part-time musings

Tag: consumers

KK goes shopping

Yes, I know, TWO supermarket posts in a row. But in my defense, this isn’t so much a post as a photograph which will serve as a placeholder until I get back to my old ways and have something important to say about Tanqueray. I stumbled across this photo on the interwebs while looking up something on Zambia. It’s a classic representation of a genre of photography that was prevalent in 1960s and 1970s Africa and intended to calm the nerves of foreign investors by showing how ‘normal’ Africa is. Featuring prominently in this genre of photography are pictures of African leaders doing ‘normal things’. Here, for example, is Kenneth Kaunda, shopping in a supermarket. The normality is admirable, non?

*Actually I wish I knew who took the photo and why; if you know, please drop me a message.

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Why Westgate?

This is the Westgate Shopping Centre in Oxford. Not the most glamorous of additions to Oxford’s architectural fabric, is it? I was thinking about this shopping centre the other day because I was wondering if the change machine they have outside the Sainsbury’s is still there. The change machine is the only reason I go to the centre which makes me what retail analysts might classify as an ‘outlier’.  This is because I’m in no way tempted by the typical manifestations of modern-day consumerism such Primark, Thorntons, and the sad smorgasbord of mobile phone and sportswear shops that line the route to the change machine.

For some reason this segued into me wondering about the name Westgate. My geography of Oxford is a bit sketchy, but it occurs to me that it’s possible the shopping centre lies in the western part of the city where once there was an actual Western Gate to keep out marauding peasants from the nearby swamps. It’s possible, yes, this deeply-held  commitment to Oxford’s historical past on the part of the shopping centre developers? But then what Dear Readers, explains the wild proliferation of Westgate Centres elsewhere in the world?

There’s one in Ottawa, one in Johannesburg, one in Auckland, New Zealand, one in San Jose, California, in Stevenage, in Toledo, in Zagreb, in Montego Bay, Jamaica, in Ashville, North Carolina, in Nairobi, in Shanghai… (I’m not making this up. I checked all this you know)…  in Cleveland, Ohio, in Harare, in Macon, Georgia, in Merced, California, in Ann Arbor, Michigan, in Winona, Minnesota, in Little Rock, Arkansas, in Durham, North Carolina, in Amarillo, Texas, and in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.

Yes Dear Readers, there are a LOT of Westgate Shopping Centres out there. And because I’m such a thorough researcher and generally over-caffeinated, I of course couldn’t stop there. Next I had to investigate the relative popularity of the name EASTGATE Shopping Centre.  And my painstaking research reveals that in a googlefight, Westgate beat Eastgate by almost 2 to 1.

Oh and if anyone knows if the change machine outside Sainsbury’s is still there, please tell me.

How shoppers helped invent the supermarket

Some research I worked on in 2007 as part of the Reconstructing Landscapes Project has been developed into an article co-authored with Andrew Alexander and published this month by the journal, Enterprise and Society. In ‘Co-Creation of a Retail Innovation’, we examined shoppers’ reactions to the development of early supermarket retailing in post-war Britain and drew on insights from recent research on the role of consumers in innovation to show that more attention needs to be given to the shopper’s input in the debate on retail innovation, including the supermarket.

Shoppers’ contributions to the supermarket innovation are shown to be multi-faceted in nature, incorporating processes of co-production and value creation; processes that were altered in the transition from counter-service to self-service retail environments. Shoppers’ discussions of such alterations were frequently structured around four aspects of interaction; with the physical environment of the store, with the goods for sale, with other shoppers and with shop staff. Continue reading more….

Shop Talk

Oral History Journal vol 37 2009My article ‘Investigating Shopper Narratives on the Supermarket in Early Post-War England, 1945-75’ has just been published in the March issue of Oral History.

The article looks at the complexities surrounding consumer reaction to changes in food shopping between 1945 and 1975 and is based on research we did for the Reconstructing Consumer Landscapes Project. The article introduces approaches to understanding consumers, and looks, in particular, at the reactions of consumers to the self-service retail innovation and the rise of supermarkets when they were introduced in Britain in the early post-war period. The article highlights some of the strengths we observed in our use of oral history interviewing for this type of research, and we also discuss our use of a content analysis approach to analyze material from the interviews.