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The volume is opened by an article co-authored by the editors, which introduces the reader to the existing literature relevant to the subject, and places the following chapters in context. It also explores the widespread perceptions of moral ambiguity surrounding the practice of selling consumer goods—ranging from concerns about the adulteration of goods, to fears about sharp practice on the part of retailers—and places such concerns in the context of wider societal values and ideas.
The ambivalence towards retail selling and sellers is also a central focus of the collection. These are grouped in three sections: Section One ('Making Good Retailers') focuses on the attempts by retailers to develop selling techniques and successful practices of salesmanship, and at the same time establish widely-shared understandings of 'good' retailing. Section Two ('Credit and Wheeler-Dealing') delves into the more dubious practices of retail selling, including practices on the margin of legality. The issue of credit is of central importance to this section, and the essays share a concern with changing attitudes towards debt. Section Three ('Itineraries of Shopping') focuses on sales techniques and practices, placing them in their distinctive spatialcontext. Indeed, rather than simply explore the marketing or advertising practices of particular shops in isolation, the essays in this section focus on how sales techniques related to the wider context of a whole shopping 'experience' or shopping environment.
Taken as a whole, this volume will provide a first port of call for students, researchers and others interested in exploring consumer cultures, and the cultural norms and practices involved in the sale of consumer goods in various historical periods and geographical contexts.