How Self-Service Happened: The Vision and Reality of Changing Market Practices in Britain
Self-service has become a normative practice in most UK shops, and in wider society and its attitudes. Self-service is the heartbeat of a liberal economy and consumer society. Yet before 1942, self-service did not exist in the UK. How did it become such a routine part of market activity? This chapter explores the role of distribution and the public reception of self-service. Drawing on a range of sources, it disturbs the assumptions in the existing literature that the concept was an American import and model, and naturally popular with shoppers. It offers a more integrated account of how markets operated and were perceived—from the supply chain to retailers to consumers, and from structural and logistical issues to the emotions and instincts of the shopping public.