Margaret University, UK ‘Through the looking-glass of current theory: a case study of a high street petrified by early entrepreneurial Success’


2 Mike Pretious, Queen Margaret University, UK ‘ “Face reality as it is, not as it was or as you wish it to be”: a micro-level examination of retail change’


3 Richard Bent, Queen Margaret University, UK ‘Moving the “High Street” from 1950 to 2050’


11.00 - 11.30. Coffee. Dining Area

11.30 - 12.30. Plenary session. Exhibition Area

Chair: Lesley Whitworth, University of Brighton

Erika Rappaport, University of California Santa Barbara, US, 'Internationalizing Retail History? The Indian Tea Trade and the Creation of Global Markets'

12.30 - 13.30. Lunch. Dining Area

13.30 - 15.00. Parallel Session 11. Exhibition Area

Consumption and shopping

Chair: Karin Dannehl, University of Wolverhampton

Please note that Claire Leighton will  be presenting her paper on ‘Designing a political space:  the impact of the International Exhibition on the consumption of the elite’ on Wednesday 9 Sept, at 14.00, session 5.

2 David Hussey and Margaret Ponsonby, University of Wolverhampton, UK ‘A home of one’s own? Spinsters, bachelors and the consumption of homemaking in the long 18th century’


3 Claire Walsh, Open University, UK, 'The social relations of shopping in early-modern England'


13.30 - 15.00. Parallel Session 12. Stephenson Room

Selling the Modern Body, 1870-1950. Session abstract

Chair: Rosalind Watkiss, University of Wolverhampton

1 Clare Rose, The Women’s Library, London Metropolitan University, UK ‘Modern bodies in the Stationer’s Hall Archive, 1870-1914’


2 Dilwyn Porter and Jean Williams, De Montfort University, UK ‘Kit: selling sports clothing and equipment in late nineteenth and early twentieth century Britain’


3 Katrina Honeyman, University of Leeds, UK ‘Men and boys: masculinity and the consumption of mass produced fashion in the early twentieth century’


15.00. Conference closes




Sonia Ashmore, Bronwen Edwards, David Gilbert, 'Mini skirts and asset strippers – a carry on at the wrong end of Oxford Street'

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For most of the twentieth century, Bourne and Hollingsworth department store traded on Oxford Street, the less fashionable end east of the Circus. The store’s history has many very familiar elements: founded in West London in 1894 as a draper and fancy goods store, soon migrating to a larger, ‘better’ location and, as business flourished, building a substantial new store in the interwar years. Although the store was never particularly striking in terms of business methods, fashionability or architecture, it survived as a successful family business until buyout and closure in the 1970s. This comes as no surprise: its demise was shared by many of the ‘old dinosaurs’ of retailing during the postwar decades, permanently changing the shopping environment of London’s West End.

This paper is concerned with quiet, unspectacular metropolitan consumption. It is also about store closure, considering the importance of the outdatedness of this kind of retailing in the face of new kinds of consumption cultures. Certainly, the swinging boutiques of Carnaby Street were only a few minutes’ walk away. Yet throughout the twentieth century, an important strand of metropolitan consumption has involved respectable, well established stores like this, stores which never enjoyed a reputation for being particularly novel or fashionable. A competing explanation is put forward for closure, stressing the vulnerability of certain kinds of business in a rampant new world of aggressive property speculation: department stores effectively became new instruments in the commodification of commercial property. In this climate, the store’s strengths - the structures and cultures of the family business; the Oxford Street location - became its liabilities. As shopping geographies subtly shifted and rents soared, some of the many part-owners wanted out. Rather than approaching both of these ideas as metropolitan-scale phenomena, this paper focuses in on a particular site and store history, highlighting the significance of precise microgeographies for a store’s survival or failure. 

Joshua Bamfield, UK ‘Early Victorian consumer flour and bread societies: the consumerist backlash against retailers and millers’


This paper discusses the rationale, creation and early operation of Victorian flour and bread societies (F&B societies), a collaboration between working class and middle-class consumers in the 1840s to 1860s. More than 25 consumer-owned F&B societies were established in Leeds, Bradford, Halifax and elsewhere to provide (unadulterated) flour and bread at low prices. The F&B societies were well-funded organisations with large memberships. They made a significant impact on local markets almost from their inception – in great contrast to the undercapitalised, small-scale, limited-turnover businesses that characterised Co-operative grocers at this time, such as the Rochdale Pioneers (Black and Robertson, 2009). Leeds F&B society attracted 1,023 members in its first two months and by 1851, it had 2,997 members and sales of £29,000. By the late 1850s, the combined retail sales of all 25 F&B societies were more than one-half of all Co-operative retailers (Holyoake, 1897). For at least some commentators, the F&B societies seemed to be a more significant development at the time than Rochdale-style grocery stores (Christian Socialist, 1851).

Victorian F&B societies copied the methods of similar organisations fifty years before. In the late eighteenth century, a varied range of initiatives (Bamfield, 1998) had created around 46 communal or mutual flour and bread companies as community organisations that undercut market prices and supplied members and others (Tann, 1980; Bamfield, 1998).

The drivers behind the establishment of the Victorian F&B societies seemed to be: the high price of bread and flour, making direct intervention in the market cost-effective; public expectations that retail bread, flour and other groceries were normally adulterated (Drummond and Wilbraham, 1964); and widespread dissatisfaction by the public (particularly in Yorkshire) about the competitive operation of the bread and flour market (ie ‘market failure’). The societies were planned in a period when corn prices were high (though see Vamplew, 1980, about the accuracy of national data at this time). The operational template was provided by the early large-scale communal societies, particularly the Hull Anti-Mill (founded 1795). The F&B societies attempted to take over much of the corn supply chain; buying grain, milling it, selling at prime cost (not retail prices), and thus undercutting other dealers in this market by 1d or 2d per lb. Private flour sellers were small under-capitalised businesses; prices changed daily or weekly. The F&B societies only sold pure unadulterated product, dealt exclusively with members (guaranteeing fixed supplies per week), used a complex formula to ensure consist pricing by agents, and delivered direct, or collected from the depot. Profits were distributed to members in kind. F&B societies used promotional techniques pioneered in the Napoleonic era and restricted choice (lowering costs) by selling large loaves only.

Ultimately, the F&B Companies became Cooperative grocers, suppliers to retail societies, or disappeared; key reasons for this will be discussed in the paper. F&B societies demonstrate that the origins and motives of British Co-operatives are more diffuse than the traditional story shows, but F&B societies have been treated as anomalies rather than a possible alternative pattern of Co-operative enterprise (Pollard, 1960; Tann, 1980; Purvis, 1992; Black and Robertson, 2009). The success of the large F&B societies attracted policymakers and middle-class supporters, such as the Christian Socialists, who later became central to Co-operative large-scale organisation. The scandal of flour adulteration in Leeds by private retailers enabled the F&B societies to position themselves as the guardian of family health, giving evidence to Parliament. The fears of the well-capitalised F&B societies that their joint stock might be seized because of defects in the 1846 Cooperative legislation forced them (with their Christian Socialist supporters such as Neale and Ludlow) to press for, and prepare, new legislation, the I&PS Act 1852. This aided every type of Co-operative, even though the grocery Co-ops had done nothing to support this legislation (Jones, 1894). Largely forgotten now, they were not simply Co-operation’s ‘anomalies’ but played a significant part in developing Co-operation in the UK and in obtaining consumer-oriented legislation.

Bamfield, J. (1998) ‘Consumer Owned Community Flour and Bread Societies in the Eighteenth and Early Nineteenth Centuries’, Business History, Volume 40, 4, Oct., pp. 16-36.

Black, L. and Robertson, N. (2009) Consumerism and the Co-operative Movement in British History: Taking Stock, Manchester: Manchester University Press.

Christian Socialist (1851) Volume 1, p. 152.

Drummond, J.C. and Wilbraham, A. (1957) The Englishman's Food: A History of Five Centuries of English Diet, Revised edition, London: Jonathan Cape.

Holyoake, J.J. (1897) The Jubilee History of the Leeds Industrial Co-operative Society: From 1847 to 1897, Traced Year by Year, Leeds: Central Co-operative Offices.

Jones, B. (1894) Co-operative Production, Oxford: Clarendon Press.

Pollard, S. (1960) 'Nineteenth Century Co-operation: From Community Building to Shopkeeping', in Briggs, A. & Saville, L. (eds) Essays in Labour History: In Memory of G.D.H. Cole 25 September 1889-14 January 1959, London: Macmillan & Co, pp. 74-112.         

Purvis, M. (1992) 'Co-operative Retailing in Britain' in Benson, J. & Shaw, G. (eds) The Evolution of Retail Systems c1800-1914, Leicester: Leicester University Press.

Tann, J. (1980) 'Co-operative Corn Milling: Self Help During the Grain Crises of the Napoleonic Wars', Agricultural History Review, 28, pp.45-57.

Vamplew, W. (1980) ‘A Grain of Truth: The Nineteenth-Century Corn Averages,’ Agricultural History Review, Volume 28, pp 1-17.

Richard Bent, Queen Margaret University, UK ‘Moving the “High Street” from 1950 to 2050’


In the spirit of the conference title, the purpose of this paper is partially designed to highlight how bodies such as CHORD can use historical context to help inform future developments.

The role and importance of the ‘High Street’ and retailing in particular is well documented and debated amongst business, academic, governmental and media.

“Scotland's town centres and local high streets are a source of services, employment and leisure activity for their local populations, acting as the hearts of their local communities. They are a key contributor to the national economy, supporting achievement of the Government's purpose of supporting sustainable economic growth across the whole of Scotland for the benefit of all.” (Scottish Government 2009)

The background to this paper is a combination of ongoing work at QMU brought together with some of the ideas and work presented at the CHORD conference in 2008 (Clone Towns). The 2008 conference assisted the author in identifying, exploring and debating examples of historical ‘high street’ development and balancing that with a view towards the contemporary ‘high street’ in the UK. This synergy allowed the team at QMU to better understand some of the traditional roles that a ‘high street’ had in society whilst allowing an informed perspective to be drawn toward the ongoing debate and evolution in a modern, or indeed, future context.

Further opportunity for this work arose during the past eighteen months as QMU moved location to the Town of Musselburgh outside the technical boundaries for the City of Edinburgh. Musselburgh has seen the patterns of change similar to UK high streets over the past 50 years. Decline of local industry, opening of nearby major retail park, movement and closure or traditional/chain operators and now a questionable future over the ability for the ‘traditional’ high street area to survive. The introduction of a HE establishment into East Lothian, the only Scottish region not have a HE establishment is a rare opportunity for all parties to develop new working partnerships.

This first part of the paper seeks to use the historical underpinning of the role of the ‘high street’ as a contextualising point for the debate, and questions the role of the retail high street today. Piolt stage involvement with a range of interested bodies, including the Community Council, nascent traders association and Council’s economic development have provided preliminary evidence from current traders and consumers that suggests, amongst some, a form of ‘rose tinted spectacles’ are used when discussing, intervening and attempting to discover solutions for the current ‘ills’ of the high street. Here the team suggests the need for all parties to develop or at least debate the real question which could perhaps be better purported as ‘What should the role of the high street be 2050 not 1950.’

The second part of the paper uses the QMU developed Edinburgh Knowledge Hedge as model/framework for looking at the barriers that can prevent knowledge being transferred from and to the smaller independent retail operators and can act as a barrier to change.

The final part of the paper looks at possible methods of intervention that could be developed to create a more forward facing initiative utilising the newly developed idea of the ‘shop doctors’.

Nancy Cox, University of Wolverhampton, UK ‘What is love? An exploration of the meaning of language in early-modern trade’


One of the earliest tasks undertaken by the team working on the Dictionary of Traded Goods and Commodities c. 1550-1820 was to compile three lists of unedited commodity terms taken respectively from 100 probate inventories of trades people, the Books of Rates for 1582, 1660 and 1784, and a portion of the Gloucester Coastal Port Books that had already been transcribed and entered in the database. The results were unexpected; although it was anticipated some terms would be unique to each source, a large overlap was assumed. Instead, only about one quarter of the terms found in the probate inventories appeared in the Books of Rates, and only one sixth in the Gloucester Coastal Port Books. The discrepancies did not diminish as more documents in each source type were added. This lack of correspondence caused a re-think with a two-pronged approach as its result.

 The first concerned the fundamental nature of the commodities to be studied and what may usefully be deemed significant enough for the label to become a headword in the Dictionary. The slipperiness of terminology and language makes this a moving target. For example, in the early stages of the project, ‘yellow canvas’ was identified as a distinct commodity and not merely a canvas that was yellow, while the raw commodity terms ‘yellow stockings for children’ and ‘yellow waistcoat’ were not. ‘Yellow arsenic’ was also rejected, since it had several more common labels such as ‘auripigmentum’, ‘orpiment’ and ‘kings yellow’. Though the issue remains undecided, ‘yellow arsenic’ will probably achieve its own entry in time. Such soul-searching is not of mere academic interest. Colour was an identifier of choice for labelling many products, particularly chemicals and metals; so doing marked an important stage both in understanding the structure of such products and in creating a language suitable for identifying and working with them.

 The second re-assessment involved the source types and the commodities and commodity terms found within them. Every document is constructed for a purpose and in a specific context. This conditions the vocabulary of the source type. For example, contemporary romantic novels were full of love; many early-modern shops sold love, both indirectly through the promotion of commodities designed to foster gendered attraction but also in the shape of a textile called love – two very different things. The love for sale in the shops was only tenuously linked to feelings of love, being associated with funerals and mourning.

 With love for sale, it is apposite to explore the differences and similarities of terminology, giving attention also to the more subtle differences that inform on those who wrote and on the readership for which such writing was intended. Taking a linguistically aware approach, the investigation will contribute to an understanding of the great chain of making, selling and consumption in early modern England.

Carolyn Downs, University of Salford, UK 'Selling gambling: social change and the marketing of vice 1906-2007'


While gambling has operated as a quasi-commercial activity since at least the time of the Roman empire the idea that commercial gambling is a legitimate business activity is one that has engendered responses ranging from outrage and prohibition to regulation and taxation.

This paper will examine how social change has driven the debates about the regulation of commercial gambling and will compare the use and effectiveness of a range of marketing and promotion strategies by commercial gambling entrepreneurs with those in use by the more mainstream leisure industries of the period. The paper will refer to a range of primary sources from Mecca, Gala, Littlewoods and other leading retailers of leisure and pleasure.

Michael French, University of Glasgow, UK ‘Rewards for selling: the incomes and wealth of British commercial travellers, 1840s-1930s’


The expanding occupation of commercial travelling was an important element in Britain’s marketing system in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. It was a diverse occupation, though tended to cluster in certain sectors, notably textiles and grocery, which shades into door-to-door selling. Salesmen were paid salaries; on commission or via a combination of both and it is clear that there were wide income differentials. In general travellers regarded their own times as more competitive and less lucrative than those of their predecessors so published memoirs recall a series of ‘golden ages’ of earnings and status. This paper uses samples of data on incomes and on wealth at death to identify trends in the earnings of British salesmen from different trades between the 1840s and the 1930s. The aim is to determine how commercial travellers fared financially. It considers whether there were any ‘golden ages’ or distinctive trends in earnings or in wealth accumulated by travelling salesmen and examines the scope for upward social mobility at different times. The paper seeks to assess the social characteristics of commercial travellers.

Isabelle Gaillard, University of Grenoble II, France ‘From “traditional” retailers to hypermarkets: retailing the black and white TV set in France from 1950 to 1987’


This paper would like to understand how black and white TV sets have been sold from the beginning of the market in 1948 to its end in the middle of the eighties.  Meantime the black and white TV set passed of the status of expensive and fragile technical object, possessed by a well-to-do minority of French households in that of a mass consumer durable good, commonplace and usual.

Thanks to the French legislation which denies manufacturers the right to sell to the retailer they want, the distribution accompanies and facilitates this transformation. For the TV set is considered as a technical object at the beginning, in the fifties, small “traditional” retailers are leaders in the market. Mostly coming from prewar network of affiliated radio stores, linked against contract by manufacturers, they are strong because they are able to give advice, to put the TV sets in the households and to offer maintenance. French set makers provided extensive support to their retail networks, especially by holding training courses and seminars, so as to sell their brand. This model of retail store, standing for one or several brands, good seller but especially good technician, is called into question in the margin. From the fifties, there are new types of retail stores in Paris and around Paris. Discount stores sell low –priced TV sets but provide neither advice, nor installation, nor maintenance. For some products, they are loss-leaders. The FNAC (Fédération National d’Achat des Cadres) and DARTY act differently. While being rather low-priced, for they have a great sale capacity, they can choose the best branded goods. They also provide maintenance. Pretending to act on behalf of the consumer, they are more likely acting for themselves. A retail chain like DARTY, after having decreased prices in an area of same retails stores and got most of the market shares, rises soon after its prices. For a long time minority, those new retailers win growing shares of the market during this long period of time. It is especially the case for food supermarket, which started to be interested in TV sets in the seventies. They apply the precepts of Bernardo Trujillo: “an islet of losses in an ocean of benefits”, which does not help brand goods.  It takes a long time to them to decide to provide maintenance. Their success points out that consequently price matters more than service and technology. It also means that the TV set is no longer a technical and rare product but a banal mass product. At the end of our period, the distribution plays a leading role in the market for the problem is no more to manufacture goods but to sell them.

Marie Gillet, University of Franche-Comté, Besançon, France, ‘The progress and changes in the retailing system in the small French provincial town of Besançon during the 19th Century’


Besançon, a medium-sized provincial town located in north-eastern France halfway between Strasbourg and Lyon and near Switzerland, was established by the end of the 18th century as a regional capital. Considered as a military and administrative city, its economy was largely based on a service sector activity characterized by retailing, which predominated until the end of the 19th century despite the emergence of department stores. However, the deep social and economic changes related to technical and industrial progress that characterize contemporary France modified Besançon: they changed its urban and commercial landscape, but also turned the habits of a city strongly attached to traditional values upside down.

 Indeed, economic growth, population increase, improvement of thoroughfares as well as important town-planning works rapidly cleared the town centre in favour of the outskirts, reorganizing the city’s commercial space. Moreover, the rise of peoples’ living standards, the fall of consumer good prices and the arrival of many novelties on the market not only favoured consumption, they encouraged shopkeepers to adopt new trade strategies to attract demanding consumers. Many sales pitches were thus used to meet booming competition: advertising in local newspapers boasted the products and know-how of the craftsmen who had made them; improved layouts inside and in shop windows made outlets more comfortable and better-looking; lower prices attracted people who, despite their moderate incomes, had real consumption needs; and finally, the possibility of buying various things --novelties, luxury goods, semi-luxury goods and second-hand products—drew  consumers with varied needs, tastes and incomes.

 The multiplicity and diversity of shops present in Besançon make it an ideal field of research: we therefore suggest studying changes inherent to provincial retail trade during the 19th century in this town, essentially based on post-mortem stocktaking and local newspaper articles.

Katrina Honeyman, University of Leeds, UK ‘Men and boys: masculinity and the consumption of mass produced fashion in the early twentieth century’


The expansion in the making and selling of men’s suits from the end of the nineteenth century was reflected in, but also shaped, the consumption of fashion by men of all ages and social groups. The man’s suit came to symbolise masculinity, sobriety, male power and authority, in a world where gender identities were taking on new meanings. This paper demonstrates the different ways in which the activities of large scale menswear businesses reflected changes in the nature of work and leisure in the early decades of the twentieth century, while at the same time recognizing the need to assert particular features of masculinity as men practiced new levels of consumption.

The way in which the firm of Montague Burton ‘sold’ shopping to men through initiatives which linked the purchase of male garments with both ‘leisure’ and masculinity in the form of billiard halls is well known.  Evidence from a broad range of menswear producers who sold both suits and ‘modern’ garments which reflected the whole range of manly working and leisure pursuits will be investigated in this paper to indicate that Burton’s strategy was just one of many developed in the early twentieth century to accommodate the challenges to masculinity at that time.

David Hussey and Margaret Ponsonby, University of Wolverhampton, UK ‘A home of one’s own? Spinsters, bachelors and the consumption of homemaking in the long 18th century’


It is now common for people to live alone in a state of extended singleness.  Semi-independent flats and flat-shares, independent and sub-divided houses, and multiple occupancy dwellings are features of the modern housing market and contain and express the cultural experience of the many who are not in formal association with others, whether by marriage or by de facto partnership. This type of homemaking, autonomous and largely separate from the intervention of wider family and kin groups, has been seen by historians to represent merely a transitional or ‘undeveloped’ state.  In the long eighteenth century, it has been argued that the single household was statistically insignificant; that spinsters were too poor to found truly independent homes; and that bachelors invested little time in the home, merely reproducing what was expected of a polite domestic environment.

This paper seeks to address these assumptions.  It begins by analysing the statistical and demographic background to demonstrate that a significant minority of the population never married.  It then outlines the changing experience of being single during the period and describes the contexts for homemaking that single people faced.  We then use key case studies to emphasise the varying consumption practices of single homemakers and their engagement with the wider world of shopping for the home.  Our main concern is to reappraise the consumption strategies of the single homemaker in the period.  During the long eighteenth century most homemakers from the middling sort and above were influenced by accepted notions of how a home should be constructed and presented and how appropriate levels of consumption should be both achieved and displayed.  However, within these parameters there were still plenty of areas for choice.  Different interiors could be created that ranged from the luxurious, metropolitan and fashionable to those with more simple regional items; from the comfortable and the individual crammed with affective goods and artefacts, to the denuded and spartan; and from the well managed to the dirty and untidy.  By studying the homemaking of spinsters and bachelors we seek to examine these practices and thereby address a number of contested areas.  These centre on gendered attitudes to the home, domesticity and gendered taste and the acceptability of expressing individual taste that deviated from normative constructions of the (marital) household.

Koen Jonckheere, University of Amsterdam, Marketing the exceptional: Actors in Dutch Art Auctions around 1700


Compared to other goods, art is a special product. Good art is by nature exceptional and (most often) unique. Some works of art even have an ‘aura’. This notion makes art auctions extremely interesting for they do not follow the patterns of regular auctions. Elite art auctions are successful only when the exception prevails, for sellers and buyers alike. To be precise, one of the peculiar characteristics of art auctions is that even buyers can/could benefit from buying at exceptional rates. High hammer prices can/could give a work of art the ‘aura’ it needs to be considered exceptional. What’s more, the uniqueness of the ‘product’ could make it interesting to buy at any cost, for owning most of –if not all- the paintings by a certain painter could give the buyer a monopoly. Good auctioneers knew that, and tried to create or enforce the ‘aura’ of the exceptional.

In this paper I will examine how actors in Dutch art auctions around 1700 manipulated the market. How did auctioneers attract elite foreign buyers, how did they manage to increase hammer prices, how did they arrange their catalogues in order to obtain the highest possible turnover. How did they create the ‘aura’ that a work of art needs. How did buyers behave at auction? Did they buy themselves, did they make their own decisions (or did they use the advice of specialists/connoisseurs). Did they share information? Were they susceptible for the creation of ‘aura’? Such questions are quintessential for our understanding of elite art auctions in the Dutch Republic in around 1700.

Olga Kravets and Özlem Sandıkcı, Bilkent University, Ankara, Turkey ‘Marketing modernity in the Soviet Union: the case of TeZhe’

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This paper examines the marketing efforts and retailing practices of the Soviet enterprise TeZhe, the largest hygiene and beauty products manufacturer in the Soviet Union in the 1930s, and its role in the Soviet modernizing project. It is now widely acknowledged that the consumer goods businesses and retailing sites played an important role in promoting modernity and shaping consumers' modern identity values and behaviors throughout the Europe. What is remarkable (and less known) is the similar role of trade in the Soviet Union, with a difference being that it was the Soviet government that enlisted (or attempted to enlist) trade and consumption as an instrument in its modernization agenda. These attempts were particularly pronounced in the case of TeZhe enterprise; a producer of hygiene products, it was “naturally” a part of modernizing and civilizing force. Drawing on a rich archival material, we show that the TeZhe's marketing efforts were intimately aligned with the soviet state socio-cultural and economic initiatives in the 1930s. In particular, we consider the explicitly didactic sensibilities of the TeZhe's "model shops" retail format, its design [atmospherics] and the services rendered there. We argue that while the TeZhe marketing and retail practices were similar to those employed by the Western companies, they were shaped by the ideological dictates of a political-economical system and were called to serve a somewhat different function. Thus, TeZhe’s opulent retails sites were not to promote personal aspirations, rather to advocate a democratic view of beauty and to emphasize body care as a civic moral obligation. TeZhe was not concerned with profits but with extending and reinforcing the state control over the people in everyday, private life. Through its didactic promotional texts and the show-case [experience] retail sites, TeZhe served to effectively promote the Soviet system and its policies, to mobilize (female) body for the Soviet regime and provide a compelling vision of an ideal Soviet state.

Claire Leighton, Royal College of Art, London, ‘Designing a political space:  the impact of the International Exhibition on the consumption of the elite’


One of the key figures in nineteenth-century history is the political hostess: a woman who operated in many related arenas, from extended house parties held in country houses during the parliamentary recess, to house parties at weekends in a suburban house during the session of parliament, and smaller parties and large dinners held in London.  One such woman was Lady Waldegrave, who decorated and furnished Horace Walpole’s Strawberry Hill to create a social centre for the Liberal party in the 1860s.  The Great Sale of 1842 led to the dispersal of Horace Walpole’s collection, meaning that when Lady Waldegrave came to restore Strawberry Hill, she had lost many of the ‘relics’ of the past, and therefore was obliged to purchase new and antique objects to fill her rooms. Reactions to her interiors and furniture form part of a commentary on taste and class, both in relation to old and new money and the relative value of inherited and bought objects.

This paper focuses on Lady Waldegrave’s purchasing and exhibiting of fine and decorative at the growing number of exhibitions that took place in the mid nineteenth-century.  There is evidence that she attended many if not all of the international exhibitions between 1851 and 1871, and scrutiny of her involvement sheds light on how far international and national exhibitions operated as new locations for a shared cultural experience. Her role as consumer and patron is examined as a source of inspiration for her interiors, as is her engagement as an exhibitor.  Firms were keen for the aristocracy to endorse their products, and she in turn used exhibitions as a venue to show her own art and furniture and as a means of displaying her patronage and ‘good taste’.  Her involvement is considered at a time when there was increasing anxiety about not only the quality of art and design, but also the taste of the consumer and this paper asserts that a conflation between the taste of the aristocracy and perceived popular taste was a driver in the emergence of a new elite taste, that of the scholar.

Jo Lintonbon, University of Sheffield, UK ‘The nineteenth century high street in Sheffield: a spatial and architectural analysis’


Over the last two decades, a steady growth in scholarly interest in the history of retailing in western society has revealed much about the evolving experiences of shopping throughout the nineteenth century. Surprisingly, given that retailing practices have been significant in transforming our built environment, relatively few studies have had a primarily spatial focus. There are examples of both social-historical and geographical accounts of retail growth on the high street, but these rarely get inside the spaces of consumption or consider the processes that generate particular architectural solutions. Nor do they necessarily examine the extent of physical change in a given location over time.

An architectural history of the everyday, and especially one documenting the ephemeral and transient nature of retail spaces, is undoubtedly challenging. Yet for many British towns and cities, urban identity is still closely defined through our experience of shopping on central commercial thoroughfares. These, it can be argued, are very much a legacy of the production of nineteenth century space, built upon the urban spatial structures of preceding generations. This production of space is intimately linked to a history of the street – its function, meaning and embodiment of civic image - and to a history of retailing practices.

The line of enquiry is place specific. Using the example of Sheffield, the paper outlines the physical development of its main shopping thoroughfares over the course of the nineteenth century, documenting as evidence allows, the patterns of continuity and change that historically shaped the high street. The purpose is twofold. First, through a socio-spatial analysis conducted methodically using architectural drawings, local surveys, historic plans, business records, trade directories and other visual and spatial documentation, a local shop typology can emerge that relates spatial and retail practices to the production of different types of built form. Second, a northern provincial experience of retail pattern and growth is developed, charting the temporal emergence of different forms of retailing in response to a particular and evolving consumer society and furthering our detailed knowledge within a national context.

Ramón Agustín Banegas López, Université de Versailles Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines, France ‘The meat supply in two European cities in the Late Middle Ages: Barcelona and Rouen’


The numerous studies that from 70s have been making on Food History in the Middle Ages have proved the importance of the meat in all the urban diets; all the social groups of the city were consuming meat usually, although naturally they weren’t eating the same amount nor the same quality of meat. The demand of meat by the urban societies generated the creation of important structures of supply in all the cities, structures that were adapted to the necessities of the city and to their political, economic and cultural tradition. Certainly  in a Mediterranean landscape the productive possibilities of the countryside weren’t the same ones that in an Atlantic or continental landscape, in the same way the guild’s organization and the control of the market by the political authority weren’t  the same in all European cities. Another factor was the different culinary traditions, that was answering to diverse tastes and which generated a different demand in each European region. The interest to study the supply and consumption of meat in two European cities with many common characteristics but located in two distant regions will allow us to analyse simultaneously the characteristic elements  in the structure of supply and consumption of meat in each region and the common elements in the two zones. The compared study of the supply in the two cities will allow us to see that they had different necessities, whereas Rouen was eating mainly bovine meat, in Barcelona the meat most consumed was ovine meat. Also we could observe that whereas in the European northern cities the guilds had strong structures, in the south the butchers had a precarious professional organization, absolutely subjected to municipal power. In the same way the supply process was taking place in very different conditions in the two cities, while in Barcelona the butchers should adapt their commerce to transhumance of the sheep, a characteristic of the Mediterranean regions, in the north the cattle was growing in open field system and therefore was more accessible to the butchers. In spite of the differences between Rouen and Barcelona, we can find a lot of common elements about the supply and the consumption of meat:  like the problems of pollution in the process of slaughter and the sale of meat, the problems about the competition and the monopoly among the butchers, the difficult relations between the political power and the butchers, etc. Therefore the compared study of the meat supply in Barcelona and Rouen can contribute to increase the knowledge of feed supply in the European cities of the Late Middle Ages.

J. Carles Maixé-Altés, University of Leicester, UK and Universidad de A Coruña, Spain ‘Early stages of the self-service revolution in Europe: the Americanisation of food retailing in Spain, c.1947-1972’


This paper examines the Americanisation of food retailing in Spain, specifically through the move towards self-service retailing. Americanization of Spanish retailing is assessed against the backdrop of developments elsewhere in Europe

Argument –

Recent studies on the development of self-service outlets and supermarkets in the United Kingdom have looked at the Americanization of retail distribution. These studies have particularly addressed the transfer of the American management and organisational system to Europe (Shaw, Curth, Alexander, 2004; Shaw, Alexander, 2008). Various studies have also analysed the impact of Americanisation in the Spanish context (Guillén, 1994; Puig and Alvaro, 2004; Miranda. 2004; Puig, 2003). However, these studies, together with those in the rest of Europe, are persistently biased towards the manufacturing sector while services such as logistics and distribution have been largely ignored (Shaw et al., 2004 and Zeitlin, 2000).

This paper highlights the role of knowledge transfers and new business practices via the US Technical Assistance and Productivity Program. In the case of Spain this help became available somewhat later and had to overcome the barriers of a fundamentally interventionist economic policy. A first shift occurred in 1947 when the US point of view with respect to Franco’s regime started to change. However until 1951 government policy resisted the introduction of flexibility in domestic market.

Special emphasis is placed upon the initial phase of the modern era of distribution and the role of some of the pioneers in the field at the end of the 1950s. The role of certain wholesaler-affiliated distributors who were highly sensitive to changes that were taking place in European food distribution particularly in France and Germany, was significant.

Numerous corporate chains also came into being many of which were to develop into the large vertical groups that exist today.  However, in this early stage corporate chains only had a local impact. The one obvious exception was SIMAGO, a firm that was involved in French food distribution in the 1960s.

A new era in Spanish food distribution was introduce in the 1970s, when large multinational distributors came to the fore and the supermarkets developed into national and international  corporate chains. This change led to a convergence with European distribution systems. In fact, in 1973 a new period started when the first French hypermarket was inaugurated in Barcelona.

Evidence –

The contributions in this paper build upon multiple source material (e.g. surviving company documents, contemporary publications, oral histories, etc.). Various business sources which were previously unused are utilized. These include retail trade press, particularly Sparco, the seminal journal edited by SPAR Española Ltd. the Spanish partner of the international voluntary food chain, and other journals. This material has been largely neglected. These sources shed light on the early history of food distribution in Spain.

Contribution –

In the initial stage entrepreneurial leadership fell on the voluntary chains and some of the retail cooperatives. The key to these changes was the development of the small self-service outlet which had a fundamental role in the changing habits of the Spanish consumer. Hence, the voluntary chains played a substantial role in moulding the development of food retailers and the improvement of the efficiency of wholesalers. It is precisely at this early stage when the gap between Spain and the rest of European distribution is most accentuated. I argue that the early period from 1947-72 is crucial to a critical understanding of modern food distribution in Spain.

References –

GUILLÉN, M. (1994), Models of Management. Work, Authority, and Organization in a Comparative Perspective, Chicago Unversity Press, Chicago.

MIRANDA, J.A. (2004), “La Comisión Nacional de Productividad Industrial y la ‘americanización’ de la industria del calzado en España”, Revista de Historia Económica, 3 (XXII), pp. 637-667.

PUIG, N. (2003), “Educating Spanish Managers: the United Status, Modernizing Networks, and Business Schools in Spain, 1950-1975”, en R.P. Amdam, R. Kvalshaugen y E. Larsen (eds.), Inside the Business Schools: The Content of European Management Education, Abstrakt Press, Oslo, pp. 58-86.

Puig, N. y Álvaro, A. (2004), “La guerra fría y los empresarios españoles: la articulación de los intereses económicos de Estados Unidos en España, 1950-1975”, Revista de Historia Económica, 2 (XXII), pp. 387-424.

Shaw, G. and Alexander, A. (2008), “British Co-operative Societies as retail innovators: interpreting the early stages of the self-service revolution”, Business History 50 (1), pp. 62-78.

Shaw, G.; Curth, L. and Alexander, A. (2004), “Selling Self-service and the Supermarket: the Americanisation of Food Retailing in Britain 1945-1960”, Business History, 46 (4), pp. 568-580

Zeitlin, J. (2000), “Introduction: Americanisation and Its Limits: Reworking US Technology and Management in Post-War Europe and Japan”, in J. Zeitlin and G. Herrigel (eds.), Americanisation and its Limits: Reworking US Technology and Management in Post-war Europe and Japan, Oxford University Press, Oxford.

Ian Mitchell, University of Wolverhampton UK ‘Noble quadrangular building or glass umbrella: markets and market halls in nineteenth century England’


In the rapidly growing Cheshire town of Birkenhead two spectacular market halls were opened in the space of ten years in the mid nineteenth century.  The first, opened in 1835, had proved inadequate for the town’s needs and was replaced in the 1840s by a ‘noble quadrangular building’ with 80 stalls and 42 shops, costing almost £35,000.  Many other towns acquired imposing market halls in this period.  Even Stockport, where there had been constant complaints about the market place from at least the late eighteenth century onwards, managed to build a market hall in 1851, and then a new covered market in 1860 – given the nickname of ‘glass umbrella’ because of its construction.

Perhaps partly because retail historians have felt the need to demonstrate that pre-1850 retailing was far from primitive, more traditional forms of retailing like markets, and the way they evolved in rapidly growing towns in the nineteenth century, have been relatively little studied.  Schmiechen and Carls, The British Market Hall (1999) offers an excellent overview, but with a significant focus on architectural history, and its sweeping scope precludes a detailed study of particular towns and their markets.

This paper seeks to address some questions about how markets adapted and evolved in the first half of the nineteenth century, mainly in north-west England and the north midlands.  It emphasises the continued importance of the market, particularly for meeting the needs of ordinary working people – again an aspect of retailing that has received less attention than ‘polite shopping’.  It also refers to the contested nature of the market place, and the desire of civic authorities to improve and control it, often by providing new and enclosed facilities.  These could take the form of imposing market halls that were both symbols of civic pride, and a key shopping environment for the inhabitants of the town and its neighbourhood.  But how a town was governed could also have significant implications for the development of its markets.

Sean O'Connell, Queen's University, Belfast, UK 'Credit and the ‘Co’, 1920-1970'


This paper explores consumer credit provision in co-operative stores between 1920 and 1970. Whilst the critique of credit (and debt) offered by co-operative ideologues is well known, via the work of Paul Johnson, the schemes devised by co-operatives to advance credit to their members have remained largely obscure. Like many retailers in mid-twentieth century Britain, co-operative stores were forced to meet consumer demand for credit facilities. Amongst their most successful schemes were mutuality clubs, which borrowed operational details from the check clubs that were offered by the Provident Clothing and Supply Company from the 1880s. By 1961 the mutuality clubs provided around £40 million worth of credit annually. Less successful were the failed efforts made by the Co-operative Wholesale Society to gain a foothold in the buoyant mail order sector. The latter failure in particular reflected part of the movement’s attempts to come to grips with evolving affluent society in post-war Britain.

When the co-operative credit facilities did not meet their demands, working class consumers and co-operative members themselves made innovatory use of the credit facilities that were open to them at their local store. Many made their ‘Co books’ available to friends or family at times of need. Whilst this altruistic practice assisted a friend, there was also an instrumental aspect to the practice in that the friend’s purchases increased the co-operative members’ dividend pay out. Oral evidence, collected in Belfast, will reveal the extent to which this unofficial mutuality and entrepreneurship flew in the face of co-operative caution on the advancement of credit. Moreover, the importance of the ‘Co quarter’ in Belfast’s working class credit networks suggests the existence of an important unacknowledged and unofficial role of the co-operative movement in the history of working class credit.

Preston Perluss, Université Pierre Mendes France Grenoble, France ‘The microhistory of a bakery  in a late 18th and 19th century Paris neighborhood’

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The study seeks to examine the contents of a baker’s shop as well its building, and clients over the course of some 50 years from 1771 to 1810.

On Friday, December 26th, 1800, a Parisian baker, Guillaume Cesar Rousseau passed away, leaving to his wife, Cécile Parent, and his six children, his bakery situated on rue Thionville, better known today as the rue Dauphine.  Rousseau had dwelt in the house where he died since 1761.  The shop itself had functioned as a bakery since 1724.  We are able to trace the history of Rousseau’s business through the series of probate inventories left at his death, and at the deaths of his first wife, in 1771 and that of his second wife in 1810.   Aside from the shop and building constructed by the religious order of the Grands Augustins at the beginning of the 17th century, which Rousseau managed to purchase in 1790, Rousseau equally rented a granary and windmill on the Marne rive at Azy to the North of Paris.  The contents of this granary have also been inventoried and shall be discussed.  Finally, we shall discuss what we know concerning Rousseau’s clientele.

 My research presented here fits into a much broader project which encompasses the socio-economic and physical analysis of the entire neighborhood surrounding the rue Dauphine.

Dilwyn Porter and Jean Williams, De Montfort University, UK ‘Kit: selling sports clothing and equipment in late nineteenth and early twentieth century Britain’


This paper seeks to make links between sports history, media history and the history of retailing. Sports historians have identified an explosion of mass participation in organised sport starting from c.1870 and a perusal of advertising in the specialist sporting press indicates the extent to which this generated a market for mass produced sports clothing – especially, shirts, jerseys, shorts and hosiery – sports footwear, and other equipment. By the 1900s a specialist sub-sector of retailing had developed, serviced by its own trade press, to supply this expanding market. Though there has been an increasing recognition among sports historians of a long-standing, symbiotic relationship between sport and business, sports-goods retailing has received little in the way of systematic attention. [See Hardy (1986) and Porter (2009) for this gap in the historiography].

In tracing the development of sports goods retailing in Britain from c.1870-1950, we will focus on the various ways in which manufacturers and retailers sought a competitive edge via product differentiation, marketing strategy and price. In particular, the concern here will be to show how the particular demands of the sports marketplace shaped product design in relation to specialist clothing for football and rugby. Manufacturers had to persuade retailers that their particular product would constitute a popular ‘line’ and variations in design may have been an important factor. The attendant rivalry between companies for popular and celebrity endorsement meanwhile, can be said to have helped to define new markets for both existing and innovative sports goods.

Mike Pretious, Queen Margaret University, UK ‘ “Face reality as it is, not as it was or as you wish it to be”: a micro-level examination of retail change’


Retail change in Britain has been examined from a number of social science and business-orientated perspectives. Amongst these have been historical studies of the evolution of retail organisational structures, exemplified by the early work of Jefferys (1954); analyses of the impact of socio-economic variables, for example Bromley and Thomas (1993); the development of spatial models to describe the shift of retailers from the high street to out-of-town locations, e.g. Schiller (1986) and marketing-related discussions focusing on the concentration of retail power and the development of retailer own-brands (see McGoldrick, 1986, P3, for a synopsis of the issues.)

Overlaid on these accounts have been theories of retail change, including most famously the ‘Wheel of Retailing (Hollander 1960) and the ‘Retail Life Cycle’ (Davidson et. al. 1976), each of which seeks to explain patterns of change over time in the retail industry.

Surprisingly few of these writers on retail trends have supported their assertions concerning retail change with detailed primary research, though one recent exception, which examines retail format innovation, contains quotations from senior executives in large-scale retail organisations (Reynolds et. al. 2007).

The present study examines small-scale retail businesses in a local context, utilising research undertaken with a cohort of largely independent retail operators in the town of Musselburgh, East Lothian. It seeks to reflect the opinions and attitudes of these traders concerning retail change at a micro-level, and aims to link these to the key drivers of change identified in previous research. The paper will contrast those retailers who have faced the reality of the new retail environment and have made adjustments to their businesses, with those who have failed to understand the new realities of retailing and are too ‘set in their ways’ to develop positively.

‘Face reality as it is, not as it was or as you wish it to be’.

Jack Welch, former  Chairman and CEO of General Electric


Bromley, R.D.F. and Thomas, C.J. (1993) ‘Retail change and the issues’ in Retail Change: Contemporary Issues Bromley, R.D.F. and Thomas, C.J. (1993) UCL Press, London (2-14).

Davidson, W.R., Bates, A.D. and Bass, S.J. (1976) ‘The retail life cycle’, Harvard Business Review, 54 (6) (89-96).

Jefferys, J.B. (1954) ‘Retail Trading in Britain 1850-1950, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

Hollander, S.C. (1960) ‘The Wheel of Retailing’ Journal of Marketing, 24 (3) (37-42)

McGoldrick, P. Retail Marketing (2nd Edition), McGraw Hill Maidenhead.

Reynolds, J. Howard, E. Cuthbertson, C. and Hristov, L., (2007) ‘Perspectives on Retail Format Innovation’, International Journal of Retail and Distribution Management, 35. (8) (647-660).

Schiller, R.(1986) Retail decentralisation: the coming of the third wave’, The Planner, 72 (13-15).

Janet Redmond, The rise and decline of Dublin’s South City markets 1875-1894’


The South City Markets in South Great George's Street, Dublin was part of an urban renewal project that was commercially driven by a number of wealthy Dublin businessmen in the 1870s. Following extensive slum clearance and the widening of South Great George's Street, the South City Markets were opened in October 1881. Some of the press comments at the opening ceremony reflect the scale and importance of this undertaking. It was described as:

'The most commodious and magnificent public market of the United Kingdom unequalled in any part of England or Scotland and definitely superior to the London markets' (Freeman’s Journal, October 27, 1881, n.p.).  

In stark contrast to previous markets in the city, this new public market, catering for both working class and middle class consumers, was housed in an opulent setting and assumed a middle-class character. However, the predicted success of the South City Markets was not fulfilled and from the outset there was an undercurrent of discontent and conflict. Newspaper reports discussed and speculated about the reasons for their lack of success. The Irish Builder, in 1882, stated that:

'There is no concealing the fact any longer that failure seems to await this commendable project. The building is creditable as a piece of architecture, and the stalls are spacious and good' (Irish Builder, June 15, 1882). 

The Irish Builder was not alone in commenting on the lack of customers shopping in the South City Markets. Newspapers of the period, together with the Directors’ reports and Thom’s Commercial Directories, chronicle a decline in custom, reflected in the increasing number of vacant shops, and a reduction in stallholders from the one hundred and forty-four proposed in the original plan to the seventy-two that are recorded in 1882; by the year 1892, when the South City Markets were destroyed by fire, only twenty-two stallholders are recorded in the records of the Fire Relief Fund.

Using sources such as Dublin Corporation reports and contemporary newspapers, this paper considers the rise of the South City Markets, their establishment and construction. It explores their decline during the early 1880s, and the reasons why the most ‘magnificent and commodious of markets in the United Kingdom’ was deliberately boycotted by consumers. Using letters written by the stallholders which were retained by the Fire Relief Fund, combined with the Directors’ reports, this paper considers the discontent surrounding the South City Markets. In doing so, it reflects the social, economic and political factors which shaped so many consumers’ decision not to shop in the South City Markets which, as predicted in The Irish Builder, ultimately led to the failure of this seemingly very socially commendable project. Rather than purely focusing on the architecture and material structure of the market, this paper is concerned with the social and cultural climate of consumption in which the market was erected, its stallholders and consumers, which are what makes it such an important Dublin landmark.

Clare Rose, The Women’s Library, London Metropolitan University, UK ‘Modern bodies in the Stationer’s Hall Archive, 1870-1914’


The Stationers’ Hall Archive offers an unprecedented wealth of primary material for the study of marketing practices and methodologies from the 1860s to 1914. The large volume and detailed documentation of this source makes it possible to trace changes over time, and between competitors. Many of the documents were produced for commercial publishers or advertising agencies, and indicate consensus rather than the practice of a single retailer. The variety of items advertised (patent medicines, food, drink, tobacco, clothing, fabrics, furniture, office supplies...) illuminates themes common to all – such as the Boer War in 1899-1902.

This paper will examine the presentation of modern bodies in this archive. It will examine how the changing role of women was reflected in goods targeted at female office workers, and at women engaged in active sports like cycling. Images of modern women – including actresses in drag – were also used to glamorise unrelated goods like cigarettes and lengths of cloth. The hostility aroused by the `New Woman’ can be seen in sales documents that satirise women engaged in sports, office work – or agitating for the vote. Images of male bodies in this archive are more limited in scope, mostly associated with relevant goods such as men’s fashions. There are, however, some acknowledgements of the stresses of modernity in advertisements for surgical appliances and patent medicines needed to support workers’ bodies. Taken together, the documents in this archive demonstrate that images of modern bodies were a key tool for selling goods in the period leading up to 1914. The volume and visibility of these documents suggests that advertising material may have had a substantial impact in shaping discourses on the body at this time.

Fredrik Sandgren,  Uppsala University, Sweden ’A new quest for efficiency: the post war programme of the Swedish Federation of Wholesalers’


In the mid 1950s OEEC published a report on the state of wholesaling in Western Europe. Here Swedish wholesaling and its business organisation, the Federation of Swedish Wholesalers (Sveriges Grossistförbund/SGF), were considered to be in the forefront of the rationalisation of wholesaling. While technological and organisational rationalisation of Swedish wholesaling took off in the 1950s, there had been interesting developments in the discussions on rationalisation within the SGF from the mid 1940s.

The aim of this paper is to explore the discussion about rationalisation and efficiency within the SGF in the mid 1940s. This discussion, which could be labelled ‘the Post War Programme’ of the SGF, is put into a wider context by also discussing the general debate on rationalisation of the distribution sector, as well as the Post War Programme of the Swedish labour movement. A hypothesis is that the post war programme of the SGF was formulated to prove that wholesaling had both the will and means to rationalise on its own accord, escaping more direct government intervention. The main sources used in this study are five reports/brochures that were published by the SGF in the years 1944-1946. To a certain extent I have also used the journal Svenskt Affärsliv/Svensk Handel that was published by the SGF.

The SGF was formed in late 1922. Its members did not include co-operative wholesalers or retail owned buying groups. Rationalisation became an important topic within the SGF from the 1930s. Rationalisation was foremost seen as the responsibility of the manager of each company and ultimately driven by competition. The SGF saw its role as transferring experience from ‘other countries and professions’, as well as creating general guidelines that individual managers could follow. The most practical measure the SGF undertook before the 1940s in order to stimulate rationalisation was, however, to enter into a system of establishment controls organised in collaboration with retailers and producers.

The Post War Programme of the SGF was linked to a wider debate that took off in Sweden from 1944, the debate on a planned economy. The immediate start of this debate was the publication of the Post War Programme of the Labour Movement with 27 paragraphs organised under the three overriding goals of 1) full employment 2) fair distribution of wealth and an increased standard of living and 3) better efficiency and more democracy in business/industry. A key argument in this programme was more government intervention and increased planning. The mere threat of ‘socialisation’ in combination with political positioning and the dissolution of the broad coalition government in the summer of 1945 paved the way for a debate on a planned economy that lasted from 1944 until its zenith during the election campaign in 1948. The right wing parties together with private enterprise and the business associations launched a major campaign, the so-called ‘planned economy resistance’, against the Labour Movement and its new policies.

It is evident that the post war discussion within the SGF on rationalisation came as a reaction to the Post War Programme of the Labour Movement. While the latter programme seldom was mentioned explicitly in the discussions, the documents of the SGF argued for ‘free enterprise’ and ‘competition’ and said that ‘Humans are not constituted for a centralised socialised society’. Thus, the threat of increased government intervention was taken seriously. Important in the discussion was the need to be proactive. Wholesaling had to set a good example and constantly strive for better efficiency and increased rationalisation. In that sense, the overriding idea of Social Democratic politics concerning the structure and function of business was accepted by the SGF.

By 1946 the SGF had formulated a quite progressive programme called ‘What should I do?’, directed towards managers of wholesale businesses. An important new aspect in this programme was an emphasis on ‘industrial democracy’. Included in this concept were policies regarding aspects such as vacations and pensions, but also means to involve the employees more in rationalisation and to improve information and education within the company. A progressive programme such as this should not be interpreted as cosmetic. There was a true interest in the rationalisation and modernisation of business on the part of the SGF, although the swift development of this programme probably was forced by the actions of the Labour Movement.

Claire Seaman, Queen Margaret University, UK ‘Through the looking-glass of current theory: a case study of a high street petrified by early entrepreneurial Success’

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The historical links between migration patterns, business start-up and the development of discrete business communities are relatively well established and have been studied in some depth in the context of most developed countries. In historical terms, business start-ups in migrant communities have tended to be small, relatively isolated in social and geographical terms and heavily dependent on existing knowledge, behaviours and expertise within communities. Where new communities established a successful pattern of business start-up on arrival, therefore, the likelihood of that community becoming historically dependent on that sector tends to increase.

Two factors, however, remain relatively unexplored in retail history: the manner in which different models of entrepreneurship and enterprising behaviour influence retail development and the manner in which networks may on occasion petrify to form coalitions against innovation.

 This historical development of business expertise and the dangers of network petrification are explored here in the context of a case study of one, relatively discreet geographic area where migrant populations, originally Asian in origin, were vital to retail development in the late 1960s and 1970s. Alongside the development of minority ethnic retail outlets, however, came a distinctive pattern of property ownership, held within the minority ethnic community, that exists to the present day. The 1970s also saw the beginning of major social changes in the surrounding area. Initial slum clearance during the 1970’s and early 1980’s created both a changing population demographic and allowed the development locally of a major drugs issue and accompanying social challenges. The reaction of an already relatively isolated migrant community, who wanted to maintain their own culture and behavioural norms, to a crisis in their new community may in itself have triggered some degree of understandable network petrification.

As the social issues eased and were addressed, however, history delivers another twist. The development of the surrounding area and changes in the wider economy lead to property values increasing on an almost unprecedented scale: the area went up-market, but the retail outlets remained largely owned by a very small network of individuals whose influence on the strategic development will be illustrated using photographs from shops in the 1970s whose formats remain little changed in comparable photographs taken in 2009. Drawing on narrative, photographic evidence and interview data, the role of the networks in the on-going development of retail history within the case study will allow the development of links to current theories of networks, petrification, enterprise and entrepreneurial behaviour.

Hiroki Shin & Alex Medcalf, University of York, UK ‘Fashioning the passengers: holiday marketing by Britain’s railway companies, 1923-1939’

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The growth in tourism has long been a favourite topic of social historians. A fair amount of research exists on the history of spas, seaside resorts and other tourist destinations, with the mention of their power to attract, at first, the upper and middle classes, and then a larger population from the nineteenth century forward. What seems to be lacking in our knowledge of mass tourism's development, however, is the link between everyday life and tourist destinations, in both a conceptual and practical sense. We tend to assume that becoming a tourist is a simple process of going somewhere; but in modern consumer society, this is usually not the case. It is a complex process involving a series of choices. Among all the available options, we need to choose to travel, to go to a particular place, and to use a particular means of travel. In a sense, most of the time, becoming a tourist means becoming a consumer of mobility – a passenger.

          In practical terms, why do certain people decide to "take the plunge" and purchase tickets? It is certainly impossible to reconstruct the historical process of becoming a passenger in its entirety; but we at least can see some significant elements of that process. One such element is the material(s) on which people based their decision to become passengers such as posters, guidebooks, and press advertising. Historians have taken these sources mostly as a method to promote certain places featured in the media (place marketing); but from the railway companies' viewpoint – arguably the largest promoter of tourism in the early twentieth century – the first aim was to create passengers, and not necessarily to dictate where they should go.

Since the 1920s, Britain’s railway companies have been keenly aware of the need to create as many customers as possible, because the railways were facing serious competition from road traffic, which seemed to greatly undermine railways’ direct link to tourism as a provider of public transport. The railway companies’ efforts to access the widest possible customer base led them to turn to the method of presenting tourism as being in the aspirational, yet affordable, realm of consumption. Publicity materials such as tourist guides and advertising affirm that railway travel was presented as part of the aspirational lifestyle which was associated with certain clothes, tableware, and other consumer goods, but was not entirely out of reach for most people. In other words, one of the crucial aspects of promoting tourism was creating passengers by appealing to a certain image, or myth, of a consumer lifestyle. We can see the most visible form of the tenuous relationship between realistic and idealistic construction of tourism in publicity photography, because this was the medium that claimed to be true to reality, but in fact carefully manipulated. The "real" people in commercial photography suggested tourism's affordability, but the way they were presented subtly aroused aspirational consumer desire.

          The chief sources for our discussion are taken mainly from the Great Western Railway’s large commercial photography collection, which appeared mostly in the company’s guidebooks. They are related to the company’s other promotional activities such as the local information offices, and actual ticket sales methods. In the last part of our paper, this case study is located within the wide development of marketing and distribution techniques in the early twentieth century, by which we will try to show the significant role the railways played in the mass consumer market during that period.

Kazuo Usui, Saitama University, Japan & University of Edinburgh, UK ‘Conflict and cooperation among Keiretsu retailers, independent retailers and manufacturers in the industry of household electric appliances in Japan’


Keiretsu retailers are organised by manufacturers to form national retail networks which could maintain exclusive dealing stipulations and resale price agreements, although the specific degree and forms of these vary. This system spread from the 1910s in the general context of emergent mass producers who could not find modern retailers to develop nation-wide chains on their own account. Without anti-monopoly laws and with the traditional Japanese virtue of cooperation and harmony (as expressed as “mutual coexistence and prosperity”) provided a supportive environment. In the case of the household electric appliances industry, the origin of keiretsu retailing can be traced back to the 1930s when Tokyo Electric (now Toshiba) attempted to increase market share of their electric lightbulbs, Mazda Lamps. Matsushita Electric (now Panasonic) also organised keiretsu retailers to sell radio receivers and batteries.

After the end of the Second World War, Matsushita Electric quickly restored their keiretsu network and enhanced it through its own wholesale companies and three layered keiretsu retailers segmented by the degree of exclusivity. In the 1950s, as demand for household electric appliances was expanding, some powerful manufacturers of heavy electric appliances, such as Toshiba, Hitachi and Mitsubishi, entered the industry and also established keiretsu retail networks respectively. These keiretsu shops were generally small- and medium-sized, and located anywhere on the busy streets and in residential areas, and from metropolises to small towns/villages. The rapid spread of electric goods such as electric rice cookers, washing machines, refrigerators and black and white TVs during the late 1950s and 1960s was led through these keiretsu retail stores.

However, from around the mid-1960s there emerged some innovative merchants who were originally wholesalers-cum-retailers and many of whom had previously quit keiretsu wholesale jobs for manufacturers. They turned their eyes to retail business and began to develop large-sized retail chains mainly on a regional basis. They were inspired by the development of new superstores at the time and acquired knowledge of modern retailing through previous experience as keiretsu merchants, observation of the US retail businesses and research meetings of newly established trade associations. Their stores tended to be located on busy shopping streets near the stations and in suburbs, and resorted to discount selling by dealing with many competing brands. Their sales ability made the manufacturers accept them as official channels. The keiretsu retailers were naturally upset about this. The tripartite relationship developed a mix of conflicts and cooperation. In due course, these independent retailers tended to rely upon non-price competition; therefore, a commentator referred to their relationships becoming “mature”.

This was not the end. From the 1990s onward, the new generation of retailers, such as Yamada Electric, expanded through aggressive discount sales and rapidly develop nationwide chain stores. The former independent retailers, who were moderate discounters, confronted difficulties and many of them were amalgamated by these newcomers and other companies. Commentators generally believed keiretsu retailing would die out. Nevertheless, the core group of keiretsu retailers of Matsushita Electric has survived and provided personalised services mainly with aged consumers.

Richard Vahrenkamp, University of Kassel, Germany 'Automobile retail and distribution in Germany 1920 – 1930'


When the mass production of automobiles started the mass distribution became an issue. There were two channels of distribution: independent dealers and shops as branches of the producers. While the foreign producers relied on independent dealers the German producers preferred branch shops. Some auxiliary trades were necessary to support the service for the automobilists: repair shops, tire shops and petrol stations also equipped with spare parts. So the idea of service came into the retail trade – an important issue for the mass consumption society. Different from the retail trade in general, the retail trade of automobiles had to cope with the special problem of used cars. To sell a new car, often the trader had to buy a used car (“buy in”). In the retail trade only small companies operated. So there are no archives left. Even for the German producer Opel, in 1927 bought by General Motors, there is no archive available. Only Daimer-Benz has an archive. Many publications are made by this archive and some contain data about the retail trade of that company.  Instead of archives the paper evaluates the trade journals of the umbrella organizations of the automobile trader and of the tire repair shops. The influence of the umbrella organizations on state regulations concerning the building of garages, the apprenticeship and working hours on Sundays are shown.

Ilja Van Damme, University of Antwerp, Belgium, Auctions on the crossroads of transition: the profession of the public crier in Belgium (late eighteenth-early nineteenth century)


This paper seeks to explore the changing times and fortunes of the public crier (roeper), a pivotal figure in almost all early-modern auctions. The crier was normally responsible for most auctioning procedures: mediator between sellers and buyers, appraiser of the auctioned goods, and closely connected to a city’s administration. Although the importance of auctions for early-modern retail and consumption practices is hard to deny, the persons in charge of these events have largely gone unnoticed. Worse even, public criers are sometimes lumped together with notaries, civil officials or lawyers, professions which indeed shared similar characteristics and even activities (much to the distress of the public crier).

Precisely a detailed study of the profession of public crier will put his role in past societies into sharper focus. The approach used in this paper is an institutional one. By looking at the legal framework in which auctions took place and public criers functioned, I try to pinpoint: how the crier operated; how he fitted in the larger economy; and how his profession changed over time. A comparison between the cities of Antwerp and Bruges – textile centers at the end of the eighteenth century, and both sharing an illustrious commercial past – will make clear how the path-depended origins and subsequent institutionalization of the profession could differ significantly from region to region. Yet, despite these formal differences – common in ancien régime economies – public criers also shared mutual concerns and activities. Their fate was closely bound to the evolutions of auctions in general, which in itself were primarily a function of a changing retail and consumption environment.

Indeed, by concentrating on the end of the eighteenth and beginning of the nineteenth century, I am able to measure the effects of two important landslides, altering the role of public criers in society. Firstly, the Austrian Netherlands evolved into a centralized nation state Belgium, after its initial annexation with France in 1795 and with the Netherlands after 1815. Especially the influential overturn under French law, abolishing all guilds and establishing freedom of trade, had a lasting impact on the organization and further evolution of the profession. Secondly, and starting much earlier, the dawn of the much discussed consumer and industrial ‘revolutions’ led to an altering distribution scene. As important, multi-faceted commercial outlets, auctions too were bound to change, thus also influencing the operations of the public crier.

Danielle van den Heuvel, Girton College, University of Cambridge, UK ‘Who owns the streets? Conflict and tolerance amongst street sellers and shopkeepers in early modern Dutch towns’


The distribution of consumer goods in early modern towns was by no means a simple affair. Recent research has shown that a complex system of multi-layered distribution networks existed. Commodities were sold at fairs and at daily or weekly markets, in shops, stalls and in small outlets attached to houses or workshops, and on the streets by sellers who went from door-to-door or simply hawked their wares on the main streets and squares. Although each of these commercial circuits could serve a different clientele, it has appeared that very often the various types of vendors competed for the same customers. Tensions amongst the different groups of retailers were therefore not uncommon and could rise very high.

This paper deals with the tensions between the local retail establishment – shopkeepers and stallholders with a permanent outlet – and the outsiders, the street sellers. Although in most works on early modern retail practices the strife between the shopkeepers and street sellers is mentioned, we still know remarkably little on the subject. This paper will try to come to a better understanding of the dynamics between the various groups in the marketplace by looking at conflicts amongst retailers in a number of Dutch towns in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. It will analyse the way in which shopkeepers and street sellers shared the market, which conflicts arose between them, why they arose and how they were solved.

The paper will specifically look at the influence of local institutions such as guilds and urban authorities in conflict origination and mediation. In early modern Dutch towns retailers who traded on a daily basis were obliged to become a member of the appropriate guild. These guilds therefore had an important role in shaping the retail landscape by setting rules for their members and for the people who operated outside the guild framework. However, to enforce their regulation they needed the support of the local authorities. Moreover, also via bye-laws the urban governments influenced the leeway for people selling in the street. From studying the guild and government regulation one gets the impression that there was hardly any leeway for ambulant traders. Nevertheless, the numerous complaints by local shopkeepers and stallholders on the illegal competition from peddlers and hawkers seem to imply that also outside the formal retail sector, in the shadow economy, there was plenty of room for retail activities. The question is how these two worlds interrelated. How much scope was there for ambulant traders? When did street sellers and shopkeepers come into conflict? What types of conflicts arose? How did guilds and governments cooperate in solving these conflicts?

I hope to be able to answer the above questions by analysing a variety of guild and government records, such as lists of guild-imposed fines and of permits for peddling, petitions and bye-laws. By selecting four different towns in the Dutch Republic – Arnhem, Vlissingen, Den Bosch and The Hague – the impact of the size of the town, the economic trend and the shifts in consumer behaviour can furthermore be taken into account.

Claire Walsh, Open University, UK, 'The social relations of shopping in early-modern England'


This paper draws on a range of primary material including diaries, letters, guides to servants and shopping lists from the late-seventeenth and eighteenth centuries to form a picture of the daily practice of shopping, and the skills, judgement and knowledge involved.

The paper reveals that shopping in early-modern England was both a routine and everyday activity, even for those with servants. Shops were neither perceived or used as places that were exclusively for making purchases. Shoppers would go to a shop to socialise with retailers or friends; deal with business; window shop; browse; break up work; or settle accounts. Choosing to enter a shop or contemplating goods was grounded within a person’s everyday concerns, actions and social structure, rather than representing the isolated and transformatory experience envisaged by historians of the department store.

The paper explores the social relations of shopping in the early-modern period. Shopping was an activity which was usually performed with and for others, whether friends, family, household members or acquaintances. Contrary to the image created of the lone female shopper of the modern period, social interaction is revealed as the fundamental basis of early-modern shopping. Good skills in shopping enriched people’s connections with others and gave them access to different perceptions and uses of goods. Shopping knowledge was diffused between members of social groups, not through formalised discourse, but as a matter of common sense exchange, conversations and everyday life. Individual shopping expeditions therefore reverberated among the wider community. This social relations aspect of shopping is crucial for understanding that a decision to purchase was most often a collective decision arrived at in the home, in the shop, or with friends and relations elsewhere. This fact emphasises the continuous flow of information which occurred between people about goods, shared taste and values about material culture. It stresses that consumers’ decision-making was firmly embedded within their own social relations. Proxy shopping (buying for absent friends and family) is revealed as a significant element in forming and maintaining interpersonal relationships, and the inability to shop well for others could damage social relations. Finally, the paper shows how good shopping skills were expected to be learnt as a part of growing up, and youngsters were imbued with an understanding of the qualities of responsibility and thrift in spending. Understanding the fundamental significance of shopping as a tool of social interaction helps us displace some of the condemnatory estimations of consumption: shopping is not merely a selfish act, but an important part of social relations. Shopping well in the period was a part of successful self-management.

Anne Wegener Sleeswijk, Université Paris-1 Panthéon-Sorbonne, France, 'Brokers’ power: insiders and outsiders at Dutch wine auctions in the 18th century'


In the United Provinces, commodity or exchange auctions formed a vital link between wholesale and retail trade for a wide variety of goods (e.g. timber, tea, coffee, sugar, brandy and wine). Merchant correspondence and auction records reveal that retailers, shop- and innkeepers and manufacturers such as refiners, shipbuilders and distillers regularly purchased goods at auctions. In principle, bidding at commodity auctions was open to any adult male as well as to females provided a man would stand surety for their payment. However, for certain goods such as wine, few retailers and manufacturers would personally engage in the bidding process. In the 18th century, a vast majority of purchasers at the Amsterdam and Rotterdam wine auctions let specialized brokers do the bidding. As opposed to sellers, no statute obliged buyers at the auction to seek this cost-increasing mediation. Even more strikingly, in many years a relatively small number of brokers would be charged with almost all buying orders.

The dominant role of these wine brokers at the auction raises a number of interesting questions. First of all, why would buyers hire a broker? Did they lack specific knowledge of commodities? Or were they put off by the public nature of the auction, as bidding in person would instantly reveal their preferences, valuations and purchase prices? In present-day exchange auctions with a limited number of participants, insiders often successfully collude to exclude outsiders who may disrupt established hierarchies in the auction community. Can we observe a similar phenomenon in the 18th century?

 In this paper I combine a prosopographic analysis with a problem oriented approach. The prosopography of the purchasers and brokers at the Amsterdam wine auctions in the 1740’s allows me to understand the value-setting role of the brokers.

The study of three conflicts between the Rotterdam and Amsterdam wine brokers and other professional groups sheds a light on the social- and power relations among the participants at the auction. These controversies also reveal the interaction of the brokers’ agency and structural changes in the Dutch wine market

Janice Winship, University of Sussex, UK 'Speaking of change, holding to principles: precarious order at Marks & Spencer in the mid-1990s'


Just occasionally we find ourselves watching on the sidelines as an order comes crashing down. Organizations or systems which we had always taken for granted – the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, or Continental Illinois – are swallowed up. Commissars, moguls and captains of industry disappear from view. These dangerous moments offer more than political promise. For when hidden trapdoors of the social spring open we suddenly learn that the masters of the universe may also have had feet of clay.

How is it that it ever seemed otherwise? How is it that, at least for a time, they made themselves different from us? By what organizational means did they keep themselves in place and overcome the resistances that would have brought them tumbling down much sooner? How was it we colluded in this? (Law 2003, first published 1992: 1).

For a period from 1998 as crisis developed it seemed as if Marks & Spencer – stalwart of the high street and British institution – would be just another of those taken for granted orders to come crashing down. In the event the retailer survived an extended crisis; its ‘captains’ did not. Yet researching the company between 1994 and 1997 my co-researcher (Jenny Shaw) and I failed to see the ‘feet of clay’, albeit we were puzzled: how did an organisation that was increasingly out of line with many strands of current business thinking and practice, manage to hold the ‘supertanker’ – a phrase we heard often in the company – on course? By 2009, however, with the benefit of hindsight, management’s limited control and the company’s vulnerability shine out from our research data.

In this paper I draw on interviews conducted in 1995-6 with M&S personnel at head office and stores. I hope to begin to open up what the organisational theorist Karl Weick refers to as ‘enactment’ and ‘sensemaking’ and draw on ideas from a ‘sociology of associations’ (actor-network-theory or ANT). In this way I consider the organisation at this critical moment as a precarious ‘achievement’ – ‘the uncertain consequences of the ordering of heterogeneous materials’ (Law 2003: 8), ‘made only of movements, which are woven by the constant circulation of documents, stories, accounts, goods and passions’ (Latour 2005:179). In particular I focus on two ‘enactments’: ‘The service project: measuring and motivating’ – ‘If you’re going to move service forward…the first thing you’ve got to do is measure it’ (Ken Birkby, Manager Customer Services); and ‘Footfall, marketing, brand: the difficulties of translation’ – ‘It takes a long time to get through to the minds of most senior people’ (Matthew Chambers, Manager Advertising). These ‘enactments’ exercised M&S managers, sometimes passionately: ‘we have said for years that the customer comes first. Personally I think that’s rubbish. I think each individual member of staff comes first’ (John Gardiner, Manager/Internal Consultant). They also challenged us as researchers: what, for example, was the significance of the company no longer having a marketing department yet seemingly being awash with marketing data? At the same time these two ‘enactments’ also highlight tensions in the company’s efforts in the mid-1990s to respond to a changing retail environment, whilst still ‘holding to principles’. 


Selling the Modern Body, 1870-1950.

Panellists: Katrina Honeyman, University of Leeds; Dilwyn Porter and Jean Williams, De Montfort University; Clare Rose, London Metropolitan University

In recent years historians like Benson, Ugolini, Bowlby and Breward have identified new sites and types of consumption as key constituents of `modernity’ in Britain. From 1870 department stores, retail chains and mail-order companies brought fashionable clothing and other goods within reach of wider sectors of the British population. At the same time, advances in production and distribution meant that necessities like clothing were falling in price, allowing consumers to  increase the volume or the quality of their purchases.  Changes in patterns of work and leisure, notably the increase in white-collar employment for both men and women and the commercialisation of sports, produced new types of goods such as business suits for women, and football club souvenirs. Astute retailers were quick to identify themselves with changes in lifestyle, associating goods with prestigious sports or employments. Some, like Burton the multiple tailor, presented their shops as modern leisure destinations, modelled on cinemas and billiard halls. In turn, sporting retailers and practitioners advertised their products in ways that emphasized their links to urban and democratic modernity.         While modernity offered manufacturers and retailers opportunities for distinguishing their goods from competitors’ and for creating brands, it also created anxieties. Concerns over supposed racial degeneration, and over changing gender roles, can be traced in the archives of manufacturers, retailers, and advertisers. The sources discussed in this panel cover clothing, sporting goods, patent medicines and other items and allow for a multi-faceted examination of the ways that different forms of marketing articulated and modified shared concerns. The broad date range allows us to trace issues and practices identified with the 1920s back to the late nineteenth century.

Selling and Buying at Auction (17th - 19th Century).

Panellists: Koen Jonckheere, University of Amsterdam; Ilja Van Damme, University of Antwerp; Anne Wegener Sleeswijk, Université Paris-1 Panthéon-Sorbonne

In early modern times, the auction played a crucial role in the distribution and circulation of new and second-hand goods in many European countries. A great number of institutions such as orphan chambers, admiralties, overseas trading companies, pawnshops, second-hand guilds and municipal offices regularly organized public sales. Notaries and merchants could also hold sales, and in many countries heirs would auction off the deceased’s belongings. Little is known about buyers and sellers at these early auctions, about their strategies and motives. Was the auction a place where prices were low, as Savary suggested in his famous merchant handbook? Would sellers use the auction to get rid of unsaleable merchandise or, on the contrary, try to force up prices? And what was the identity of people attending auctions? This session will focus on handled products, the actors involved, and explore how public auctions were affected (or not) by broader economic, social and cultural changes from the 17th through the 19th century.

Changing the 'Local' High Street. Moving from 1950 to a Sustainable 2050

Panellists:  Claire Seaman, Queen Margaret University, UK; Mike Pretious, Queen Margaret University, UK; Richard Bent, Queen Margaret University, UK

The logic behind this 3 paper session has developed out of the historical role and place that retailing has in the Height Street and the impact of that History on today's 'problem' high streets. Our underpinning theoretical line is that much of today's ills in the high street is often caused by a 'rose tinted spectacle' look at the 'hey day' of the High street in say the 1950's when in fact for the high street to have a role in the community of tomorrow, retailers, councils, planners and communities need to look at tomorrows history today.

Paper one (C Seaman) will take the session back to the role of migrants and the traditional high street and the way in which networks develop and can petrify to form coalitions against innovation, which can effectively block progress in retail development. This paper will use a case study to highlight and draw out issues.

Paper two (M Pretious) takes takes the opinions, views and attitudes of a cohort of retail operators in the Town of Musselburgh and identifies what they see as being the key issues and scenarios and tie this into existing research on retail change. This paper is partially designed to illustrate those that have to an extent 'petrified' or a historical in their vision thus preventing development, whilst also identifying the forward visions of some.

Paper three (R Bent) identifies a practical working model that encapsulates some of the reasons why barriers have developed and why attitudes can be  buried in the past, whilst looking at 'ongoing' work with the local council and the newly formed traders association to create a High street for 2050 rather than a vision of 1950. The paper finishes by looking at the need to develop experiential and creative policy whether from Government, support bodies or other sources.





The conference fee is £95. A reduced rate of £45 is available for students. Please provide proof of status (a photocopy is acceptable). A one-day fee of £55 is also available.

The cost of the conference dinner is £26.

Please make cheques payable to 'the University of Wolverhampton' and send to the address below. Payments can also be made by credit card or via bank transfer (including Swift for international bank transfers). If you would like to use either of these payment methods, please contact Laura Ugolini at the address below.


A limited number of bursaries may be available for delegates unable to obtain institutional funding, with priority given to postgraduate students and other new researchers. If available (depending on the outcome of applications to a number of scholarly organisations) bursaries will contribute to the cost of the fee, dinner, accommodation and travel. Please note, however, that bursaries are on a refund-only basis after the conference: delegates are still required to pay the fee and other conference costs in the first instance.


To register, please fill in the registration form, available here.


The conference venue is the University of Wolverhampton Science Park’s 'Technology Centre' building (marked PA on the map). On arrival, please make your way to the Reception. Registration will take place in the Technology Centre’s main foyer between 9.00 and 10.15 on Wednesday 9 September. Refreshments will be available in the dining area. The conference will begin at 10.15 with a plenary session, which will take place in the Exhibition Area. All the conference sessions will be located in the Technology Centre building. All the rooms are clearly sign-posted.

 The Wolverhampton Science Park is situated on Glaisher Drive, just off the Stafford Road (A449). It is a 30-minute walk from Wolverhampton city centre. If you are travelling by road, see the 'Regional' map. If travelling by public transport, see the 'Wolverhampton' map.

 Car park spaces are available on site, and buses 503 (stand H), 504, 506 (both stand U), 532 and 533 (both stand S) run frequently from the bus station and along the Stafford Road to a stop just across the road from the Science Park. A single ticket costs £ 1.70. A day saver (which allows unlimited travel on the day) costs £3.30. Please note that drivers do not give change! The bus station is located a couple of minutes' walk from the railway station. Simply follow the road out of the station, across the bridge, and you will see it on your left.  A taxi rank can also be found outside the railway station.

 Taxis will be booked at the end of each day to ferry delegates to their accommodation or other destinations in the city centre.

 The Science Park's web-pages can be found at:

 If you need to contact the organiser during the conference, please leave a message with the Science Park’s reception. The number is: 01902 824000.

 Further information for visitors to the University of Wolverhampton, including maps and travel links, can be found on-line, at

 This web-site may be useful to help you plan your journey:


Speakers please note that LCD projectors and computers will be available for powerpoint presentations. However, if your presentation has special features (e.g. animation, etc.), or if you want to make 100% sure that all the software is compatible, you are advised to bring your own laptop.


For the location of the Novotel Hotel, see the 'Novotel' map. The Novotel is located on Union street, less than five minutes' walk from the railway and bus stations.

The hotel's telephone number is 01902 871100. For more information, see:

 To reach the hotel by foot, follow the road out of the railway station. You will see a multi-storey car-park on your left. Take the footpath on your left just after you have passed the car-park. Follow the footpath, keeping the ring road to your right, until you see the hotel ahead, behind St David's Court. Although the hotel is very close to the station, we would recommend taking a taxi if you are arriving in Wolverhampton late in the evening, rather than taking the footpath. When you check in you simply need to give your name and mention that you are part of the CHORD conference group.

 The halls of residence accommodation is located in the 'Bantock’ and the ‘Codsall’ Halls of Residence, Compton Park campus. For the halls’ location see the 'Compton campus' map. If you are travelling by road, see the 'Regional' map. If travelling by public transport, see the 'Wolverhampton' map.

The campus is located a 30-minute walk away from the rail and bus stations, just off the A454 Compton Road West - one of the major routes from the city centre. The journey takes about 10 minutes depending on the traffic. Car parking is available. The 510 Bus runs approximately every 10 minutes from the bus station (stand J). As mentioned above, A single ticket costs £ 1.70. A day saver (which allows unlimited travel on the day) costs £3.30 Please note that drivers do not give change.

When you arrive, please make your way to the Main Reception. You simply need to give your name, and will receive your key. Out of office hours, the reception is staffed by security staff, who will also be able to provide you with your key.

The telephone number for campus reception is 01902 323604. Security is 07971 090875 or 07971 090876

Please note that hall of residence accommodation is on a bed-only basis. Teas/coffees and pastries will be available on Thursday morning at the Science Park between 9.00 and 9.30, but for those who would like a more substantial breakfast, Jay's cafe on the Stafford Road (opposite the University’s Millennium City Building) is highly recommended.


The conference dinner will be held on 9 September at the Novotel Hotel. This will be preceded by a reception, which will take place in the Novotel’s bar area (located very visibly, just beyond the Hotel’s entrance lobby) at 19.00. During the reception the CHORD New Research Prize 2009 winner will be announced. Even if you are not attending the dinner, you are very welcome to attend the reception. For directions to the Novotel, see above, under ‘Accommodation’.


If you have any queries, or require any further information, please do not hesitate to contact:

Dr Laura Ugolini,

Tel. 01902 321890


We look forward to seeing you in Wolverhampton, and hope you enjoy the conference.




For more information, please contact:

 Laura Ugolini, School of Law, Social Sciences and Communications, University of Wolverhampton,

 Room MC334, MC Building,  Wolverhampton, WV1 1LY, UK.



Page author: Laura Ugolini
Last updated: August 2009