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New perspectives on 20th-century European retailing

Scott, P. ORCID: and Fridenson, P. (2018) New perspectives on 20th-century European retailing. Business History, 60 (7). pp. 941-958. ISSN 1743-7938

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1080/00076791.2018.1494943


Retailers are often regarded as ‘intermediaries’, whereas in fact they are actors in their own right. They influence, and are influenced by, their local and national ‘ecosystems’, together with other national retailing ‘ecosystems’ with which they interact. The history of this process in 20th-century Europe has been incompletely explored, while the English-language litera- ture remains dominated by the ‘Americanisation’ model, whereby innovations pioneered in the United States gradually diffused to the more ‘backward’ countries of Europe, a process mediated by barriers to competition that varied in extent and severity between different European nations. In this essay, we re-evaluate this model in the light of the special issue authors’ contributions and other recent studies, including the new specialised journal History of Retailing and Consumption. The United States is often shown to have been a major source of knowledge transfer to Europe, but the information flows were more complex than many advocates of the Americanisation model acknowledge. For instance, while most marketing scholars see the sources of the ‘modernisation’ of European retailing in American department stores, chains and supermarkets, recent research has shown that such an innovation as self-service began in several small independent American grocery stores during the 1910s and ‘spread in small retail outlets, sometimes well before the advent of the large retail spaces which are tradi- tionally viewed as the origin of the self-service economy’. 1 Moreover, American-inspired formats were not always appropriate welfare-maximising models for European countries (and, arguably, in some cases, such as regional shopping malls, even for the United States).

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Henley Business School > International Business and Strategy
ID Code:81508
Publisher:Taylor & Francis


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