What Is the Department Store?

As we head into the holiday season, shopping is in the air.

This conjures up images of that monument to shopping, the department store.

At Anikka Becker we look back on its history with fondness and from it we draw inspiration.

We believe the great department stores have much to teach us in their attention to customer service, quality goods, and beautiful displays.

We reaffirm these values as we get ready for our 2017 Holiday Shopping Special Event.

So what exactly is the department store, and where did it start?

There are several claims to the 'first' department store-- in New York, RH Macy & Co got its start in 1858; in Paris Au Bon Marche in 1852 or 1869, depending on one's definition of 'department store.' From our friends at the BBC, we learn that the first department store, Grand Fashionable Magazine, opened its doors in London in 1796.

Rather than try to figure out just who was first, we might understand the rise of the department store as a phenomenon that came about during the same period in many places.

The 19th century saw the growth of a middle class that was a product of the Industrial Revolution. The concept of ready-to-wear clothing arose from the manufacture of military uniforms. And the Crystal Palace in Queen Victoria and Prince Albert's 1851 Great Exhibition introduced the world to the idea of a large glass building full of interesting consumer goods. These changes all contributed to a new mode of shopping-- a variety of beautifully displayed, ready-made goods in one building that became the modern 'department store.'

Compared with earlier models of selling goods, the department store was an enormous economic success.

It operated on a new business model of low prices with high turnover, better utilization of building space with upper floors, and innovations in customer service such as fixed prices, guarantees of return or exchange, and convenience- a wide variety of goods under one roof.

This style of merchandising became so successful that by the early 20th century cities around the world boasted luxurious palaces of beautifully displayed goods in a mind boggling variety.

And in every department were trained salespeople, skilled workers who combined a knowledge of inventory, a sense of style, and superior diplomatic skills to advise and assist the customer.

Department stores became icons of their cities.

They established new standards in merchandising, customer service, display, advertising, architecture, and even dining.

Here we share with you some of these gorgeous moments in retail history.




Posted on November 19, 2017 .