Donica Belisle's Retail Nation: Department Stores and the Making of Modern Canada

Donica Belisle's Retail Nation: Department Stores and the Making of Modern Canada

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Donica Belisle's Retail Nation: Department Stores and the Making of Modern Canada is a very brief and concise book. It is able to deal with the major social and economic topics from the early-twentieth century from the perspective of massive retailers. The book strictly focuses on the importance of these large departmental stores and how they impacted Canadian society and helped shape a consumer utopia. The book provides ample detail on its themes but is unable to give background information regarding certain topics.
The author starts the book off with an introduction of Canadian retail stores and how they came into business relatively after the ones in US and Britain. However, the largest departmental stores such as Eaton’s, Simpson’s, and HBC were able to monopolize the Canadian retailing market easily. These businesses played a huge role in the cultural, social and economic aspect of Canadian society. These departmental stores were targeting middle-class citizens who earned a wage, they were white and Christians. In order to reach out to these individuals, these retailers used advertising that was evidently radicalized and thus, was able to promote nationalism.
Eaton’s, Simpson’s, and HBC were massive retailers in the early 20th century. They began to portray themselves as paternalist providers as positioned themselves as Canadian institutions. Because of minimal competition, these retailers were able to appeal to a large population. They began to hire a lot of females and this helped them create a good corporate image of themselves in society. This was crucial because after the World War, female members of society were standing up for their rights. A huge part of the book is focused on the female labour conditions. The autho...


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... the text did she go over the fact that there around 1920’s, there was a massive immigration period from which people from Europe and other agricultural societies came into Canada for a better living. Advertising was essentially targeted towards these people and because they wanted to fit into the Canadian society, they embraced consumerism with open hands.
Retail Nation: Department Stores and the Making of Modern Canada was a very informative book. It was able to pin all the major topics and concerns from 1890’s to 1940’s. The rise of mass retailers seemed to be the main theme of this book and it was talked about in great detail. However, my concerns are only regarding the lack of certain background information and too much focus on the female members of society, but other than that, the book successfully paints an image of the early-twentieth century in my mind.

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