Question Alejandro a Business & Management

The Evolution of Selling Methods and Attitudes

How have selling methods and attitudes evolved over the past 100 years?

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The past century has seen significant changes in practices and attitudes towards selling, moving from a highly fragmented industry reliant on the goods available, to a highly competitive environment in which customers have a high level of choice and retailers as well as product manufactures have to compete for customers (Leibowitz, 2013).

Leibowitz (2013) states over the last century there have been five different periods: the local culture, mass modernisation, suburban culture, consolidation culture, and digital culture (Leibowitz, 2013). The local culture at the beginning of the twentieth century was fragmented, dominated by independent corner stores serving local populations (Paquet, 2004). During 1900-1940 a gradual shift towards modernisation occurred: increased car ownership improved consumer mobility, and choice and technological advances, such as refrigerators, allowed shops to hold more stock (Horn, 2015). Shops started listening more to consumer desires, undertook more of their own marketing, and grew in size (Horn, 2015; Morrison, 2016).

 Increased commercialisation and disposable incomes, as well accelerating mass production, saw an increase in product availability and the opening of shopping centres (Leibowitz, 2013). Television advertising became influential during the 1950s-1970s - the period of suburban culture (Leibowitz, 2013). This led directly to consolidation period during 1970s -1990s with the evolution of the big box stores,  while independent small shops suffered, unable to compete with larger stores offering lower prices and more choices (Coca-Stefaniak et al., 2005).

The current digital age is characterised by a reduction in geographical barriers, with highly empowered customers driving aggressive retailer strategies using both price and differentiation, with use of the internet impacting negatively on bricks and mortar stores (Leibowitz, 2013). Therefore, over the last century, there has been a move from a fragmented to a consolidated industry, with customers becoming more empowered, making retailers compete more aggressively to capture and maintain their customers.


Coca-Stefaniak, A.,, Hallsworth, A.,, Parker, C., and Yuste, R., 2005. Decline in the British small shop independent retail sector: Exploring European parallels. Journal of Retailing and Consumer Services, 12(5), pp.357–371.

Horn, P., 2015. Behind the Counter: Shop Lives from Market Stall to Supermarket. Stroud: Amberley Publishing Limited.

Leibowitz, J., 2013. How Did We Get Here? A Short History of Retail. [online] Available at: .

Morrison, K., 2016. Woolworth: adding character to the British high street, 1909–1939. History of Retailing and Consumption. [online] Available at: .

Paquet, L., 2004. The Urge to Splurge: A Social History of Shopping. Toronto: ECW Press.