History of the American Department Stores Essay

History of the American Department Stores Essay

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1.0 - Introduction
Over the years, the American department store has developed and evolved as not only a commercial business but also a cultural institution. While it has weathered many storms and changes since its inception and throughout history, its most predominant enemy has been a change in the lifestyle of the American people (Whitaker, 2013). As the customer’s needs and wants have shifted, department stores have struggled to keep up with demands. It has been argued that the decline of the department store has been ongoing for the last 50 years (Whitaker, 2013). This dissertation aims to understand how the department store has historically played a role in consumer culture and spending, and additionally, how this has evolved and changed in today’s retail market. Although department stores may not be able to take all the credit for inventing modern shopping, they certainly made its conventions and conveniences commonplace. They set a new standard for the way the consumer should expect to be treated, the type of services that should be provided, and the convenience that should attend the process of acquiring the necessities and niceties of life all in one place. They made shopping into a leisure pastime. This environment meant shopping was a means of freedom to look around, pick up objects with no obligations to buy. As one historian remarked, department stores: “encouraged a perception of the building as a public place, where consumption itself was almost incidental to the delights of a sheltered promenade in a densely crowded, middle-class urban space” (Whitaker, 2006). Although this perception and view of the department store has changed over the years, this paper aims to follow the trail of how and why that happened.

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...er that same period. This may indicate that consumers are going online to make the purchases they once made at department stores.‬

‪And those trends have been going on for more than a year. Whatever role nonstore retailers are playing in the decline of department store sales, looking at the two together shows just how dramatic the downward trend in department store sales is compared to a segment with which those stores often compete.‬
‪The idea that department stores might be losing out to retailers like Amazon is not a new one. However, the extent to which one affects the other is not entirely clear. More specialized, non-department stores may also play a role in pulling department store sales downward. Clothing store sales, for example, grew slightly, by 1.2 percent, from January 2013 to January 2014 while department store sales declined. (Census Bureau, 2014)

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