Retailers Through History

As the retail industry enters its busiest month of the year, our Review of the Week looks back at the once-mighty American department store

From Main Street to mall: the rise and fall of the American department store

Howard, Vicki. Pennsylvania, 2015
292p index afp, 9780812247282 $34.95

In the tradition of her previous book, Brides, Inc. (2006), Howard (history, Hartwick College) takes readers on a pop culture voyage through the rapid and pervasive rise of shopping concourses in the US. Consumer society research is a burgeoning field, often overflowing with studies on the matrix of shopping and its spaces, but this engaging analysis provides readers with a fresh, expanded, much-needed examination of the field. Howard demonstrates just how callously small chains, independent shops, and community standbys were pushed out, swallowed up, and cast aside by big businesses pushing cheap trinkets en masse. The removal of local shops paved the way for neighbors to become strangers and for communities to lose their centers as reliance on automobiles to transport families to enclosed, climate-controlled stores of mass-produced goods replaced milk deliveries and tailor-made clothing. Howard’s study provides a firm social background for how US society evolved to its current status of box stores’ occupying nearly every retail mile and how the chain equates with quality in the public’s mind. This well-done study is a great read that will engage lay readers and advanced researchers.

Summing Up: Highly recommended. All readers.
Reviewer: A. A. Babic, New York Institute of Technology
Subject: Social & Behavioral Sciences – Business, Management & Labor
Choice Issue: Dec 2015