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Crossing urban deserts: consumers, competitors and the protracted birth of metropolitan co-operative retailing

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This paper explores aspects of relationships between consumers' co-operation and private retailers in Britain from the 1860s to the 1920s, with particular attention to conditions in the largest cities. Oppositional constructions- both ideological and practical- of co-operation and competitive capitalism are noted with reference to private traders' efforts to co-ordinate anti-co-operative action and propaganda. A broader overview of the relative positions of co-operative and private trade is outlined through examination of the influence of local commercial conditions upon co-operative fortunes in urban centres. The difficulties experienced by societies in establishing themselves in the competitive retail markets often, seen as characteristic of large cities, are detailed through examination of attempts to establish co-operation in London. The apparent success of efforts to reshape co-operation to meet particular metropolitan circumstances is reviewed. This leads to a more questioning judgement of the overall success of co-operation in contesting retail markets with increasingly concentrated forms of private capital during the twentieth century.
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Keywords: CONSUMERS' CO-OPERATION; LONDON; NINETEENTH CENTURY; RETAIL COMPETITION

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 1999-07-01

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