department stores


department stores
   The Great Exhibition of 1851 was the inspiration for the development of department stores. William Whiteley built the first department store in London’s Bayswater in 1863. The creation of department stores marked a crucial point in the development of mass marketing. The stores provided a manifest symbol of new possibilities, themselves dependent upon the development of mass advertising, a cheap, fast and effective transport network and new skills of accountancy, packaging and stock control. Although department stores should have prospered as living standards rose and the middle classes became the biggest part of the population, they failed to adapt with the times and successfully to negotiate the fierce competition from specialist chains. By the 1960s department stores, with their lack of parking and neglected shabby appearance, were of little interest to the new consumer. The new generation of consumers was paralleled by a new generation of retailers and manufacturers. Harrods, Britain’s most famous department store, originally opened as a grocery store in 1849 by Charles Harrod, also found the 1960s enormously difficult. However, it is important to understand that Harrods is more than just another department store; in the 1990s it ranked with Buckingham Palace and the Tower of London as essential on any tourist’s itinerary, to the extent that half of its £300 million annual turnover is secured from overseas customers. Harrods has had a long and involved history of battles for ownership. Perhaps the most famous power struggle occurred in 1984, between the Egyptian Al Fayed brothers and Lonrho’s Tiny Rowland.
   See also: supermarkets and malls
   Further reading
    Benson, J. (1994) The Rise of Consumer Society in Britain 1880-1980, Harlow: Longman.
   FATIMA FERNANDES

Encyclopedia of contemporary British culture . . 2014.

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