Retail management

Authored by: Martin Purvis

The Routledge Companion to the History of Retailing

Print publication date:  November  2018
Online publication date:  November  2018

Print ISBN: 9781138675087
eBook ISBN: 9781315560854
Adobe ISBN:


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This chapter provides an overview of the development of retail management from the early eighteenth century to the mid-twentieth century, focusing chiefly on Europe and North America. It begins by reviewing the capacity for managerial innovation in functions including sourcing of stock, store organisation and financial accounting demonstrated by progressive independent retailers. However, the development of large-scale retailing from the nineteenth century onwards created managerial challenges that were increasingly beyond the skills of an individual proprietor to resolve. Initially the solution often appeared to be greater devolution of authority to specialist managers responsible for specific sales departments within major stores, or particular branches within a geographically dispersed retail chain. But experience prompted many large-scale retailers to embrace the principles of scientific management as a means of bringing coherence and rationality to what threatened to become a fractured organisation.

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