CHORD Conference

Retailing and Distribution History

5 and 6 September 2012

University of Wolverhampton, UK

 

Programme

Abstracts

Information and fees

Registration form

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Grocery Shop Window (Wolverhampton Photographic Society), Wolverhampton, c. 1950, from the collections of  Wolverhampton Archives & Local Studies

For further information, please contact:

Dr Laura Ugolini, LSSC, University of Wolverhampton, Wolverhampton, WV1 1LY, UK

E-mail: l.ugolini@wlv.ac.uk

 

PROGRAMME

 

5 September 2012

10.30 – 11.30 Registration and coffee

 

11.30 – 13.00 Session 1

On the Streets: London’s retail markets 1800 - 2012

Chair: Margaret Ponsonby, University of Wolverhampton, UK

Session convenor: Victoria Kelley, University of the Arts and University of the Creative Arts, UK

Session abstract

Peter Jones, Queen Mary University of London, UK, ‘A History in Rags: Reckoning with London’s ‘Cast-offs’ in the Old Clothes Market, 1800 – 1870’

Abstract

Victoria Kelley, University of the Arts and University of the Creative Arts, UK, ‘Shopping on the Kerbstone: London’s Street Markets, c.1880-1939’

Abstract

May Rosenthal Sloan, University of Glasgow, UK, ‘Ridley Road: An Edible World in Miniature'

Abstract

11.30 – 13.00 Session 2

Selling representations and reflections

Chair: John Benson, University of Wolverhampton, UK

Lucy A. Bailey, University of Northampton, UK, ‘”The place is a news agency”: Gossip and the Village Shop as portrayed in popular Victorian literature’

Abstract

Ros Watkiss, University of Wolverhampton, UK, ‘Doing Your Bit for the Country: Women and Saving, Government Initiatives c. 1939-1970

Abstract

Jackie Dickenson, University of Melbourne, Australia, ‘Advertising Lives: Memoir and Career’

Abstract

 

13.00 – 14.00 Lunch

14.00 – 15.30 Session 3

Techniques of selling

Chair: Richard Hawkins, University of Wolverhampton, UK

Paul Cleave, University of Exeter, UK, 'Sugar Tourism'

Abstract

Susan Bishop, University of Brighton, UK, ‘The Barkers Fashion Display Hall – Issues of Retailing and Marketing Fashion as Luxury in a London Department Store 1928-1930’

Abstract

Andrew Alexander, University of Surrey, UK, 'Marketing decision-making in UK supermarkets, 1965-1990'

Abstract

14.00 – 15.30 Session 4

‘Marginal’ and informal markets

Chair: Jon Stobart, University of Northampton, UK

Bart Lambert, University of York, UK, ‘Falling out of the Cradle of Capitalism: Informal Markets in 15th-Century Bruges’

Abstract

José A. Nieto Sánchez, Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, Spain, ‘El Rastro of Madrid: The Survival Strategies of the Urban Lower Classes, 1740-1830’

Abstract

Brigita Tranaviciute, Vytautas Magnus University, Lithuania, ‘The Transformations of the Soviet Enterprise in Lithuania in the Late 20th Century’

Abstract

15.30 – 16.00 Coffee

16.00 – 17.00 Session 5

Selling spaces

Chair: Ros Watkiss, University of Wolverhampton, UK

Lyanne Holcombe, Kingston University, UK, ‘The Resort in the City: Retailing Leisure and Tourism in the Regent Palace Hotel, London’

Abstract

Dave Kinney, Independent Researcher, UK and Phil Lyon, Umeå University, Sweden, ‘Grocers’ Window Displays: The Eclipse of a Tradition’

Abstract

16.00 – 17.00 Session 6

Buying and selling in the long eighteenth century

Chair: Karin Dannehl, University of Wolverhampton, UK

Serena Dyer, University of York, UK, ‘Dressing the Elite: Fashion, Intimacy and Business in Eighteenth-Century London and Yorkshire’

Abstract

Jon Stobart, University of Northampton, UK, ‘Buying Books: Networks, Knowledge and the Georgian Country House’

Abstract

19.00 Reception and conference dinner

6 September 2012

9.00 – 9.30 Registration and coffee

 

9.30 – 11.00 Session 7

Supply chains and innovation

Chair:

Graham Barton, University of Gloucestershire, UK, ‘The Role and Significance of the Supply Chain in the Distribution of Wine in Pre-Roman Britain’

Abstract

Neil Ritson, Lincoln University, New Zealand and Ian Byrne, UK ‘A History of UK Petrol Retailing: Dynamism versus Oligarchy’

Abstract

Alessandra Tessari, University of Salento, Italy and University of Reading, UK, ‘Product Innovations and Market Creation in the Italian Poultry Industry, 1950-1980’

Abstract

 

9.30 – 11.00 Session 8

Innovation and tradition in food retailing: (un)successful responses to new market demands

Chair: Madeleine Green, University of Wolverhampton, UK

Session convenors: Anneleen Arnout, University of Leuven and University of Antwerp, Belgium and Nelleke Teughels, Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Belgium

Session abstract

Anneleen Arnout, University of Leuven and University of Antwerp, Belgium, ‘The Curious Case of Brussels’ Market Halls: Tradition or Innovation on the Brussels’ Nineteenth-century Market Scene’

Abstract

Nelleke Teughels, Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Belgium, ‘Small Grocery Stores Become Big Business: A Case Study of Delhaize Frères & Cie and its Role in the Modernisation of the Traditional Corner Shop’

Abstract

Ian Mitchell, University of Wolverhampton, UK, ‘”Traditional” or “Modern”? Changing Retail Practices in some English Towns, 1700-1900’

Abstract

11.00 – 11.30 Coffee

 

11.30 – 13.00 Session 9

Cross-national ventures and misadventures

Chair: Ian Mitchell, University of Wolverhampton, UK

Alison Toplis, University of Wolverhampton, UK, 'How to, or how not to, Make a Profit: A Birmingham Draper's Trade with 1830s Van Diemen's Land'

Abstract

Eva Maria von Wyl, University of Zurich, Switzerland, ’The Introduction of Self-Service in Switzerland: Why the Americans Had No Chance to Conquer Europe’s Retail Market’

Abstract

Jon Brown, University of Brighton, UK, ‘Fashionably Nordic: Retail Furnishers Innovative Scandinavian Furniture Group Buying Schemes’

Abstract

 

11.30 – 13.00 Session 10

(Re)Conceptualising the Shop Space: Exploring “the shop” as a product to be conspicuously consumed

Chair: Lesley Whitworth, University of Brighton, UK

Session convenor: Jessica Field, University of Manchester, UK

Session abstract

Ben Wilcock, University of Manchester, UK, ‘Selling Spaces: marketing places of consumption in mid-to-late Georgian towns’

Abstract

Ed Owens, University of Manchester, UK, ‘“Marina hats” are selling well, and sitting pretty!’  Media, Marketing and the Royal Wedding of 1934

Abstract

Jessica Field, University of Manchester, UK, ‘Selfless Sellers and Benevolent Buyers? Re-Working the Spatialities of Consumption and Charity in the Outer Hebrides’

Abstract

13.00 – 14.00 Lunch

 

14.00 – 15.00 Concluding plenary

Jonathan Morris, University of Hertfordshire, 'Coffee House Formats Compared'

Abstract

 

Dress Shop Stall (Wolverhampton Photographic Society), Wholesale Market, Cheapside, Wolverhampton, c. 1950, from the collections of  Wolverhampton Archives & Local Studies

 

ABSTRACTS

 

Andrew Alexander, University of Surrey, UK, 'Marketing decision-making in UK supermarkets, 1965-1990'

This paper is concerned with the management of marketing decision-making by UK supermarket retailers in the period 1965 to 1990. It focusses on decision-making relating to the stocking and merchandising of the store in company-owned chains (multiples).

Drawing upon contributions in the business history and strategy literatures, the paper identifies two contrasting approaches to chain management and decision-making. The first is the “Individual Store Oriented Form” (ISOF), in which firm performance is considered to be determined by how successfully each store is trading in its local area. The second is the “Chain Organization Oriented Form” (COOF). In this the firm holds that individual stores are outlets implementing its policies in a uniform manner and providing an essentially consistent offer.

Using data drawn from archival research and oral histories, the paper presents three case studies that illustrate the adoption of elements of the ‘ISOF’ and ‘COOF’ approach by UK supermarket retailers.  It considers the implications of these differing approaches for the management of decision-making concerned with retail marketing strategies, and for the processes of resource and capability development. Explanations for the existence of the contrasting approaches, and their changing importance during the study period, are derived from an analysis of the changing market environment and of variations in business culture.  

The paper builds upon the existing, rather limited discussion in the retail marketing and business history literatures on the management of the early supermarket in the UK. More generally, it informs the wider debate concerned with the interaction of strategy, structure and management approaches to decision making.


Anneleen Arnout, University of Leuven and University of Antwerp, Belgium, ‘The Curious Case of Brussels’ Market Halls: Tradition or Innovation on the Brussels’ Nineteenth-century Market Scene’

In historiography, nineteenth-century retailing has most often been understood in terms of modernization and revolution. The nineteenth century, it was argued, was characterized by new selling methods in new retail forms. Those new retailing institutions, such as department stores, co-operatives and multiple stores, have received the bulk of scholarly attention. They were considered the pioneers of a modern retailing landscape and were believed to have brought about the birth of our modern consumer culture. Like true modern cathedrals of consumption, it was argued, they crushed older, more traditional ways of buying and selling with their rationalisation of business practices. Indeed, it was for example believed that markets had become outdated and that peddling became a marginalized thing of the past. Recent research on both the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries has questioned this idea of instant modernity in nineteenth-century retailing. Early modernists have claimed so-called modern retail innovations in earlier centuries and historians studying nineteenth-century retailing have argued the resilience of the more traditional forms of buying and selling during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. In addition, one could wonder whether innovation in retailing was always as successful as we have believed. In order to gain a better insight into the complex balance between innovation and tradition in nineteenth-century retailing, I want to explore the history of Brussels’ market circuit.

During the nineteenth-century, Brussels was the flourishing capital of a bourgeoning industrial nation. The city had long been known as a centre of production and trading in luxury consumer goods. The retail trade flourished throughout the century with the proportion of the Brussels population working in commerce increasing substantially. Throughout the century, the earlier pentagonal city centre of Brussels expanded in both size and population. With a growing urban population, the city came up against the typical problems plaguing the average expanding city during the nineteenth century. The city council was specifically concerned with the efficient organisation of the distribution of food in a decreasingly self-sufficient city with an increasing population. Because of this concern, the Brussels’ city council came up with a plan to install a modern system of covered markets that would be able to efficiently meet the increased demands of a growing urban population. It is in this respect that the market scene proves to be an interesting case in which to explore the relationship between innovation and tradition in retailing. On the one hand, markets epitomized the traditional ways of the buying and selling of foodstuffs. On the other hand, the rise of covered market halls during the nineteenth century reflected the desire to innovate and modernize this age-old distribution form. Within the outdated conception of the nineteenth-century as a retail revolution, market halls would be conceived as the successful, innovative adaptation of an outdated practice. In this paper, however, I will argue that the more traditional open-air markets in Brussels were truly resilient, whilst the numerous covered market halls, built throughout the nineteenth-century in Brussels, failed time and again. In unravelling the reasons why Brussels market halls never managed to become remunerative, I want to show that innovation was not always as successful a strategy as one would think and that innovation and tradition were entangled in complex ways.


Lucy A. Bailey, University of Northampton, UK, ‘”The place is a news agency”: Gossip and the Village Shop as portrayed in popular Victorian literature’

 The analysis of cultural representations of retailing provides a unique angle from which to explore the historical perspective. Yet whilst Cox and Dannehl pioneered the study of perceptions of retailing in relation to the eighteenth century, including some analysis of both visual and literary representations, this area of research remains largely neglected for the nineteenth century. Drawing on evidence from a rich array of British Victorian periodical literature, this paper aims to address an element of this gap by exploring literary representations of rural retailing, our understanding of the ways in which the popular image of the village shop and shopkeeper, typically romantic and heavily steeped in nostalgia, was constructed being vague. By exploring literary representations of people, place, space and everyday life an insight can be gained into the influence of nostalgia and stereotyping and the fundamental question of how our image of rural society has been historically and discursively constructed. Furthermore, by analyzing the literary material within its publishing context an indication is given as to how both authors and publishers of popular literature might have influenced and shaped reader perception in their projection of such images of the rural into the wider national consciousness.

The focus of the paper will be an analysis of the portrayal within Victorian periodical literature of the role of the shop and shopkeeper in the creation and dissemination of news and gossip in the rural community. Whilst, as will be shown, the depiction of this role took both positive and negative forms, it will be argued that the interaction presented between retailer, customer and other villagers suggests a connection between everyday shopping and sociability. The Victorian village shop was depicted as more than just a commercial centre; it was a place to meet, interact, gossip and gather news. Essentially it was portrayed as a site of personal and social exchange and therefore was perceived to be important to the vitality of communal life. By highlighting the significance of the place of shop and shopkeeper within the life of the nineteenth-century village community, the analysis of Victorian periodical literature helps to broaden our understanding of the history of rural retailing beyond the commercial.


 Graham Barton, University of Gloucestershire, UK, ‘The Role and Significance of the Supply Chain in the Distribution of Wine in Pre-Roman Britain’

 The supply of an exotic commodity such as wine to a select group of consumers and tribal élites in pre-Roman Britain is a subject that has intrigued specialists in the history of international trade for many years. 

This paper re-examines the distribution channels which were used to deliver wine to south and south-east England between c. 150 BC and 43 AD.  It will consider the role of both the individual channel members and the Roman state to see if domination of the supply chain by one or more of these parties could have been used to gain an economic or political advantage through restricting the shipment of wine.  A hypothesis is developed which points to continental merchants as the pivotal link in this supply chain, through their ability to regulate the  strategic ‘choke-points’ in the distribution system via their control of access to cross-Channel shipping and information flows.

The supply of wine is tracked through three successive historical phases, (c. 150 - 56 BC / 56 - 10 BC / 10 BC - 43 AD) during which time distribution switched between a number of different geographical ‘entry gateways’ as commercial and political alliances between British tribal leaders and their continental counterparts evolved.


Susan Bishop, University of Brighton, UK, ‘The Barkers Fashion Display Hall – Issues of Retailing and Marketing Fashion as Luxury in a London Department Store 1928-1930’

 This discussion paper will investigate how the ‘spectacle’ of fashion shows contributed to Barkers competitive marketing position as a luxury store. The focus for this research is a press book, from Barkers department store in Kensington, London, chronicling the opening of the Fashion Display Hall and events staged there between 1928 and 1930. The Barkers press book contains advertising, press articles, photographs, copies of programmes and invitations to the events in the Fashion Display Hall during this historical period. Event programmes show the importance of graphic illustration as part of marketing communications, as well as detailing the emphasis on particular types of lifestyle fashions as part of the yearly calendar.

The Barkers press book, along with other archival research, will be presented as evidence to support critical studies about the changing marketing activities of a London based department store in the late 1920s. In particular Barkers used Paris couture brands and ready-to-wear copies to position their brand in a luxury market. Barkers promoted famous mannequins and the glamour of spectacle to create competitive advantage.

Barkers’ fashion shows represent a pivotal point, where American marketing and Parisian chic came together in London to bring British retail into the 20th Century; this was a transformative moment when department stores capitalized on new media opportunities to create a luxury image.


Jon Brown, University of Brighton, UK, ‘Fashionably Nordic: Retail Furnishers Innovative Scandinavian Furniture Group Buying Schemes’

 The intense promotional efforts of the Nordic countries in the UK in the postwar period resulted in modern Scandinavian furniture and furnishings becoming increasingly high profile and fashionable.  This intensified after 1960 when levels of Scandinavian imports to the UK rose considerably thanks to the onset of deregulation instigated by the European Free Trade Association (EFTA).  Modern independent retail furnishers, keen to acquire more profitable unbranded Nordic stock, formed collective group buying schemes such as the Green Group, which brought them access to exclusive ranges of primarily Danish and Swedish furniture. The creation of these schemes was helped considerably by the networks that already existed among retailers via their membership of the National Association of Retail Furnishers (N.A.R.F) and the Council of Industrial design (C.o.I.D).

Group bought furniture often came in component parts that were convenient and economic to transport in bulk for distribution amongst group members. Access to such stock enabled a network of modern furnishing firms to define themselves as viable Scandinavian specialists.  Buying schemes were by commercial necessity discrete and their activities have remained vague.   This new research sheds light for the first time on the innovative supply channels adopted in the post war decades which were integral in bringing Scandinavian furniture to a broader market.


Paul Cleave, University of Exeter, UK, 'Sugar Tourism'

This proposal is based on historical research which has investigated the evolving relationships between food and tourism in the 20th century.  The background and context of the research is derived from an apparent gap in the historiography of tourism on the changing relationships between food and tourism. The 20th century provides many opportunities from which the relationships between food and tourism can be studied, these include, diet, health, technology, leisure and culture.

Food and tourism:

The study of food and tourism is not restricted to eating out in the commercial domain but includes the domestic domain and as a tourist activity. Investigating food and tourism over a timescale identifies trends and patterns in food consumption and that this includes, pre tour, during the holiday and post-holiday experience. Thus tourists’ have often sampled food from a particular destination prior to their visit. The aim of this paper is to show how particular foods have become associated with place and the experience of tourism, and that they rely on sugar. Without sugar many of the foods consumed on holiday, for example candyfloss, ice cream, seaside rock and fudge would not exist. 

Food and place associations:

This paper will use Devon, a county in the South West of England as a case study. It will show how it relies on sugar to manufacture one of its most popular tourist souvenirs, Fudge. This became popular in the mid 20th century and had come from America. In Devon it is frequently made using Clotted Cream, perhaps the best known dairy product in the county. As a mass produced, or artisan product the soft textured confection has become associated with the county. Nostalgic and evocative marketing techniques reinforce its connections with dairy produce and tourism.

The evolution of the sugar confectionery souvenir:

Using the 20th century timescale of the research the paper presents tourists’ interests in food and the experience of tourism. These range from the Belle époque in the early years of the century to the emergence of food tourism, sustainability and culinary celebrification. Throughout the century sugar has been a vital ingredient in the history of food tourism, the tea shops and cafes flourished serving clotted cream teas, and cakes and for many tourists were the only opportunity to ‘eat out’. The food souvenir in Devon has evolved through the century but research indicates that confectionery is perhaps one of the most popular. The evolution of sugar confectionery in Devon will be utilised in this paper showing how the confectionery industry responded to changes in consumer tastes and demands. Using life and work histories of those involved in the production of Devonshire clotted cream fudge and toffees the significance of these products will be examined.

Hall and Sharples (2003: p.10) describe food tourism as ‘visitation to primary and secondary producers and experiencing the attributes of specialist food production’. Our food culture relies on the combination of many ingredients, and in the example of sugar confectionery demonstrates a reliance on a product with unique culinary and experiential dimensions.


 Jackie Dickenson, University of Melbourne, Australia, ‘Advertising Lives: Memoir and Career’

 Since the global success of David Ogilvy’s Confessions of an Advertising Man in 1964, a growing number of advertising practitioners have sought to share their insights, experiences and contribution to their respective advertising industries. This paper focuses on six memoirs written by Australian advertising practitioners about their time in advertising from the 1950s to the 1980s.

Often self-published and written in a copywriter’s inimical short, sharp style, these memoirs are generally descriptive accounts covering the authors’ career trajectories, the people encountered along the way, and their favourite campaigns. Some also include a how-to guide on producing ‘good’ advertising. There is scant reflection on the broader social, political and economic contexts in which they worked, let alone the ways these contexts affected their advertisements.

The paper will begin by placing these memoirs within the broader context of the life-writing genre and advertising life writing in particular. It will then provide a brief background to each of the six authors, asking why they wrote their memoirs. It will discuss the issues covered in the memoirs: how do the authors deal with their career trajectory and their place in the history of Australian advertising? What do they say about their clients and the campaigns they produced for them? Do they provide a philosophy of advertising? If so, what is it? How do they cover their non-professional lives and how do the professional and private connect?

The paper will also look for what they collectively share, asking: What do they say about advertising industry practice? What do they say about advertising’s history? What do they say about the globalisation of the advertising industry? What are the silences? Why are they silent on these issues? What are the limitations of these biographies as historical sources?

By comparing and contrasting the authors’ respective accounts of the significance of their work, their descriptions of agency life, and their personal lives, this paper will seek to develop a broader account of agency life and the processes involved in the production of advertisements. Moreover, the role of memoir will be analysed in relation to the advertising industry. In addition to examining the ways in which these memoirs have sought to connect these individual lives with the advertising industry’s historical development, this paper will also suggest that these biographies are a reflection of as well as a response to advertising’s inherently ephemeral nature.


Serena Dyer, University of York, UK, ‘Dressing the Elite: Fashion, Intimacy and Business in Eighteenth-Century London and Yorkshire’

 Between 1783 and 1785 Mrs Ann Charlton, a society milliner of Holles Street, London, kept up a regular and detailed correspondence with her client, Lady Sabine Winn of Nostell Priory in Yorkshire. This abundant collection of both written passages and sumptuous fabric and ribbon samples, provides a unique and unprecedented insight into fashion distribution amongst the provincial elite. This correspondence highlights the centrality of sociability and the season to the London fashion trade, the importance of Parisian business links, the complex network between manufacturer, retailer, the post trade and the client, and the relationship between female client and supplier.

The correspondence contains fashion news, pecuniary bargaining, offers of gifts, and discussion of personal health, combining intimate and personal details with the formalities of a professional relationship. These two vocabularies are continually at variance within the text of the letters, and are the consequence of a relationship which both transcends and abides by social boundaries. Neither friend nor servant, this singularly feminine association, maintained beyond Lady Sabine's move north, demonstrates both the mercantile methodology of an eighteenth-century businesswoman and the continued reliance of the provincial elite on London traders. Mrs Charlton's other clients included the infamous Countess of Strathmore, for whom she gave evidence at the trial of her husband. Her statement, which substantiated claims of domestic abuse, both physical and mental, as well as declaring the existence of unpaid bills, again merges the deeply personal with the pragmatism of business.

We can contrast these countrywide networks of fashion distribution with the records of bankrupt dressmakers and milliners based in York who were taken into debtors’ prison. The accounts of these failed local retail businesses demonstrate reliance on London and, in spite of the geographical proximity between retailer and client, a lack of the intimacy seen between Mrs Charlton and her clients. The unrivalled depth of the previously untapped evidence provided by Mrs Charlton and the failed York milliners facilitates a crucial step in developing our understanding of women in business, clothing retail and networks of distribution and consumption amongst the eighteenth-century elite.


Jessica Field, University of Manchester, UK, ‘Selfless Sellers and Benevolent Buyers? Re-Working the Spatialities of Consumption and Charity in the Outer Hebrides’

 Utilising theorisations of the spatialities of globalisation, this paper will explore how the global norms of consumption and charity have been re-worked and inextricably bound through ActionAid’s only charity shop, located in the Outer Hebrides. I will build on oral history testimonies from the co-founders of the shop, alongside local news and ActionAid publications, to document how the performed reality of commercial compassion in this fluid space has shaped local and extra-local conceptualisations of “doing good”. Conclusions will feed into wider discourses on how the wider population experience and engage with charitable action on the high street. Crucially, this paper will stress the necessity of using retail topographies to enhance understanding of modern charity action, and in turn will highlight the variety of actants that have actively forged the charity-retail connections.

Opened in 1980, the operational history of Stornoway’s ActionAid shop has been shaped by both local agency and transnational networks of charitable activity. As part of a circulatory network that feeds off and feeds into triumphal capitalism and international humanitarianism, it is a translocal space that connects the consumer to their own community, to commercial practices of donating and buying, and it encourages distinct conceptualisations of the needy overseas. Charity shops rarely figure into historical narratives of retail activity or charitable work, and yet, since the close of World War II, have become an increasingly popular means by which British people engage in charitable action. Within these spaces of translocal agency it is not possible to isolate historic moments of explicit charitable or commercial action, as compassionate consumption has been so interwoven into the daily routine of shopping and wider narratives of humanitarian assistance. By unpacking the heterogeneous spatialities that have connected the local Stornoway community and the international organisation ActionAid, this paper will re-work retail analysis into a discourse inclusive of compassionate consumption and provide a springboard for further debate on the role that charity shops play in humanitarian aid.


Lyanne Holcombe, Kingston University, UK, ‘The Resort in the City: Retailing Leisure and Tourism in the Regent Palace Hotel, London’

 This paper evaluates the production of goods for touristic purposes in the 1914-1939 period. It identifies how the role of destinations in the form of hotels played a part in the retailing of the city in the urban context. Piccadilly as a location for the Edwardian tourist, shopper and pleasure seeker in the West End of London mapped this area as transient, yet tangible for an urban experience. Advertising for department stores, restaurants and hotels provided representations of the destination as a space of luxury for their guests; as a resort Piccadilly was mapped and promoted by J. Lyons and Co in the heart of London. The Regent Palace Hotel’s lobby inhabited a W.H Smith’s bookshop, chemists, theatre ticket booking office and a cigarette and chocolate kiosk. This threshold, a point in which the outside and inside meet, was at once inviting and enticed the consumer as part of a new modern urban shopping experience.

The intention of this examination of the Regent Palace Hotel is to consider the hotel’s services through its spatial and liminoid aspects, by evaluating the point at which the hotel opens, from street to lobby and how the winter garden was maintained as the public room and resort in the hotel. An emphasis is placed on space, services and goods as representations for assessing the material culture in the hotel. Using a previously unpublished collection of photographs, advertising, management accounts, and memoirs, this investigation will explore how the hotel’s services and goods; including a state of the art modernized telegram system and the production of souvenir postcards by the hotel owners J. Lyons & Co., has presented the opportunity for detailed research on the London hotel. It includes various notions surrounding the city as a metropolitan entity, paternalistic cultures of selling, commodity culture and retailing, the context of space and the notion of leisure located in the public arena.


Peter Jones, Queen Mary University of London, UK, ‘A History in Rags: Reckoning with London’s ‘Cast-offs’ in the Old Clothes Market, 1800 – 1870’

 In London: The Biography Peter Ackroyd ends a chapter discussing London’s markets by describing ‘Rag Fair’ as a ‘woebegone place’ that over the course of the nineteenth-century ‘disappeared beneath its own waste.’ This response is typical of critical approaches that have thus far treated the Victorian rag trade as a topic barely warranting scrutiny. But why is it that irrespective of its apparent social value, the rag market still tends to disappear ‘beneath its own waste’ within economic and social histories? What are the implicit assumptions upon which this attitude is grounded?

This paper approaches this question by examining a number of literary responses to used clothing markets by writers and journalists such as Charles Dickens, Thomas Carlyle and George Augustus Sala. Discussions scrutinize a marked tendency within these accounts to associate the processes of recycling and reprocessing that took place in London’s informal markets with a degree of shame and moral suspicion. For example, in Dickens’ Oliver Twist (1838) Field Lane (significantly chosen as the location of Fagin’s Lair) is imagined as a ‘commercial colony in itself’, set apart according to its foreignness and criminality. The handkerchiefs, old boots and clothes sold in the market are coded as ‘sign-boards to the petty thief’ that effectively act as markers for the disreputable character of this district and the socially outcast condition of the local population.

Subsequently, representational strategies that sought to de-legitimize the rag trade as an ‘unsightly’ and ‘undesirable’ presence in the modernizing metropolis, need to be reread for the inherent contradictions and paradoxes that they were intended to preclude. Far from being an isolated and insignificant remnant of a more ‘developed’ urban economy, Henry Mayhew’s investigations suggest that by the 1840s old clothes reprocessing was an immensely profitable enterprise that was taking place on an industrial and global scale. Efforts to discredit and marginalize those workers who dealt with society’s ‘cast-offs’ on the city’s streets, corresponded to increasingly stringent attempts to regulate and reform informal marketing throughout the nineteenth-century. However, concluding remarks will explain how these cultural and commercial spaces were able to resist and ultimately survive the attempted deformation and denigration of their social function.

Peter Jones is studying for a PhD in English Literature at Queen Mary. This paper relates to his research into the literary representation of marginal and surplus populations in urban exploratory fiction and journalism. Peter has previously given talks discussing street markets, urban waste, and ‘residual’ economies at the Literary London Conference held at the Institute of English Studies, and at the Emergent Critical Environments event, which was held at Queen Mary. He has also been involved in setting up the Literary London Reading Group that takes place on a monthly basis at Senate House.


Victoria Kelley, University of the Arts and University of the Creative Arts, UK, ‘Shopping on the Kerbstone: London’s Street Markets, c.1880-1939’

‘The street markets are an institution of real social and economic utility to the London poor, who believe, not without reason, that they get better value for their money by dealing with the stalls than with the shops.’ These words are from the 1932 New Survey of London Life and Labour, which set out to update Charles Booth’s great study, Life and Labour of the People in London, published in full in 1902 and 20 years in the making. The New Survey noted that the number of stalls in the capital’s most important (although strictly unauthorized) street markets had risen by at least 50 per cent since Booth’s time. The report’s authors found such a figure ‘indisputable, if surprising’ – they appear to have been somewhat taken aback that such an unregulated and apparently primitive form of retailing could be flourishing amidst the modernity and increasing prosperity of a great capital city. Their surprise mirrors a common concern in the commentary of the period: that London’s street markets were chaotic and unregulated, and seemed resistant to the sort of reform (new buildings and tighter regulation) that had taken place in many provincial cities. Indeed in London, reform schemes such as those at Columbia Market and Clare Market were notable failures, but the markets nonetheless continued to provide an essential service to large numbers of customers.

This paper will explore the tenacity and vibrancy of London’s street markets in the years between Booth’s work and the New Survey. Why were London’s street markets and their traders and customers so tenaciously attached to very particular open-air locations? And how did they interact with other, more apparently progressive forms of retailing, both in long-established inner city sites and in newly developing suburban centres? These questions will be examined through evidence from across the capital, but with a particular emphasis on the south-east London suburb of Lewisham. Here, in the early twentieth century, market traders ran their businesses alongside a department store, a large co-operative store, and chain stores including Woolworths, Marks and Spencer and Sainsbury, and fought a protracted battle with the local council to stay in their established high street location. This paper will thus attempt to reintegrate the street market into the story of retail development in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

This paper is part of Victoria Kelley’s research into the development of commercial cultures and working-class material culture. Her published work on these subjects includes ‘ “The All-Conquering Advertiser”?: magazines, advertising and the consumer, 1880-1914’, in Jeremy Aynsley and Kate Forde (eds), Design and the Modern Magazine, Manchester University Press, 2007, and Soap and Water: cleanliness, dirt and the working classes in Victorian and Edwardian Britain, I.B. Tauris, 2010. Her work on London street markets is ongoing; as well as the issues examined in this paper, it also covers pleasure, sociability and sensory experience in the street market, with previous papers presented at the Urban History Group Conference, 2011, and the Metropolitan History seminar series, Institute of Historical Research, February 2012. Dr Kelley teaches at Central St Martins School of Art and Design, University of the Arts, London, and at the University for the Creative Arts, Kent.


Dave Kinney, Independent Researcher, UK and Phil Lyon, Umeå University, Sweden, ‘Grocers’ Window Displays: The Eclipse of a Tradition’

Food shops have the perennial problem of informing potential customers about the goods they have available for sale. In some way, visual information about stock has to be projected from within the building to people outside so that they know what is on offer, and at what price. This is especially true for food retailers because some or all of their stock may be perishable. Over the years different solutions emerged. Some, like the display of a recently-killed bull’s head over the butcher’s shop, fruit and vegetables on open stands in front of the greengrocer’s premises or even birds hung over the poulterer’s doorway are now consigned to history in many parts of the UK. Others, like the daily window display, linger on for specialist food shops where trade traditions may have considerable differentiating significance but they are anachronistic for most.

By reference to contemporary retailing narratives, this paper examines the changed significance of shop window displays for British grocers in the transition from counter-based to self-service from the late 1940s to the 1960s. The ‘well-dressed’ window showing the range of goods and price offers becomes an early casualty of changed retail practices. Increased use of the emerging design media for specific offer advertising and the opportunities presented by self-service for in-store promotion proved a decisive challenge to the art of the grocer’s window display. New food packaging required graphics and illustration for faster identification as displays were browsed by the self-service customer. A different style of communication with the customer was necessary now that opportunities for influence and advice at the counter were reduced.


Bart Lambert, University of York, UK, ‘Falling out of the Cradle of Capitalism: Informal Markets in 15th-Century Bruges’

In recent historiography, late medieval Bruges has been christened the Cradle of Capitalism, a medieval world market and the world’s first network city. During the fourteenth and most of the fifteenth century, Bruges attracted more merchants from more regions of the then known world and harboured more commercial institutions than any other place in North Western Europe. Acting as an international depot where bulk goods from the Baltic space were redistributed to  Southern Europe and beyond in exchange for a wide range of high value commodities, the city witnessed a volume of trade that was only equalled by Venice during this period. This exceptional concentration of human capital, goods and infrastructure allowed to realise economies of scale, producing cost advantages which further deepened the gap with competing centres. The city’s status was securely cemented by stringent staple regulations: all merchandise entering the prosperous county of Flanders had to be transported to and could only be sold in Bruges. Brokerage, imposing the use of native mediators for each commercial transaction between foreigners, ensured the local commercial elites of their share of the burgeoning international trade. Retail trade was the privilege of the craft guilds, who anxiously safeguarded their interests.

What is commonly forgotten, is that the pillars of Bruges’ trade, which guaranteed full purses for thousands of merchants, both locals and foreigners, excluded just as many, if not more, others from the capitalist feast: inhabitants from the smaller towns and cities in Bruges’ hinterland, the city’s own social outcasts, including a significant number of women, and the shipping crews and lower personnel of the foreign merchant communities, all massively present in Flanders, wanted to engage in international trade but did not have the economic, social and political capital to operate on the mammoth scale of a medieval world market. They withdrew to the margins of Bruges’ sphere of influence, and to the margins of legality, to set up their own version of international commercial exchange: bypassing constant persecutions by the Bruges commercial elite, their desire to trade gave rise to informal markets, based on direct and deinstitutionalised retail transactions perfectly tailored to their needs. Not represented in the standard series of documents, their activities can be reconstructed by puzzling previously uncovered sources together, giving us a glimpse of a fascinating microcosm whose richness and diversity even rivalled that of its big brother in Bruges.


Ian Mitchell, University of Wolverhampton, UK, ‘”Traditional” or “Modern”? Changing Retail Practices in some English Towns, 1700-1900’

 In 1791 the architect George Steuart, responsible for some important late eighteenth century buildings, was commissioned to design a substantial and classically inspired market hall in the small town of Middleton just north of Manchester.  Was this anachronistic or forward –looking?  After all, according to H. and L. H. Mui in their pioneering and influential Shops and shopkeeping in eighteenth century England (London: Routledge, 1989), the weekly market at that time was not a ‘buoyant, flourishing institution’, but rather in decline (p.150).  Yet Middleton was not alone in seeking new or improved markets to meet the needs of a growing population. The Muis description of eighteenth century England as being full of shops, including many village shops, is now widely and correctly accepted.  Many of these shops, particularly in towns, were using what might be regarded as ‘modern’ sales techniques such as elaborate window displays, sophisticated advertising and selling for fixed prices and ready money.  But a flourishing fixed shop sector did not preclude innovation and adaptation in more traditional retail sectors, such as markets.  The willingness of individuals and urban authorities to invest in market improvements in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries is testimony to this.

This paper looks at the relationship between new and more established forms of retailing in the period 1700 to 1900. There is a focus on a mix of industrialising towns and more established service centres in the midlands and north of England in order to explore the different processes that might be driving change in the retail sector.  It argues that

·         Terms like ‘traditional’ and ‘modern’ can be misleading and need to be used with care.

·         Markets remained important in supplying growing urban populations with food, basic household goods and some items of clothing.  Urban authorities were willing to invest substantial sums of money in their improvement and regarded them as a focus for civic pride.  They might occupy prime urban space.

·         By no means all shops were inviting and fashionable retail spaces and it is important not to be dazzled by those that were. Many remained small and marginal throughout the period and continued to combine production and retail activities.

·         Space was often at a premium in rapidly growing towns.  Did different forms of retailing complement each other, or did competition for space lead to conflict?  Urban governance could be an important factor here.

The paper suggests that it is important to look at the variety of retail practices in the city, and not just focus on either ‘new’ or ‘more established’ forms; and that change was not necessarily linear or incremental when viewed in the longer term.


Jonathan Morris, University of Hertfordshire, 'Coffee House Formats Compared'

The coffee house as a public space has generated much attention from scholars across various disciplines reflecting the recent success of the international coffee chains.   Habermas’s identification of the 18th Century coffee house as a centre for the formation of public opinion has been re-investigated by cultural historians and contemporary geographers alike, while the sociologist Oldenburg’s musings on the nature of the ‘Third Place’ were appropriated by Starbucks’ CEO Howard Schultz as an explanation of his company’s appeal, even as George Ritzer was busy adjusting his McDonaldization thesis to present the Seattle chain as the middle class embodiment of the Golden Arches, rather than as the alternative purveyor of authenticity that he had originally portrayed it as.

We now have a growing literature, therefore, on the coffee house across the centuries, and its various international contexts, yet there has been no convincing attempt to produce a comparative analysis of the coffee house format within either a spatial or chronological framework.   This presentation will modestly attempt to do both, focussing on the business formats behind the various incarnations of the coffee house.   It will analyse why the coffee house took different forms in different contexts – for example the English coffee house, the French café, the Italian coffee bar – and why these have experienced success and failure in different eras.  It will consider the role of the beverages served, the kinds of clientele to whom the coffee house appealed, the relationship between coffee and alcohol provision, the trading hours and the elements of service incorporated into the formats – and how these need to be contextualised into broader developments within society, notably the structuring of the home and work environments. 


José A. Nieto Sánchez, Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, Spain, ‘El Rastro of Madrid: The Survival Strategies of the Urban Lower Classes, 1740-1830’

This paper focuses on El Rastro of Madrid, the largest street-market in Spain. It aims at answering the following questions: when, why and how did it emerge? Who were the agents involved in its transactions? What kind of steps did local authorities take in order to control it?

‘The economy of makeshifts’ and ‘the art of survival’ are two key concepts in this approach. In eighteenth-century Madrid, the sale of second hand items made a progressive way through the legal and illegal strategies implemented by the labouring poor in a context of deteriorating living conditions. This is demonstrated by the growing numbers of casual sellers clustering around the Rastro square, a city quarter which was notorious for the stench and filth coming from the slaughterhouse located in it. 

In order to answer the abovementioned questions, we shall be examining, firstly, the effects of the aftermath of the War of Succession on Madrid’s labouring poor in 1720-1740; secondly, the spread of informal street-markets –known as baratillos- about some plazas of the town; thirdly, the channels through which second-hand items arrived to these markets (auctions, inheritance, picking, production purposely made for the Rastro, theft …), and finally the local institutions which regulated the city’s supply system, mainly the Sala de Alcaldes, together with the political measures those took to eliminate in the first place and eventually regulate the popular –and populous- Rastro market. 

An historical analysis of the Rastro is ever more necessary since up to the present time the literature on this market has mostly been centred upon superficial, anecdotic topics that underscore the sale of stolen items and thus associate Rastro and criminality. Historical evidence, however, points to a wider, complex range of transactions, to an urban economic structure that rendered a high rate of unemployment, and to the resources the working people fell back upon to be able to survive in critical moments, which altogether uncover the ideological notions underlying such literature.


Ed Owens, University of Manchester, UK, ‘“Marina hats” are selling well, and sitting pretty!’  Media, Marketing and the Royal Wedding of 1934

 ‘Nobody who can remember the extraordinary fervour and enthusiasm evoked by Princess Marina’s marriage will ever forget that royal wedding: there has never been anything like it – and probably never will be again’. (StellaKing, Princess Marina: Her Life and Times (London, 1969).

This paper examines the popular response evoked by the 1934 wedding of Princess Marina of Greece to the youngest son of King George V, Prince George the Duke of Kent. Historians have identified how the 1934 royal marriage was staged on an unprecedented scale, both in terms of the anticipation excited by the media in advance of the event and on the wedding day itself. The enthusiasm was due to the persona of Marina who was an extraordinarily glamorous figure. Her Parisian upbringing had endowed her with style and finesse and on arriving in England as the fiancée of Prince George in September 1934 she instantly became an icon of Continental elegance, inspiring a new hair coiffeur as well as several styles of dress and headwear.

       Popular illustrated newspapers capitalised on Marina’s fashionability, deconstructing her glamour to make it accessible to female readers whilst encouraging them to copy the styles of the princess. Advertisements in the same pages marketed products that allegedly made it possible for ordinary women to buy into this upper-class chic femininity. Meanwhile, independent shops used the marriage to stimulate conspicuous consumption. Many commercial outlets encouraged patrons to enter their premises on wedding day to listen ‘in comfort’ to the live BBC broadcast of the ceremony from Westminster Abbey. This marketing strategy had two significant implications: It presented the shop as a relaxing space of consumption in which to enjoy the pleasures of the new medium of radio whilst empowering the consumer by allowing them to enter the shop without any commitment to purchase. Nevertheless, wedding day unsurprisingly witnessed a boom in commercial trade. The day after the wedding the press described how women and girls had flocked to retail outlets to hear the royal wedding broadcast and then spent their afternoons in the shopping aisles.

This paper relates to the broader themes of my PhD which has set out to examine how and why different groups of people have celebrated the role of the monarchy in the twentieth century. In this respect, it is clear that support of stylish royal figures such as Princess Marina has been bound up in their glamour and the way female consumers invested emotionally and materially in them through fashion and purchasing power. In this way, the connection between monarchy and market has enhanced the popularity of the Crown's image in society.


Neil Ritson, Lincoln University, New Zealand and Ian Byrne, UK ‘A History of UK Petrol Retailing: Dynamism versus Oligarchy’

 The development of the retail petroleum industry in the UK has received little attention in the academic press. The area investigated forms part of the literature on retailing and relates to the supply chain of the major oil companies – the so-called Seven Sisters - which are vertically integrated. This industry is usually thought of as an oligarchy but there is significant exchanges of retailing sites as between the majors. Underneath at the ‘competitive fringe’ there is the ‘tail’ of smaller independents - opportunistic retail entrepreneurs who set up their own chains, and who buy product from the spot market or from the majors. It is therefore a novel finding that the industry is interestingly dynamic.

We concentrate on the single product petroleum sprit or gasoline and exclude products such as lubricant oil, liquefied gases and so on. We also mention only in passing additional services such as mechanical repairs, tyres batteries and accessories and so-called C-stores (convenience stores). We therefore omit detailed discussion of the supply chain except where it serves to explain the motives and strategies of the participants.

We take this data from the websites of major agencies and organisations in the industry to create a semi-chronologic record. In this regard the methodology is based on an objective 'historical methodology', such as Poole, Van de Ven, Dooley, and Holmes (2000:92) who, in Organizational Change and Innovation Processe,s set up six stages for historical method.


May Rosenthal Sloan, University of Glasgow, UK, ‘Ridley Road: An Edible World in Miniature'

The author of an unpublished work on Hackney’s social history held at the borough’s archive stated in 1950 that ‘Should a minority be oppressed in Europe, sooner or later elements of that minority will show up in East London. Periodic oppressions throughout history have formed a world in miniature in East London.’ Even for that time, this was an overly Eurocentric view however it captures rather well the atmosphere found in Ridley Road market, on the western border of the borough, where the ‘world in miniature’ is a particularly intense version, full of internationally diverse sounds, smells, people and above all, food.

Officially established in the 1920s, Ridley Road for many years represented more than any other, the local Jewish population in the goods on offer. When new groups of immigrants moved into Hackney, this was usually reflected in the market, where stalls selling to Turkish, Caribbean and West African customers amongst others, introduced new goods and traditions at various times. As layers of migration built up and the mix of people and foods became more complex, the networks of social and culinary influence between different customers and traders became more and more intricate. Like any chaotic human environment, the market today is full of surprises, paradoxes and unusual combinations. There are the white stallholders who ‘hate’ foreign food, though they sell yams and cassava to Caribbean customers, or the Jamaican man who through food, reinforces a surprising sense of solidarity with the now all but departed Jewish population. Unsurprisingly, many of the stallholders express fear and resentment toward the supermarkets, seen as encroaching upon even specialist ethnic food markets. Yet those same people very often admit to patronising Sainsbury, Tesco or Marks and Spencer themselves.

Following two historical papers on markets, this one will move decisively into the latter half of the twentieth century and use a case study approach to look at of one of the most ethnically diverse areas of the capital, through one of its busiest street markets. It will discuss the history of Ridley Road as well as using a more ethnographic methodology to discuss the dynamics between traders, customers and goods at play today. It will draw extensively on oral history interviews carried out over the last five years with traders and customers in the market. The material presented here forms part of May Rosenthal Sloan’s doctoral research into the relationship between food and ethnic identity in London and New York since 1945, undertaken in the History Department at the University of Glasgow and due for completion later this year.


Jon Stobart, University of Northampton, UK, ‘Buying Books: Networks, Knowledge and the Georgian Country House’

Luxury is central to the material culture of the country house and to many conceptualisations of the elite. Commentators from Adam Smith to Werner Sombart to Arjun Appadurai have distinguished luxury as a particular form of consumption, drawing a close link between luxury, status and honour. But luxury is a slippery and complex idea: a category that is contingent upon time and space, as well as culture and wealth. It links to public displays of wealth and status – and thus to the idea of positional goods used to distinguish elite groups – and to private pleasures of the mind and body. Books have long occupied a particular place in the pantheon of luxury goods. They fulfilled all of Appadurai’s register of consumption, being costly and often difficult to acquire; commanding semiotic virtuosity and specialised knowledge; and often being closely linked to the personality of the consumer. However, they were far from being straightforward luxuries, not least because different owners conceived and deployed their books in very different ways. For bibliophiles, the collection was all important and books were precious objects. Status came from owning rare volumes or first editions, and pleasure through possession rather than use. For the learned gentleman or antiquarian books were important as tools of learning: they represented the world of enlightenment understanding and were for reading. For others, books were about wealth and status: the library formed a forum for display, with the contents intended for show rather than consumption.

In this paper, I want to explore these different readings of the book as luxury through the libraries and consumption practices of two members of the English provincial elite. Sir Roger Newdigate (1719-1806) had his family seat at Arbury Hall in Warwickshire. A renowned scholar, MP for Middlesex and later Oxford University, Sir Roger spent much of his long life remodelling his home in the gothic style. His near neighbour, Edward, fifth Lord Leigh (1742-86), lived at Stoneleigh Abbey. Also with a reputation as something of an intellect, Edward spent lavishly in a burst of activity following his coming of age in 1763, completing the interiors of the Abbey in a conservative neo-classical style. Both men bought and owned a huge number of books, and their libraries were integral to their identity and status. Here, I draw on household accounts, receipted bills, catagloues and correspondence to reproduce a detailed picture of their different patterns and practices of book buying (including their relationships with booksellers); the number, type, quality and condition of the books purchased, and the ways in which they were stored, displayed and used. I argue that both men straddled the divide between the different types of book owner identified in the literature. Newdigate and Leigh were both men of learning and yet were concerned with the quality and presentation of the books which they bought: content and cover were both important in communicating something of their identity. Both used their libraries to construct and communicate social and educational status, investing in books as cultural and symbolic capital, and drawing on that capital in their dealings with their peers. Moreover, these libraries had a spatial expression within their houses: rooms that were planned and designed as spaces of learning and places to display knowledge, wealth and power. Perhaps most significantly, because their books survived them, they had the power to enhance status post-mortem – in the form of family heritance, important bequests or wider cultures of learning. In sum, I present the book as a multi-faceted and complex luxury, with particular and overlapping significance to the (elite) consumer.


Alessandra Tessari, University of Salento, Italy and University of Reading, UK, ‘Product Innovations and Market Creation in the Italian Poultry Industry, 1950-1980' 

The adoption of the American model of broiler mass production in the postwar era had lasting effects on the Italian poultry industry which soon became one of the most successful sectors of the domestic economy and a leading actor on the global scene. This occurred despite Government and retailers obstructing any modernization in the industry. There was no adequate policy and legislation in the poultry sector; moreover, given the highly fragmented distribution, most poultry products was sold by specialized independent retailers that had the upper hand with producers, since no competition came from supermarkets. Retailers were conservative and resisted any product innovation to maintain their privileged status quo and the ensuing additional revenues.

This paper examines the Italian poultry industry from the 1950s until 1980. Most data comes from the leading companies’ archives, while interviews with partners and managers provide valuable insight into strategies, products and market’s conditions. Furthermore, information on international trade, distribution, legislation and debates on State inertia has been gathered from newspapers and specialized magazines. This study focuses on the impact of State inertia and retailers’ resistance on the strategies developed by firms. Without industry regulation, unscrupulous producers led to a drop in the quality of meat and to a decreasing demand by the late 1950s. The first poultry companies simply adopted the US technologies thus supplying the market with a completely new product. Unfortunately, it matched the American tastes but was not suitable for the Italian ones, which lay more and more in higher quality products. Furthermore, like their US counterparts these companies focused on supermarkets instead of specialized shops so that they shortly declined as they failed to recognize the peculiarities of the Italian institutions. Adopting a marketing orientation, afterwards other companies hybridized the US model to better meet the specific requirements of the domestic market. They developed novel processes, products and distribution techniques, such as lending refrigerators to retailers free of charge and sponsoring meat stores under their own names (and reputation too); moreover they introduced brands as identity marks and sanitary guarantees. These marketing strategies reassured consumers and gained the retailers’ loyalty. Poultry production was not a commodity business anymore as it progressively became a branded one, while quality became the distinctive feature of the Italian broilers on the international markets.

This paper shows as this successful performance - even if predicated on foreign knowhow - depended crucially on entrepreneurial skills and local expertise since some entrepreneurs were the driving force behind this great breakthrough. Given the hostile context, the leading companies had to develop marketing strategies as well as micro and macro innovations which differed significantly from those of their US counterparts. In the end, what was superficially a mere process of technological transfer from the USA, actually followed a very different route as innovations pioneered by the Italians were subsequently adopted by the US firms, making this an exceptional case of knowledge transfer from Italy to the USA. Moreover, many scholars have pointed out the significant role played by retailers within the food supply networks emphasizing their progressive function in the social definition of foods or their leading part in modernizing the food industry. But this paper shows as in the case of the Italian poultry industry, it was quite the opposite.

The expansion of the concept of agribusiness from the original definition by Goldberg in 1960 implies a more complex analysis of the different actors along the food chain. As already suggested by R. Swartz with the “consumption junction” theory or by T.J. Pinch and W.E. Bicher with their social constructivist approach to technological products, innovations cannot be considered only from the producers side but it is necessary to look also at the crucial role played by consumers and other “relevant social groups”. In the end, this paper provides further evidence in support of this view.


Nelleke Teughels, Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Belgium, ‘Small Grocery Stores Become Big Business: A Case Study of Delhaize Frères & Cie and its Role in the Modernisation of the Traditional Corner Shop’

 In the 19th century, the increasing purchasing power of the working class, new market demands from the rising middle classes, the improvements in communication and transportation, and the industrial production of standardised, ready-packed and advertised brand products led to the emergence and multiplication of a new type of fixed-shop merchant: the multiple food retailer. These modern forms of retailing had a profound impact on the food distribution network, calling into question traditional retail methods.

Belgium was one of the European pioneers concerning multiple food retailers. The family firm Delhaize Frères & Cie ‘Le Lion’ started business in 1867, expanded rapidly into a nation-wide distribution network and produced an increasing part of its diversified product range in its own factories. This paper argues that Delhaize set a new standard for Belgian grocery stores, by introducing modern sales techniques, fixed prices, attractive window displays and meticulously clean, thoroughly organized shopping environments. The paper explores how these innovations in food retailing facilitated the task of grocery shopping. Moreover, in small villages the appearance of a Delhaize branch meant a first brush with the emerging consumer society.

It also wants to demonstrate how, despite its innovative organization, Delhaize conceived its branches as an improved version of a well-known concept that had already proven its worth: the traditional grocery store, firmly embedded in the local social fabric and offering personal customer service. In doing so, this paper wants to show how tradition and innovation went hand in hand in the modernisation of Belgian food distribution.


Alison Toplis, University of Wolverhampton, UK, 'How to, or how not to, Make a Profit: A Birmingham Draper's Trade with 1830s Van Diemen's Land'

In 1835, John Muston, a former hop and tea trader, wrote to the Birmingham draper Joseph James, from Hobart, Van Diemen’s Land, today known as Tasmania.  He commented that it was possible to make a fortune from trading in drapery but care must be taken to send over the right type of goods, only those that were of the latest fashions.  For a colonial town formed to hold convicts, where the population was still relatively small at around 16,000 and three-quarters of that population was male, setting up a fashionable drapery shop which focussed on female consumers was not the most obvious choice.  However, Muston, using existing family networks, sought to convince James of his venture’s worth and the profits that James might make from diversifying into a more global trade.

This paper will discuss the drapery and clothing trades with Van Diemen’s Land during the 1830s.  Using this as a case study, common difficulties for shopkeepers of the period will thus be highlighted as well as the solutions that were found to overcome these problems.  For instance, the way that a retailer needed to adapt to the commercial environment they operated within, rather than the ideal market as envisaged on the opposite side of the world will be discussed.  Pragmatic solutions to provide for all consumer preferences needed to be ascertained and acted upon quickly leading to variety of ways to retail to people across the social spectrum.  The trade with Van Diemen’s Land during the 1830s also presented enormous logistical challenges which impacted on the goods being offered for sale.  How these difficulties were overcome will be considered.

Both Muston and James ultimately succeeded in their antipodean venture but without each other, their family network disintegrating.  The enterprise and opportunities created by England’s provincial retailers as part of a growing international trade is brought clearly into focus by this case study.


Brigita Tranaviciute, Vytautas Magnus University, Lithuania, ‘The Transformations of the Soviet Enterprise in Lithuania in the Late 20th Century’

 According to the popular beliefs, the very idea of commercial activity and enterprising society was incompatible with the Soviet model of planned economy due to its numerous legal restrictions, concerning private ownership, wage labor, etc. In practice, however, nationalized economy was unable to satisfy all the needs of the Soviet citizens. For example, think of the problem of permanent deficit. Most likely for that reason some special business activities, that answered the daily demands, were allowed, although under hard control of the state. The legal basis of the Soviet Union allowed the people to perform outwork, i.e. to engage in producing and selling pedlary and small articles of daily necessity. Consequently, dressmaking, needlecraft, manufacturing of house wares and even certain kinds of service eventually turned into common enterprises of the Soviet society. Realization of the production in the appointed locations, possibility to use the help of family members and to spend the income to satisfy one‘s personal needs partly remind of the basic form of free private enterprise.

It is sometimes mistakenly assumed that all of these outwork enterprises were sort of underground activities that were not tolerated by the Soviet authorities. However, one should make a distinction between the activities, that were legal and the activities that were forbidden.  All of the above mentioned enterprises were mainly licensed by the acts of Soviet law with the intention to answer the daily needs. In spite of the common violations and abuse, the Soviet citizens were allowed to sew, knit, and produce small tools and to realize the production without breaking the law and the regulations indicated in the patents and enterprise registration certificates.

The rise of the enterprising initiatives on the personal and social levels is usually associated with the restoration of the independence of Lithuania, transition to the market economy and reconstruction of the legal base for business. The period of transit was actually characterized by a number of laws, intended to encourage the foundation of private companies, private large and smal-scale enterprises. In practice great demand and unrestricted possibilities to engage in small-scale manufacture and trade is what is usually associated with business as it is practiced in the framework of the market economy. During the transit period some proportion of society took advantages of the new possibilities. However, it is hardly believable, that this turn toward enterprise was brought about only new legal devices. Consequently, the rudiments of the enterprising society and certain commercial skills should be traced down to the planned economy.


Ros Watkiss, University of Wolverhampton, UK, ‘Doing Your Bit for the Country: Women and Saving, Government Initiatives c. 1939-1970’

The National Savings Movement was established in 1916 to encourage the British people to ‘Save and Prosper’. Local volunteers, supported by national committees and civil servants, sold a range of products through the Post Office Savings Bank. The need for investment in government schemes escalated in 1939 with the War Savings Campaign, and various strategies were used to encourage investment in the post-war era. Exhorted by advertisements in magazines and newspapers, encouraged by long service awards, and employer incentives, the schemes were extremely successful.  However, although patriotism undoubtedly played a role in women’s contributions to state finances their motives for saving were mixed.  Oral testimony in Birmingham and the Black Country indicates that, although women recognised the importance of “doing your bit for the country”, there was a good deal of pressure to fulfil community expectations, with many women explaining that they conformed in order to uphold their family’s status within their immediate neighbourhood.  The impetus to invest in government schemes was inspired by a combination of factors - national pride, the wish to contribute to the economic recovery of the country, and the desire to demonstrate that the family was respectable, financially stable and aspirational.  Utilising the testimony of those who sold the national savings stamps it is clear that although patriotism was one factor in the success of the scheme, in some instances women from tight-knit communities, where intimate knowledge of a family’s financial status was readily disseminated, felt an obligation to invest excessive sums in order to uphold personal and familial prestige.


Ben Wilcock, University of Manchester, UK, ‘Selling Spaces: marketing places of consumption in mid-to-late Georgian towns’

My paper will explore the use and marketing of commercial space in the late eighteenth century. Using early-industrialising towns in the North West of England and drawing from my doctoral research I will present evidence about how spaces of consumption were used and advertised by purveyors of high-end goods and services. My primary hypothesis is that the spaces of consumption were, for the discerning and conspicuous consumer, as important as the products themselves.

The long eighteenth century has become synonymous with notions of politeness and respectability. The widespread construction of social behaviour to indicate a proper and deserved public station, together with the current predominance of the study of consumption as a field of research for the period, has led to the creation of polite commercial space in towns in the eighteenth century become a focus of study for historians. Questions have been asked about the cause and effect of identifiable ‘leisure towns’ in England, their effect on the region in which they were situated and their prominence nationally. Northern industrial towns, though, have been largely ignored in this spatial study of eighteenth-century consumerism, and little work has been done to examine the high-end shopping streets and districts of towns such as Manchester and Liverpool, despite the well-documented rise in size and population of these towns throughout the eighteenth century.

I will explore the physical spaces intended for the display, marketing and purchase of high-end consumer goods and the cultural value that these new shops, streets and squares took on. Through analysis of contemporary accounts, maps, newspaper advertisements, civil orders and visual material I will assess they way in which established space was altered to accommodate an increased market for polite consumption, and how new space was created to maximise the luxury shopping experience.


Eva Maria von Wyl, University of Zurich, Switzerland, ’The Introduction of Self-Service in Switzerland: Why the Americans Had No Chance to Conquer Europe’s Retail Market’

The first self-service food store in Switzerland was opened in Zurich by Gottlieb Duttweiler’s Migros on Monday, March 19, 1948. At that time, there were many people in Switzerland that expressed their dislike, even resentment, by blaming self-service for “Americanization”, “dehumanization”, and “support of materialism” in various newspaper articles and contemporary studies on the introduction of self-service. Migros did not inform the press about the revolutionary changes they made to their largest store in the city center until two weeks after the re-opening. Yet, people flocked to the new store to examine the American sales system. It soon became clear that the new Migros food store was going to be a great success. Its sales volume rose even though wartime rationing had not yet been completely abolished. Soon another self-service store opened in Zurich, run by the food cooperative of Zurich (Lebensmittelverein Zurich) that is today part of Coop Switzerland. Journalists and housewives loved the innovative, time saving way of grocery shopping, as they expressed in a series of newspaper articles and letters to the editor. Both praised the aesthetic display of thousands of different goods, the quick, rationalized shopping experience and the possibility of examining the goods in their hands before buying.

On the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, the Americans were investing a lot of money and energy into Europe’s war recovery. Various firms were trying to enter Western European markets to expand their business. Nelson A. Rockefeller’s International Economy Corporation (IBEC), for instance, went on various research journeys through Western Europe. However, they soon had to realize that except from Italy they would not be able to establish their own super market chain. This paper discusses, on the one hand, why the Americans had not much of a chance in conquering Europe’s retail market in the postwar period by following the introduction of self-service in Switzerland. On the other hand, it shows that even though the Swiss retailers were first introduced to self-service – as everyone else – on research journeys to the United States, it was the English and especially the Swedish cooperatives that, in the end, influenced their Swiss counterparts the most.

Sessions abstracts

Innovation and tradition in food retailing: (un)successful responses to new market demands

During the nineteenth century, traditional forms of food retailing were confronted with substantial and structural changes in society and economy. On the one hand, industrial innovations, the increase in urban population, the decrease of urban food self-sufficiency as well as altered market demands from the new and rising middle classes, offered new possibilities. On the other hand these changes in urban society and economy posed new challenges to retailers and the distribution system as a whole. To meet the altered demands, new forms of retailing, such as food multiples, appeared alongside age-old forms of distribution, such as markets and peddling. Traditionally, historiography has tended to stress the modernity of nineteenth-century retailing, with a focus on innovative initiatives. The more traditional forms of distribution and their attempts to adapt to changing circumstances were most often left outside the scope. This one-sided focus on innovation has nevertheless led to a distorted view of nineteenth-century retailing. Indeed, recent research has pointed towards the success of more traditional ways of buying and selling. 

In order to gain a more balanced view of ‘modernity’ and ‘tradition’ in food retailing during the nineteenth-century, this session will explore the different reactions of the distribution sector to the altered market demands. How did new market players try to adapt to new needs? What impact did they have on the distribution sector and the social and cultural aspects of food consumption? What happened to the more traditional forms of selling? Where they resilient in using their traditional selling practices or did they try to adapt? What kind of new commercial strategies were adopted? Which forms of distribution – old, adapted or new – succeeded, which ones failed and how can these differences in prosperity be explained? What kind of dynamic developed between old and new forms of distribution? And were the more innovative retail institutions always as prosperous as we tend to believe?

The different papers in this session will focus on successful and unsuccessful responses to the altered circumstances in food demand and supply.


 (Re)Conceptualising the Shop Space: Exploring “the shop” as a product to be conspicuously consumed

The history of retail and commerce is an expanding academic field that draws together scholars from a broad range of specialities and periods. The study of the spaces of consumption is an emerging discourse of this wider field, but it lacks the intellectual rigor that characterises analyses on the cultural meaning of products and consumer relations. Our cross-discipline panel brings together three PhD candidates that are currently pioneering exciting, but different, fields of study. We explicitly address the shop space as a product in itself, and explore the ways in which it has been experienced by the consumer in different contexts. Ben Wilcock is working on eighteenth-century consumption and will present evidence on the marketing of commercial shop spaces in pre-industrial towns in the North West of England. Ed Owens is working on the public image of the British royal family in the twentieth century. His paper on the wedding of Princess Marina of Greece to Prince George Duke of Kent in 1934 explores how retail space was marketed as an environment in which to enjoy “in comfort” the BBC broadcast of the wedding ceremony. Jessica Field analyses the development of charity fundraising technologies in mid-to-late twentieth century Britain. Her paper will present a spatial analysis of the Stornoway ActionAid shop as an exemplar commercial outlet for the expression of compassionate consumption. The three papers are diverse in historical breadth, but clearly present an emerging narrative of the shop space as a product to be lived and consumed.


 On the Streets: London’s retail markets 1800 - 2012

 John Benson and Laura Ugolini, in A Nation of Shopkeepers, note the tendency of retail history to concentrate on analysing innovation. In the modern period retail innovations have included the rise of department stores, co-operatives and multiple retailers, as vertical integration brought economies of scale, and mass-market brands emerged. Benson and Ugolini identify a cluster of more traditional practices, including market selling, as a neglected area in the history of retailing, overlooked in the secondary literature, but that ‘deserves study in its own right’. This panel takes up the challenge to address one aspect of this neglect, looking specifically at the London street market. London’s retailing is often told as a narrative of glamour and spectacle, with the great stores of Oxford Street and Regent Street as the chief characters. But many primary accounts describe the contrasting spectacle of the market streets, the main source of provisions, household goods and clothing for working-class consumers well into the twentieth century. As well as cheap food and sundries, these markets offered entertainment and sociality, and constituted sites of independent working-class material culture that resisted local government attempts at regulation and control, yet were an important part of the retail economy of the capital. In more recent years, London’s markets have reflected the changing ethnic mix of the city, retaining many of their traditional locations but altering to meet the new demands of the communities around them. They are a prime example of ‘retailing in hard times’ offering their customers everyday items at bargain prices.

This panel brings together papers by three researchers who are working to uncover the little-known world of the London street market. Between them, the papers offer a chronological span that stretches from 1800 to the present day, and raise many important research issues in this field.


INFORMATION

FEES

You can choose between a residential and a day package:

Conference package 1: Residential package (inclusive of conference fee, refreshments, B&B accommodation on 5 September and conference dinner on 5 September. Accommodation on 4 and 6 September can be added)

- Full residential package - £140

- Postgraduate residential package - £ 95

- Overnight accommodation (B&B), 4 September - £ 30

- Overnight accommodation (B&B), 6 September - £ 30

Conference package 2: Day package (inclusive of conference fee and refreshments. The conference dinner on 5 September can be added)

- Day package 5 and 6 September - £100

- Day package 5 September only - £ 55

- Day package 6 September only - £ 55

- Conference dinner 5 September - £ 25

REGISTRATION

To register, please fill in the registration form and send to the address indicated on the form

PAYMENT

The following payment methods are accepted: cheque / bank transfer / credit card (payments can be made on-line or by telephone)

Please make cheques payable to 'the University of Wolverhampton' and send with your registration form to the address indicated.

If you wish to pay by credit card or bank transfer, please contact Laura Ugolini at L.Ugolini@wlv.ac.uk (please do not e-mail your credit card details)

If you have any queries or require any further information, please do not hesitate to contact: Laura Ugolini at L.Ugolini@wlv.ac.uk

THE VENUE

The conference venue (including accommodation) is the University of Wolverhampton’s Telford Campus, located near Telford, Shropshire.

Maps and directions to the campus are available here: http://www.wlv.ac.uk/default.aspx?page=7885

More information about Telford, the nearby Ironbridge Gorge and (beautiful!) Shropshire in general, is available from the Shropshire Tourism web-site, at http://www.shropshiretourism.co.uk/

Further details about Ironbridge are available here: http://www.ironbridge.info/index.php

This web-site may also be useful to plan your journey to Telford: http://www.transportdirect.info/Web2/Home.aspx

Railway times and fares can be found here: http://www.nationalrail.co.uk/

If you require any further information, please do not hesitate to contact Laura Ugolini, at l.ugolini@wlv.ac.uk


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Page author: Laura Ugolini
Last updated: May 2012