supermarkets and malls

   Supermarkets, defined as large self-service stores offering a variety of food and household goods under one roof, have changed the face of British retailing since their emergence in the 1960s. Prior to that date, shopping was an activity mainly associated with small retail outlets and street markets in town centre locations. The abolition of resale price maintenance in 1964 provided the impetus for chain stores such as Kwik Save and Tesco to establish larger premises so that they could offer a wider range of goods at discounted prices. Initially, these retailers sought to adapt and expand existing premises in the city centre, including disused cinemas and car showrooms, although growing development pressures led them to seek purpose-built premises, often in off-centre or suburban locations. In the 1980s, the economic reforms associated with Thatcherism, coupled with the relaxation of planning laws, led to a dramatic growth in the number of supermarkets in Britain, with the four biggest grocery chains (Tesco, Sainsbury, Safeway and Asda) particularly targeting out-of-town sites where extensive parking for customers could be provided alongside stores which often exceeded 25,000 square feet. Architecturally, most supermarkets (often referred to as superstores) were undistinguished, designed by in-house teams in bland variants of postmodernism and neoclassicism, yet were extremely popular, especially with affluent car-owning consumers.
   The expansion of out-of-town shopping in the 1980s was similarly evident in the development of regional shopping centres, malls of over one million square feet offering a mixture of convenience and comparison shopping. Although British malls (such as Merry Hill, Dudley and Meadowhall, Sheffield) rarely approached the size of their North American counterparts, cultural commentators begun to argue that these malls offered new opportunities for recreational shopping (see shopping, recreational), with their careful internal design encouraging new forms of consumerism. To these ends, some malls attempted to recreate ‘traditional’ retail environments, immersing shoppers into a setting characterized by hyperreality and simulation. Although fears about the impacts of out-of-town shopping on town centre retailing resulted in stricter planning controls on retail development in the 1990s, supermarkets and malls were already established as significant features of the contemporary urban landscape, changing longestablished patterns of consumer behaviour in the process. However, while supermarkets and malls perform a number of important social functions in British society (especially if they have extra features like creches and cafés) questions remain as to whether they cater adequately for poorer groups.
   See also: corporate identity
   Further reading.
    Miller, D., Jackson, P., Thrift, N., Holbrook, B. and Rowlands, M. (1998) Shopping, Place and Identity, London: Routledge.
   PHIL HUBBARD

Encyclopedia of contemporary British culture . . 2014.

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