A history of shopping: the missing link between retail and consumer revolutions

Jon Stobart

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticlepeer-review


Purpose. This paper aims to reconsider and reframe the relationship between retail and consumer revolutions, arguing that the two have too often been separated empirically and conceptually. Design/methodology/approach. Reviewing a broad range of literature, the paper discusses the ways in which the historiography of retailing and consumption might be brought together by a greater focus on and theorisation of shopping. Findings. The paper highlights equivocation in the literature about the extent to which retailing was transformed during the eighteenth century in response to consumer changes. Whilst some aspects were dramatically transformed, others remained largely unchanged. It draws on a rather smaller body of work to illustrate the ways in which shopping practices were instrumental in connecting shops and consumers, linking to the cultural world of consumption to the economic realm of retailing. Originality/value. The key argument is that, if studies of shopping are to be useful in furthering our understanding of retailing and consumption, then we must theorise shopping more fully. In particular, the paper emphasises the insights afforded by notions of performance and identity, and by analyses of consumer motivation; arguing that these offer the opportunity to link shopping to wider debates over politeness, gender roles and even modernity
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Historical Research in Marketing
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2010


  • Retail revolution
  • consumer revolution
  • shopping
  • modernity
  • performance
  • motivations


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