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Streamlining Shopping

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Louise Curth, Gareth Shaw and Andrew Alexander explain how the British supermarket was born.

Shopping for food in supermarkets is such an everyday part of life that, for many people, it is hard to imagine a time when such shops did not exist. There are many older people, however, who remember when most groceries were sold in small, simple ‘counter-service’ shops. Only half a century ago, most food was acquired from staff who would pick, weigh and wrap it. In a society where personalised service was the norm, few retailers believed that Britons would ever be willing to join their American cousins in ‘wandering round a store hunting for goods’.


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