Retail Trends throughout History

Shopping BagsAt the risk of sounding like I am nearing eighty years of age… I am an avid watcher of the WGBH program, Masterpiece. The first Sunday of this October, I tuned in for the premier of a new series called The Paradise. The story follows Denise, a girl from the English countryside, as she is hired in the “ladies wear” department of The Paradise, Britain’s first “high-end” department store. Behind the drama of the characters, The Paradise is about challenges and success in the retail industry.

The series’ Victorian Era setting sparked my interest in retail trends throughout history. What trends have we seen since then?

The First Department Stores

Early Retail StoresLike The Paradise, American department stores first appeared in the mid 1800’s. Many began as “dry goods” stores, selling textiles and pre-made clothing, then expanded into larger companies. Each major city had its own brand: Filene’s (c. 1881) in Boston, Macy’s (c. 1858) or Lord & Taylor (c. 1826) in New  York City, Wanamaker’s (c. 1876) in Philadelphia, and Marshall Field’s (c. 1852) in Chicago, to name a few. In their glory days, a department store excursion was an exciting, full-day event: gorgeous window displays, tall escalators, the latest fashions, even elegant tearooms! These stores made for a retail trend of luxury. (For more info on department store history, read here.)

Long Live the Shopping Mall

The Shopping MallFor our next retail trend, we have… the shopping mall. According to A Brief History of the Mall, the first shopping centers popped up in the early 1900’s and expanded like crazy. A 2013 Nielsen report, The State of the Shopping Center, marks the total U.S. 2012 shopping center sales at $2.4 trillion. That’s a lot of money! In their prime, malls were considered social centers for communities; in addition to stores, some still have movie theaters, restaurants, and even residential units. And don’t forget about holiday photo ops for kids!

And Then There was the Web

Web ShoppingToo busy (or lazy) to leave home? No problem! Since the early 1990’s, the Web has launched the popularity of our next retail trend: online shopping. It’s not slowing down, either. An article from Internet Retailer describes how e-retail spending is expected to increase 62% by 2016 [Forrester Research Inc.]. For a prime example of internet retail, check back to our earlier post about Amazon, Innovation in Retail. Say goodbye to the old in-store experience!

Mobile Shopping

Even within online shopping, there has been change. Move over, computers; the most recent retail trend, mobile apps, has arrived. A recent article from Internet Retailer states that 55% of online shoppers use a mobile device, while 45% use a laptop or desktop [ComScore, June 2013]. Nearly all my favorite stores now offer a mobile app. I can shop anytime, anywhere.

Innovation All Around

Now, you may be asking – what does this all have to do with the Global Consumers team at Lionbridge?

Just as retail has evolved through innovation, so have our service offerings. Of course, we still offer amazing translation and localization services. But we’ve also developed new service packages that work really well for our retail and consumer clients…  things like Agile Translation and onDemand Translation, to name a couple.

We do this because we agree with others in today’s retail landscape: those who innovate, last!


Leave a Reply