Advent of the Mass Market
This chapter examines the history of Pearce’s first two firms, Pearce & Plenty and the British Tea Table Co. (1886–1898), years in which he rose to dominance as the City’s premier mass caterer to the working class in response to the advent of the mass market. Bourgeois workers—clerical employees and office workers—formed the pivotal group motivating market changes in the City—in part because of their key skills, notably shorthand and typewriting. I reject Lyons’ view of the market, which divided changes into two periods—before Lyons’ teashops (pre-1894) and after their establishment (from 1894) as the basis for supporting Lyons’ role as fostering a “teashop revolution.” What Lyons featured was light refreshments to the middle classes, especially women, offering little competition to the working classes. The various factors responsible for dramatic changes in catering habits in the 1890s are explored.
By appealing to a broader sector of the public wanting better food sold at “value for money,” on the one hand, and instituting economies of scale with its teashops, on the other, Lyons changed catering in the light refreshment sector, though not to the extent its company historian believes. A better perspective for analysis would be the Edwardian era in which Lyons’ weathered one of the worst catering crises since the mass market’s arrival far better than its competitors as a result of its greater market diversity, deeper financial pockets, broader network of stores and concentrated nexus of supplies. It was not so much Lyons’ teashops as changes in the catering market that prompted Pearce to reappraise his strategy.
This chapter explores the reasons for Pearce’s successful tenure as managing director, stressing his managerial philosophy, paternalistic relationship with his staff and concern for his customers.