Abstracts - for the 5th September 2012

Retailing and Distribution History - CHORD Conference

Abstracts 14.00-15.30

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.

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.

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.

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.

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 above mentioned 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.

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.


Dr Laura Ugolini

Room MC334

Tel: 01902 321890

Email: L.Ugolini@wlv.ac.uk