As the 1980s drew to a close a plethora of retrospective articles and programmes appeared in the media analysing, panning and celebrating perceiving key moments and transitions in collective British life during the previous decade. A common theme in both ‘business’ (The Money Programme, 7/01/1990), and ‘cultural’ (The Late Show, 15/09/1990) programming of this type was the representation of Britain's ‘retail revolution’ as one of the most significant phenomenon of the age. The ubiquitous presence of retail, it was argued, extended well beyond the simple proliferation of shopping centres throughout the UK. Retail had, in an important sense become a defining motif of the decade, ‘an approach, an ideology almost, permeating the culture’ (Gardner and Sheppard 1989, p. 66). It had at its core a celebration of the marketplace and of the ‘sovereign consumer’ which echoed strongly with the prevailing political climate. As one commentator put it ‘retailing is … virtually the paradigm of the Enterprise Culture’ (Bamfield 1988). It is not difficult to see why.
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