Category Archives: 2019 Events

Workshop: ‘Retailing and Community’

Retailing and Community:

The Social Dimensions of Commerce in Historical Perspective

9 May 2019

University of Woverhampton

The Centre for the History of Retailing and Distribution ­invites participants to a workshop that aims to explore the social, activist and communal aspects of retail from a historical perspective.

PROGRAMME

10.30 – 11.00        COFFEE  AND WELCOME

Chair: Laura Ugolini, University of Wolverhampton

11.00 – 11.30     Alistair Kefford, University of Leicester

Civic Visions of Consumerism? Post-1945 British Planning and the Reorganisation of Urban Retailing

11.30 – 12.00     Grace Millar, University of Wolverhampton

‘The grocer carried me for three months’: Understanding shop credit during extended strikes and lockouts

12.00 – 12.30     Pierre Botcherby, University of Warwick

Representing local interests in post-industrial town centre regeneration:
a case study of St. Helens, Merseyside

12.30 – 13.30       LUNCH

13.30 – 15.00       Charity Shops

Chair: Ian Mitchell, University of Wolverhampton

Marjorie Gehrhardt, University of Reading

Salvation Army stores, 1890-1914: charitable or commercial ventures?

George Gosling, University of Wolverhampton

Charity shops and commercial traders: a history of rivalry or collaboration?

Triona Fitton, University of Kent

Blurring boundaries: ‘The Gift’ reimagined in the contemporary British charity shop

15.00 15.30        COFFEE

Chair: George Gosling, University of Wolverhampton

15.30 16.00       Ian Mitchell, University of Wolverhampton

Much more than a Store: Co-ops in northern and midland England 1870-1914

16.00  16.30       Cath Feely, University of Derby

‘Certainly nothing half so revealing exists in documentary form’:  The Local Newsagent in Interwar Britain

16.30 17.00       Tim Allen, Plunkett Foundation

A proposal from Plunkett Foundation on the story of community shops

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INFORMATION AND REGISTRATION

The workshop will be held in Room MH108-9, on the first floor of the Mary Seacole (MH) Building, City Campus, University of Wolverhampton.

The Mary Seacole (MH) Building is located on City Campus Molineux, a short (c. 15 minutes) walk from Wolverhampton’s bus and train stations.

For maps and directions, please see:

http://www.wlv.ac.uk/about-us/contacts-and-maps/all-maps-and-directions/map-and-directions-for-city-campus-wolverhampton/

 The fee is £ 20

 To register, please complete the registration form available here (The link will take you to the University of Wolverhampton’s E-store)

For further information, please e-mail Laura Ugolini at: l.ugolini@wlv.ac.uk

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ABSTRACTS

Tim Allen, Plunkett Foundation, UK

A proposal from Plunkett Foundation on the story of community shops

Plunkett Foundation is the national expert on rural community business in the UK. Community businesses are enterprises that are owned and run democratically by members of the community and others, on behalf of the community. As a charity, we have long been advocating the community business model and we are in fact celebrating our centenary in 2019 which is a testament to the resilience of the community business model.

We would welcome the opportunity to present on the community shop sector at the ‘Retailing and Community: The Social Dimensions of Commerce in Historical Perspective’ conference. With our history, knowledge and experience in the community shop sector we would provide a background of the history of community shops, with a more detailed presentation on the community shop sector today.

Earlier this year we published our ‘2018 Community Shops: A Better Form of Business report which highlights that in 2017 there were 346 community shops trading in the UK by the end of the year with a long-term survival rate of 94%. These 346 shops were owned by over 61,000 shareholders with an average of 177 shareholders per shop. In terms of economic impact, managed community shops generated average annual turnovers of £161, 874 per shop; £53 million in total with each shop creating an average of 4 paid jobs and 30 volunteer opportunities.

Our presentation would also include reference to a number of community shop case studies to illustrate the social impact community shops have on rural communities across the UK, as well as an insight into the current challenges faced by the community shop sector today, key trends and reflections on the support needs to ensure the community shop network continues to thrive in the long term for the benefit of rural communities.

Pierre Botcherby, University of Warwick, UK

Representing local interests in post-industrial town centre regeneration:
a case study of St. Helens, Merseyside

For many towns across Britain today, town centre regeneration is a pressing issue. This is particularly so in towns like St. Helens suffering from de-industrialisation. Socially, de-industrialisation erodes community-generating institutions: shared workplaces, social spaces, neighbourhood networks, etc. Economically, de-industrialisation depresses wages which affects town centres and high streets – also institutional props of community – already threatened by retail parks and online shopping. In seeking a new post-industrial identity, an attractive town centre is seen as vitally important for de-industrialised towns, featuring prominently in Local Plans. Urban regeneration is holistic, encompassing housing and employment alongside retail and services, but without a thriving centre places like St. Helens risk becoming ‘doughnut’ towns, suburban dormitories for residents who work, shop, and socialise elsewhere.

Through the lens of St. Helens, this paper examines how town centre regeneration projects can be balanced with the needs and expectations of local residents. This consideration is part of a wider project concerning the impact of de-industrialisation and post-industrial regeneration on working-class towns and communities. Like the different strands of urban regeneration, the different institutions which generate community are mutually influencing. Early industrialists contributed much to the town’s development and amenities. Later, residents’ consumerist thirst encouraged shopping centres and chain stores, facilitated by spending power from stable industrial employment. This consumerism, so long hailed as proof of ordinary citizens’ improving quality of life, is now contributory to town centre decline.

This paper argues that local residents – the local community – should be involved in town centre regeneration. The individuals who make up local communities impact the high street directly – it is a lived space where local community is performed and reflected. Concerns over gentrification or ‘boutiquing’ are likely less founded in towns where many residents would still be working class, were jobs available to give that label tangible meaning. Old working-class communities cannot be artificially recreated and ‘local’ communities are increasingly unbounded by geography, but a sense of togetherness – community – amongst residents can be rekindled, demonstrated in St. Helens by local action groups and volunteer schemes. There is the challenge of ensuring all voices receive a fair hearing, as community is not homogeneous. Local councils must therefore take community involvement seriously, whilst action groups must ensure they acquire and maintain sufficient legitimacy in their representation of residents’ opinions. In the aftermath of de-industrialisation ignorant of local people’s needs, it is important to understand why residents want their interests accounted for in post-industrial regeneration projects.

Cath Feely, University of Derby, UK

‘Certainly nothing half so revealing exists in documentary form’:  The Local Newsagent in Interwar Britain

Between the launch of the Daily Mail in 1896 and the mid-twentieth century, reading the newspaper became a daily habit for the vast majority of the British population. By the early 1950s, 85% of people regularly read a newspaper and per capita consumption was the highest in the world. As the industry grew, a new type of business was born: the retail newsagent. These businesses became integral to urban, suburban and rural high streets alike, connecting local populations with national and international concerns. Recent work has firmly established that the history of the popular press is central to understanding modern British cultural and social history (Bingham 2009; Bingham 2012; Bingham and Conboy, 2015). Indeed, throughout the twentieth century, popular newspapers exerted an ‘enormous impact’ on ‘mass politics as a component of everyday life’ (Mort 2011). Yet there has been very little historical attention paid to the places in which these newspapers were bought and sold and to the people who sold them.

This paper uses a variety of sources, including the trade press, retail design guides, architectural plans and photographs to explore the emergence of the newsagent shop as a space of ‘common culture’ in interwar Britain and argues that they played an important role in the creation of an increasingly commercial  urban and suburban landscape. Relatively neglected by historians in favour of the opulent spaces of the picture palace and dancehall, this research suggests that this ‘everyday’ retail space rapidly became integral to understandings of ‘community’.

Triona Fitton, University of Kent, UK

Blurring boundaries: ‘The Gift’ reimagined in the contemporary British charity shop

There is a small pool of literature on charity shops, predominantly focused on the UK although there work on US and Canadian thrift stores (eg. Mitchell, Montgomery, & Rauch, 2009) and in Australia (eg. Podkalicka & Meese, 2012). UK studies have examined topics such as shop donor decision making, shop location planning, the charity shop as part of the ‘alternative economy’, merchandise diversity and volunteer management. A small pool of research, conducted in the early 2000s, has specifically examined how ‘professionalisation’, particularly the rise of bureaucracy, monitoring and other methods attributed to the private or public sectors, is on the rise in charity shops (Goodall, 2002; Gregson, Brooks & Crewe, 2002; Parsons, 2002, Broadbridge & Parsons, 2002, 2003a, 2003b), despite these shops being (presumably) situated within the voluntary sector.

This paper presents a new avenue of research that examines the way processes of the public and private spheres intersect within the charity shop space. Based on an ethnographic case study of two contemporary charity shops, two phenomena were identified that further explore this peculiar intersection. There were the processes of ‘Gifts in Kind’, and ‘Retail Gift Aid’, the former being predominantly en-masse donations directly from (private) retailers, and the latter being a state-designated tax relief charity shops may claim on the money earned from donations of physical items.

This work explores the ways these two conceptions of ‘the Gift’ are mobilised, using the work of Marcel Mauss (1954), Jacques Derrida (1992) and Georges Bataille (1988) to question whether a ‘gift’ within the charity shop is truly a gift at all.

The findings indicate that the way contemporary charity shops operate reflects the wider ‘hybridisation’ of the voluntary sector, demonstrating co-existing yet “alien principles drawn from the public and private sectors” (Billis.: 60). They also indicate how British charity shops represent a difficult pairing of values – that of charity or goodwill with the need to make profit and exploit resources – which is mitigated by adopting techniques and informal partnerships with both the state and the private sphere. The findings draw attention to how charity shops and the ‘gifts’ within them have changed over time, in response to the economic crisis and other pressures.

Marjorie Gehrhardt, University of Reading, UK

Salvation Army stores, 1890-1914: charitable or commercial ventures?

The Salvation Army, previously known as the East London Christian Mission, was created in 1865. Its aim, as described by founder William Booth in his 1890 essay In Darkest England and the Way Out, was to ‘bring not only heavenly hopes and earthly gladness to the hearts of multitudes of these wretched crowds, but also many material blessings, including such commonplace things as food, raiment, home, and work, the parent of so many other temporal benefits (Booth, 1890: 3). Salvage stores were set up in London in 1890 and soon spread throughout Great Britain and abroad, as the ‘mission field’ of the Salvation Army expanded. According to Booth, the Salvation Army retail ventures were originally intended to supply the most destitute with basic goods but as this paper will show, their remit evolved and reached well beyond this initial focus. How, exactly, did stores fit in the Salvation Army’s broader vision? How were they organised and what strategies were used to appeal to both donors and customers? Finally, how did contemporary observers respond to their existence?

Drawing upon Salvation Army periodicals (including The War Cry and The Field Officer), newspaper articles and publications by contemporary commentators, this paper examines the development of retail ventures that ‘pioneered […] an expanded, distinctly new, material culture of philanthropy’ (Roddy, Strange and Taithe, 2019: 41). The combination of charitable and commercial purposes and methods in terms of the goods offered for sale but also of supply and of promotion campaigns will be analysed. Through its focus on the late 19th and early 20th centuries, this paper aims to contribute to our understanding of the historical place of retail within a charity’s relief activities and fundraising programmes, in line with some of the workshop’s proposed themes.

George Gosling, University of Wolverhampton, UK

Charity shops and commercial traders: a history of rivalry or collaboration?

On 8 February 2019, the Daily Mail declared the ‘invasion of the charity shops’ had meant Worcester’s Mealcheapen Street was now ‘so overrun with charity shops that traders are calling for them to be licensed to curb their spread’.[1] This was the latest in a long tradition of journalism apportioning some blame for the decline of the high street to charity shops, for driving away business and/or undercutting commercial traders thanks to tax advantages. Tensions and rivalries are the narrative by which the relationship between charity shops and local commercial traders is typically framed.

This paper will draw upon research using local newspapers and charity archives, to look back to the earlier history of charity shops, asking whether the arrival of charity shops on the high street was framed in the same way.

The relationship between the two in the postwar period was likewise one that often focused on the use of high street spaces, however it was more commonly framed in terms of collaboration than competition. An important difference between then and now was that most charity shops were not permanent fixtures on the high street but were seasonal traders, often opening for a number of weeks in the run-up to Christmas. This reinforced a certain short-termism, which meant that even longer-running charity shops were managing a degree of uncertainty over their trading spaces, which were often being constantly renegotiated.

By way of supporting charity shops in meeting this challenge, local authorities, community organisations and notably commercial and co-operative retailers were amongst those making otherwise empty spaces available to use in charity retail. This paper will discuss this practice and what it can tell us about the ways in which the relationship between charity shops and their commercial counterparts developed, as they first became a common feature of the British high street.

[1] Claire Duffin, ‘Invasion of the charity shops: Eight out of 20 businesses on a street in the historic city of Worcester are now second-hand stores as traders demand they are licensed to curb their spread’, Daily Mail, 8 February 2019. Available online at https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-6684443/Eight-20-businesses-street-historic-city-Worcester-second-hand-stores.html

Alistair Kefford, University of Leicester, UK

Civic Visions of Consumerism? Post-1945 British Planning and the Reorganisation of Urban Retailing

This paper explores a lesser known aspect of the post-WW2 planned redevelopment of Britain’s towns and cities—the reorganisation of urban retailing. It shows how new planning powers were applied in collaboration with property developers and major retailers in order to remodel, rationalise, and expand urban shopping environments. Paradoxically, the present-day urban shopping landscape of carefully-managed and maintained central shopping districts and enclosed shopping malls is as much a product of public planning and deliberation as it is a symbol of unfettered retail capitalism. Yet planning histories have tended to bypass this aspect of post-war urban management in favour of social housing programmes, while retail historians have tended to credit the industry’s organisational and infrastructural improvements in this era to the strategic innovations of the private sector alone.

This paper will show that, not only did local planning authorities play a critical role in the reorganisation of retailing, but that the deep involvement of the public sector also lent post-war retail developments a specific social and political character. For many public planners, major urban redevelopments were intended to invigorate the local public sphere as well as inject new life into urban retail economies. Local authorities often saw such projects as a means to promote new forms of civic culture and participation—to reenergise the urban civitas—through an accommodation with the burgeoning values and cultures of affluent consumerism. As a result, both in their design and in their presentation, post-war urban shopping developments represented an attempt to harness civic values with new commercial cultures of consumption, and reflected the wider post-war accommodation between welfare statehood and affluence, social citizenship and commercial consumerism.

The paper suggests that this attempt to unite civic and consumer cultures was fraught with problems, and ultimately proved unstable and difficult to sustain. Such projects often foundered on the divergent priorities of councils and their retail business partners, and they also attracted criticism from many citizens who disapproved of the attempt to mingle the public and the commercial spheres.

Grace Millar, University of Wolverhampton, UK

‘The grocer carried me for three months’: Understanding shop credit during extended strikes and lockouts

Maureen Martin was pregnant when her husband went on strike in the 1951 New Zealand Waterfront dispute. In an oral history recorded almost fifty years later, she suggested that credit from her grocer was key to her family’s ability to survive five months without wages.  Maureen Martin was not alone. Although there has been little systematic study of retailers’ credit during extended industrial disputes, it appears frequently in both individual narratives and historical accounts in a wide range of times and places.

Retail credit during extended strikes and lockouts was both a reflection of everyday practices and a substantial expansion of it. In addition, it complicates existing understanding of donations during strikes, which tend to focus on solidarity and donations as political acts. Retailers may have offered credit as an act of solidarity, but there was also an element of economic self-interest and most importantly an existing pattern of relationships and practices.

This paper argues that credit during strikes and lockouts provide an opportunity to understand aspects of working-class community relationships that can be hard for historians to access – including community relationships between retailers and customers. This is particularly true as industrial disputes tend to be better documented and more widely remembered than every day practices.  It uses two case studies where retailers offered extensive credit, the New Zealand 1951 Waterfront Lockout and the 1984/5 British Miners’ strike, to demonstrate the potential of using these times of crisis to deepen our understanding the place of retailers within working class communities.

Ian Mitchell, University of Wolverhampton, UK

Much more than a Store: Co-ops in northern and midland England 1870-1914

The late 19th century and early 20th witnessed a revolution in retailing in the UK: most obviously the appearance and spread of department stores (even if definitions are problematic); and the explosion of multiple stores. The gradual but persistent spread of co-operative stores has, perhaps, been less well documented. Yet in many towns, particularly in the north and midlands, the Co-op was one of the most visible retailers with its ‘Central Stores’ being a substantial department store in all but name.

Yet the Co-op was much more than just a store. Members benefitted from the dividend and were encouraged to save. They were offered a wide range of social and educational opportunities. The Women’s Guild both empowered female members and promoted talks and activities that went well beyond the conventional view of women’s interests in the late 19th century. In many towns the Co-op could represent a lifestyle choice as well as a shop.

Perhaps because of its disparate nature, the Co-op has attracted less interest from historians, particularly those focussed on retailing and consumption than might have been expected. Perhaps this is partly because it has been hard to categorise. Also, while archival evidence is plentiful, trawling through minute books to find nuggets among much dross is time-consuming.

This paper focuses on the Co-op in three places: Bolton (Lancashire), Sheffield (Yorkshire) and Derby (Derbyshire). The first two were very much in the Co-op heartland; Derby slightly less so. There was an active and well-documented Women’s Guild at Bolton; the Sheffield society was interested in promoting arts and crafts; the Derby Co-op was primarily a retailer, but a significant presence in the town.

There is an element of ‘work in progress’ about this paper, the research for which is one part of a larger project on shops and shopping in northern and midland England in the period 1870-1914.

Charity fair detail2
Detail from ‘Garden of John Penn, St James’s Park: A charity fair for Charing Cross Hospital. Coloured lithograph by G. Scharf, 1830’. Courtesy of Wellcome Collection.
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Conference call for papers: Retailing and Distribution in the Nineteenth Century

10 September 2019

University of Wolverhampton, UK

Figure 1

Anonymous British watercolour, 19th century, 67.539.314, Purchase, Harry G. Friedman Bequest, 1967. Courtesy of https://www.metmuseum.org

The Centre for the History of Retailing and Distribution ­invites submissions for a conference that aims to explore retailing and distribution in the nineteenth century.

Papers focusing on any geographical area or topic are welcome. We invite both experienced and new speakers, including speakers without an institutional affiliation. Potential speakers are welcome to discuss their ideas with the organiser before submission (please see details below).

Some of the themes that  might be considered include (but are not limited to):

  • Department stores, chain stores, bazaars
  • Shopkeeping and shopping
  • Second-hand, pawnbroking, jumble sales and charities
  • Small-scale and independent shops
  • Modernity and tradition in retailing
  • Transport and distribution
  • Markets, itinerant traders, tallymen and commercial travellers
  • Retailing, production and wholesaling
  • Displays and advertising
  • Credit and debt
  • Urban and rural retailing
  • Regulation, trade organisations and legislation
  • Retailing, distribution and politics

Individual papers are usually 20 minutes in length, followed by 10 minutes for questions and discussion. We also welcome shorter, 10 minute ‘work in progress’ presentations, also followed by 10 minutes for discussion.

Figure 4

Camille Pissarro, The Market at Gisors: Rue Cappeville, 1894-5, 39.102.1, Harris Brisbane Dick Fund, 1939. Courtesy of https://www.metmuseum.org

To submit a proposal, please send title and abstract of c.300 to 400 words, specifying whether you are proposing a 10 or a 20 minute presentation (as a word or similar file, please, rather than a pdf) to Laura Ugolini, at l.ugolini@wlv.ac.uk by 17 May 2019.

If you are unsure whether to submit a proposal or would like to discuss your ideas, please e-mail Laura Ugolini at l.ugolini@wlv.ac.uk

The conference will be held on Wolverhampton City Campus, University of Wolverhampton, a short walk from Wolverhampton’s bus and train stations and city centre. For maps and directions to the campus please click here

For further information, please e-mail Laura Ugolini at: l.ugolini@wlv.ac.uk

Figure 3

Utagawa Yoshitora, Snow at an Early Morning Market , 1861, 2007.49.187, Bequest of William S. Lieberman, 2005. Courtesy of https://www.metmuseum.org

 

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Workshop call for papers – Retailing and Community

CALL FOR PAPERS:

Retailing and Community:

The Social Dimensions of Commerce in Historical Perspective

9 May 2019

University of Woverhampton

The Centre for the History of Retailing and Distribution ­invites submissions for a workshop that aims to explore the social, activist and communal aspects of retail from a historical perspective.

Papers focusing on any historical period, geographical area or topic are welcome. We invite both experienced and new speakers, including speakers without an institutional affiliation. Potential speakers are welcome to discuss their ideas with the organiser before submission (please see details below).

Some of the themes that  might be considered include (but are not limited to):

  • Co-operative and community shops
  • Retailer – community relations
  • Charity shops, fairs and bazaars
  • Not-for-profit retail and commerce
  • The material culture of charity
  • Charity, networks and sociability
  • Consumer protests and boycotts
  • Charity fund-raising and distribution networks

Individual papers are usually 20 minutes in length, followed by 10 minutes for questions and discussion. We also welcome shorter, 10 minute ‘work in progress’ presentations, also followed by 10 minutes for discussion.

To submit a proposal, please send title and abstract of c.300 to 400 words, specifying whether you are proposing a 10 or a 20 minute presentation to Laura Ugolini, at l.ugolini@wlv.ac.uk by 15 February 2019.

If you are unsure whether to submit a proposal or would like to discuss your ideas before submission, please e-mail Laura Ugolini at l.ugolini@wlv.ac.uk

The workshop will be held at the University of Wolverhampton’s City Campus, a short walk from Wolverhampton’s bus and train stations. Maps and directions are available HERE

For further information, please e-mail Laura Ugolini at: l.ugolini@wlv.ac.uk

Charity fair detail2
Detail from ‘Garden of John Penn, St James’s Park: A charity fair for Charing Cross Hospital. Coloured lithograph by G. Scharf, 1830’. Courtesy of Wellcome Collection.

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Filed under 2019 Events, 2019 workshops