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Article
Publication date: 19 January 2010

Tracey Deutsch

The purpose of this paper is to synthesize the papers written for this special issue, to suggest some themes and problems emerging from recent retail history, and to bring…

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Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to synthesize the papers written for this special issue, to suggest some themes and problems emerging from recent retail history, and to bring together work from a variety of subfields.

Design/methodology/approach

The essay surveys recent themes in retail history, using the contents of the special issue as a point of departure. It relies on secondary sources.

Findings

The articles in this issue highlight the importance of power relations and more formal political economy and government policy to retail firms. They also emphasize the importance of nearby institutions and populations to retailers. Taken as a whole, the pieces speak to recent interest among business historians in the social contexts and contingencies that shape firms and also in the history of failure, draw their attention to the importance of “the local” in business generally, and point to the possibilities of more work on very small firms, early American and non‐US (or globally framed US) retail and questions of women and gender. This work is part of a resurgence of interest by historians of all stripes in retail and its history; although reading across sub‐disciplinary lines can be challenging, the essay concludes by encouraging scholars of retail to do so.

Research limitations/implications

This essay should encourage work in understudied fields and particularly encourage broad reading among retail historians.

Originality/value

The essay introduces readers to literature they may not have encountered and articulates themes and questions emerging from new scholarship on retail.

Details

Journal of Historical Research in Marketing, vol. 2 no. 1
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1755-750X

Keywords

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Article
Publication date: 19 January 2010

Tracey Deutsch

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536

Abstract

Details

Journal of Historical Research in Marketing, vol. 2 no. 1
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1755-750X

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Article
Publication date: 19 January 2010

Steven B. Bunker

The purpose of this paper is to examine the origins and the business model of department stores in Mexico between 1891 and 1910.

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to examine the origins and the business model of department stores in Mexico between 1891 and 1910.

Design/methodology/approach

Primary and secondary source material support an historical and comparative study of retailing and marketing evolution in a market on the global periphery.

Findings

This paper finds that Mexico's vanguard position in establishing the first purpose‐built department stores in Latin America is closely linked to the strong presence of an immigrant entrepreneurial class from the Barcelonnette region of France in the retailing and textile manufacturing sectors. Mexican department stores followed Parisian models, policies, and innovations closely, yet accommodated local customs and conditions. The stores served as showcases for the success of the national government's economic and cultural modernization program and as cultural primers for Mexican consumers.

Originality/value

Scholarly work on department stores, consumerism, and the influential French community in Mexico is extremely limited, especially so in English. This is the first work that brings these together and analyzes them within – and in relation to – the context of Mexico's rapid modernization during the era of President Porfirio Díaz from 1876 to 1911. It also undermines the notion that the USA is the first and most influential foreign influence on modern Mexican consumer culture.

Details

Journal of Historical Research in Marketing, vol. 2 no. 1
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1755-750X

Keywords

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Article
Publication date: 19 January 2010

Sarah Elvins

The purpose of this paper is to examine retailer response to the use of alternative currency, or scrip, as an emergency measure during the Great Depression. Advocates of…

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to examine retailer response to the use of alternative currency, or scrip, as an emergency measure during the Great Depression. Advocates of scrip argue that it would help recovery efforts, encouraging consumer spending and keeping dollars “at home” within the local community. Merchants face a dilemma, as they hope to use any means to increase sales, but are worried that they would be left holding a stack of worthless paper that they would not be able to pass on to their suppliers. Two cases of scrip in action in Chicago and Atlanta are contrasted.

Design/methodology/approach

This paper draws upon primary data sources including period newspapers from across the USA, business periodicals, archival materials from retailers and city councils, and government reports.

Findings

There is no uniform response to the use of scrip by merchants. Some retailers hope to use scrip to boost sales and encourage consumer loyalty, and even organized their own campaigns to use alternative currency. In other cases, retailers felt the risks of accepting scrip were too high. Without the participation of retailers, scrip schemes were doomed to failure.

Originality/value

In the early years of the Depression, alternative currency enjoyed a remarkable popularity across the USA. It is now known that scrip would not end the crisis, as boosters hoped, yet this episode reveals much about popular understandings of the economy, and the role of retailers in local communities.

Details

Journal of Historical Research in Marketing, vol. 2 no. 1
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1755-750X

Keywords

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Article
Publication date: 19 January 2010

Howard Stanger

The purpose of this paper is to explore and identify the causes of the failure of the Larkin Company (Buffalo, NY), once one of the nation's largest mail‐order houses in…

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to explore and identify the causes of the failure of the Larkin Company (Buffalo, NY), once one of the nation's largest mail‐order houses in the decades surrounding 1900.

Design/methodology/approach

Borrowing conceptual frameworks from both recent management and historical scholarship on organizational failure that integrates exogenous and endogenous factors, this study employs traditional historical methods to explain the causes of Larkin's failure. The main primary sources include the Larkin Company records, government documents, personal papers, trade journals, and other primary sources.

Findings

Begun as a modest soap manufacturer by John D. Larkin, in Buffalo, in 1875, the Larkin Company grew to become one of the largest mail‐order houses in the USA in the decades surrounding 1900 owing to its innovative direct marketing practices, called the “factory‐to‐family” plan, that relied on unpaid women to distribute its products. In 1918, anticipating the chain store boom, Larkin established two grocery store chains (other retail ventures followed). The company regularly lost money in these ventures and, combined with a shrinking mail‐order economy, struggled during the 1920s and 1930s, and eventually liquidated in 1941‐1942. A number of exogenous and endogenous factors, acting alone and in various combinations, proved too challenging to second‐ and third‐generation family members who ran the company after 1926.

Originality/value

This research paper tries to understand the decline of an important progressive firm during the interwar period. Whereas Sears Roebuck and Montgomery Ward were able to make the transition from mail order to stores, Larkin Company failed to navigate this transition successfully. It also adds to the small but important literature in management and business history on organizational failure and may serve as a cautionary tale for family businesses.

Details

Journal of Historical Research in Marketing, vol. 2 no. 1
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1755-750X

Keywords

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Article
Publication date: 19 January 2010

Vicki Howard

Focusing on the early development of the three major forms of local advertising employed by independent department stores across the USA – newspapers, radio, and…

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3705

Abstract

Purpose

Focusing on the early development of the three major forms of local advertising employed by independent department stores across the USA – newspapers, radio, and television – this paper examines continuity in the industry's commercial use of new technologies.

Design/methodology/approach

The research draws on different types of primary sources, including department store financial records and correspondence, retailing trade literature, industry publications, newspaper advertisements, and radio advertisement transcripts.

Findings

The local and regional markets of the independent department store, and to some extent, department store chains, required local advertising, something best served by newspapers in the period under study. While many retailers embrace the commercial potential of radio and television as they appear in the 1920s and late 1930s, respectively, others are reluctant to divert their advertising budget away from newspapers. Trade writers for the department store industry and radio and television reveal tension between the National Retail Dry Goods Association, with its progressive orientation and professionalizing goals, and the more traditional merchants these experts are trying to modernize. The paper also suggests, perhaps as a subject for future research, that as radio and television lost their local orientation and became increasingly commercialized and national, independent department store advertising would not have been able to compete with department store chains.

Originality/value

Although much has been written about national advertising, cultural, and business historians have conducted little research on local advertising, the type typically employed by independent department stores. This paper provides an introduction to the three major advertising formats most often used by independent department stores as each medium first emerged as a potential selling tool.

Details

Journal of Historical Research in Marketing, vol. 2 no. 1
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1755-750X

Keywords

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Article
Publication date: 19 January 2010

Beth Kreydatus

The purpose of this paper is to explore the experiences of a significant group of retail employees, specifically the African‐American operations and service workers that…

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to explore the experiences of a significant group of retail employees, specifically the African‐American operations and service workers that worked behind the scenes in department stores during the Jim Crow era, defined here as 1890‐1965.

Design/methodology/approach

Department stores have rightly occupied a prominent place in business historiography. This wealth of scholarship can be explained partly by substantial archival resources, but especially by department stores' significance to US business, cultural, and social history. Yet, despite this rich historiography, a significant number of department store employees have been overlooked, and this omission has distorted the picture of the work culture and marketing strategies of these massive and influential retail institutions. Department stores employ a large number of operations and service staff, such as delivery people, housekeeping and maintenance workers, elevator operators, stock workers, packers, and warehouse workers. These positions make up roughly one‐fifth of all department store work. This paper presents a close study of the two most prominent department stores of early and mid‐twentieth century Richmond, Virginia – Thalhimers and Miller & Rhoads – to offer insight into the work culture and workplace experiences of these employees.

Findings

Ultimately, this paper shows that African‐American employees played an important role in the maintenance and image of Richmond department stores. Store managers place high demands for “loyalty” and “faithfulness” on their black staff to demonstrate their lavish services to the buying public. For black employees, this means that the work environment can be highly stressful, as they seek to meet competing demands from customers and co‐workers. However, department store work offers opportunities, in particular, steady employment among a close network of African‐American coworkers. Finally, the presence of segregated black employees undermines managements' attempts to convey their workforce as one “happy family.”

Research limitations/implications

The research is entirely based on two high‐end department stores, Miller & Rhoads and Thalhimers, both based in Richmond, Virginia. Two store archives – available at the Valentine Richmond History Center and the Virginia Historical Society – are the primary resources for this project. Because, the papers in these archives are donated by store managers, a limitation to this study is the dearth of unmediated voices of the employees themselves.

Originality/value

This research adds to the historiography of department stores by shedding light on employees who are expected by employers to remain nearly invisible in their jobs, and unfortunately, have been fairly invisible in the historical record as well.

Details

Journal of Historical Research in Marketing, vol. 2 no. 1
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1755-750X

Keywords

Content available
Article
Publication date: 1 June 2002

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552

Abstract

Details

Qualitative Market Research: An International Journal, vol. 5 no. 2
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1352-2752

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Article
Publication date: 3 May 2011

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303

Abstract

Details

Journal of Historical Research in Marketing, vol. 3 no. 2
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1755-750X

Content available
Article
Publication date: 20 March 2009

D.G. Brian Jones

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990

Abstract

Details

Journal of Historical Research in Marketing, vol. 1 no. 1
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1755-750X

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