Discuss the role of power in shaping the distribution of benefits and losses in consumer society.
Today, there is a growing recognition amongst social scientists of the importance of consumerism in contemporary society. Namely because it can have an effect on all aspects of society.
In modern times, the average consumer identifies him/herself by what they buy rather than their jobs. ‘Consumer society’ is a relatively new term that started in the 1980's with the disappearance of many traditionally working class manufacturing jobs. Before this downward turn, working class people were proud of their skills and identified strongly with their colleagues and there was a strong sense of ...view middle of the document...
Veblen, T. (1899)
On the other hand, Susman’s concept rests on the fact that consumers shop to show their identity, and distinct personalities, their sense of ‘personal self’. Susman, W. (2003)
Can the success of the big 4 supermarket chains, Tesco, Asda, Morisons and Sainsbury be explained by their ability to take into account any or all of the above concepts when marketing/selling their products?
In the audio programme "Evidence in the social sciences" John Allen author of Chapter 2 - one stop shopping – The power of supermarkets, tables a discussion between Helen Rimmer of Friends of the Earth and Richard Dodds of The British Retail Consortium. ‘Do supermarkets drain the life out of the high street or are they an active force for regeneration’
Helen Rimmer representing the anti supermarket lobby claims that there is distinct correlation in the increasing number of supermarkets with the continuing decrease in the number of local stores in the high street. She claims that there is a tendency for the big retailers to draw business away from the town centres by building out of town retail centres. Consequently local stores are closing down at a rate of 50 every week.
Ideally Rimmer would like the government to invest in present town centres rather than continuously giving planning permission to the large retailers to build more and more out of town retail centres. This in turn would regenerate the town centres thus creating more local jobs. According to her, encouraging a diversity of retailers would result in increased growth of family shops. The town would thus retain its local flavour.
Conversely, Richard Dodd agrees that town centres are doing less retail business than say in 1997 when town centres accounted for 50% of consumer spending. However this figure had dropped to 43% 11 years later. Despite the figures, Dodd blames the decline of the town centre on its infrastructure, i.e. lack of parking, inaccessibility and crime rather than the growth of the supermarkets.
According to Dodd, customer satisfaction is behind supermarket growth. Therefore the consumer has the power to choose where they want to shop. The consumer is therefore benefiting from the wider range of goods and competitive prices found in supermarkets as well as the convenience of being able to shop for everything from food to CD’s in one store.
Moreover, Dodd points out that the retail stores are now going back into the high street in the form of Tescos Local or Sainsbury’s Metro. He emphasizes that local people both work and shop in these convenience stores. Thus
By contrast Rimmer claims that when a Tesco Express moves into a high street, this results in a 30/40% decline in local shops. Despite her claim, she does not offer any real evidence to back this up, i.e author of study, date, etc which makes her argument less...