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Cultures of service: strategies of Scottish grocers, 1915-1965

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Studies of retailing have highlighted its long-run evolution, particularly the emergence of multiples. Such developments were a challenge to the market position of independent retailers, especially owners of small shops. Such retailers responded through collective action designed to justify their commercial and social functions and to counteract the competitive threats. Recent studies have emphasised the significance of trade associations and collective action in grocery wholesaling in Britain and Ireland. A substantial literature has documented the activities of trade associations representing English grocers. This paper examines the responses of Scottish grocers to their changing environment between 1915 and 1965. It highlights similarities to associational behaviour in England and Canada in terms of unifying independent traders and articulating their concerns in public and to governments. But it emphasises the limitations of collective action among Scottish grocers, highlighting their subordinate relationship to government and the difficulties of modernising their business methods. Of greater significance was the gradual adjustment of their concept of the service provided by local grocery stores.

Keywords: Scotland; collective action; grocery; retail culture; retailing; trade associations

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Department of Economic and Social History, University of Glasgow, Glasgow

Publication date: July 1, 2008

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