Department Store

The department store was brought to its first peak in the middle of the 19th century in Paris. It was seized on and developed as a central feature of American urban life by the pioneers based particularly in Chicago. Subsequently Gordon Selfridge left Chicago to bring the idea to London in the early 20th century. This is a comparative social history of the department store in its manifestations on both sides of the Atlantic over a period of 70 years. It deals at length with the importance of the department store in the history of retailing and with its role in the transformation of urban life, particularly the city centre, the rise of the consumer and the economic and social liberation of women. Bill Lancaster addresses the architecture and technology of the department store and the influences upon its design of new ideas about retailing and new technologies. Also dealt with at length is the change in its customer base – the move from catering merely to upper- and middle-class clientele to temples of mass consumption of the 1900s. Finally the book reviews the development of rivalry in the city centre between department stores, the trends in retailing since the 1930s and the impact of the out-of-town store on the health and appeal of the city-centre department store.

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