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The role of department stores in the evolution of marketing: Primary source records from Australia

Ellen McArthur (Marketing, Griffith University, Brisbane, Australia)

Journal of Historical Research in Marketing

ISSN: 1755-750X

Article publication date: 4 November 2013




The purpose of this paper is to present historical research on marketing practices in department stores of the 1880-1930 period using primary source records from Australia.


The paper draws from primary records including retail trade journals, mass circulation newspapers, and other contemporary sources, but mainly from the archives of The Master Retailers' Association (MRA). The MRA was the dominant industry employers' organisation in Australia, and possibly the first retail association of its kind in the Western world. Secondary sources have also been used to supplement the primary records, and to provide context, and cross-cultural comparisons.


The findings demonstrate the antecedents of a range of marketing practices that today we presume are modern, including sales promotion, trade promotion, direct mail, destination retailing, advertising, and consumer segmentation. This supports other scholars' research into marketing's long history.


This paper contributes original knowledge to the neglected field of Australian marketing history and connects the pioneering practices of retailers to the broader field of marketing. While some outstanding retail histories exist for the USA, UK, and France, the Australian story has remained largely uncovered.



McArthur, E. (2013), "The role of department stores in the evolution of marketing: Primary source records from Australia", Journal of Historical Research in Marketing, Vol. 5 No. 4, pp. 449-470.



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