A discussion of a local village shop as a consumption space

by Becci Dive Although a village shop differs from a shopping mall in the sense that it is not a location where the consumer is less likely to ‘glance or gaze’ due to the reduced quantity of goods available along with the range of products on offer, I would propose that there is however a link present between the two through both being privately owned spaces for consumption, but they differ through the determination of how the consumers think about them. A key difference between the two spaces is that firstly a mall is fuelled by consumerist ideals; the entire environment of a mall is working to change consumer glance into consumer gaze in an attempt to draw them into the individual spaces which continue hold consumption as a focus. This is different to the village shop which I am arguing to be centred on non-consumerist consumption, as the reasons behind the shops existence and its customer draw are not consumption driven. When considering the role of shopkeeper, they are providing a service to their community; not only are they an accessible point for local purchasing but they are retaining a sense of community which is fast depleting from villages, with local shops being bought out by chains removing the ‘local’ feel. As a focal point for community purchasing they are potentially the hub for village activity, further defining them as non consumerist; their existence in a village is centred more upon what it stands for, a freedom from modern day capitalism and a visual rebellion against this. The nostalgia offered in the consumption space is another influence on the decision making process of where to consumer; a village shop allows reminiscence and experience of a time when capitalism wasn’t key and consumption wasn’t a leisure activity, giving the consumer a break from modern day reality through consuming in the village shop space. The consumers themselves also differ from those within a mall, although it would be foolish to not consider that they may at times have a crossover of interests – the shopping mall may be an appropriate consumption space to them, dependant on what they are looking to consume. However, considering their motives for utilising the village shop as a consumption space, the first driver to this would be loyalty; loyalty to the community by supporting a business, and potentially loyalty to the shopkeeper themselves as the space itself allows personal relationships to form, which is highly uncommon with the space of a shopping mall, and this can impact upon the consumer decision of where to spend. These relationships themselves would also be an influencing factor upon the customer as they would be participating in what could be viewed as an additional form of consumption, a feature which costs nothing but the consumer would not easily find within the space of a mall. In the same way vending machines are stripping human interaction from the consumption process, it could be proposed that shopping malls are doing just the same. It is not just via the shopkeeper, although this is an influencing factor, the space itself assists in instilling trust with the consumer. The independent nature of the business removes it from the ‘corporate monster’ image frequently attributed to large scale companies and shops where economic growth and profits are the driver behind all business attributes through getting the public hooked on consuming through promotions, deals, signage and advertising. These drivers are not present in the village shop space, so the consumer should feel more freedom in consumption choices through the removal of such tools, instilling trust in the business and reinforcing the previously stated positive outcomes of the space. This leads on to the question of how the space impacts the framing of the goods; potential for further study lies in how the consumer frames products and their economic value dependent of the space within which they can be purchased. Village shops typically have higher prices than Tesco or Sainsburys, yet people are willing to spend this extra capital. Is this due to the space? Does it impact it add to the value attributed from the consumer on to the product?

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    Janice Denegri-Knott

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    Becci, provocative stuff, however are we not creating a rose tinted view of small community life? Are we construing spaces, framed by notions of commodities and markets as being alienating things and the village shop, the stuff of gifts or communitarianism? Whilst some of these discourses may very well frame a shop owner and buyers’ experience of such spaces, I wonder if the space is more contested.

    The text reminded me of Henri Lefebvre’s monumental the Production of Space, with its nostalgica rescue of the author’s own childhood village in opposition to the homogenous and destructive spaces of capital. David Harvey has written extensively about the reproduction of capitalism in space and shares some of sentimentalism of Lefebvre. Perhaps worth dipping into.

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    rbeckyj

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    I saw an episode of a Mary Portas programme last night about a village shop – in Corfe Castle, Dorset. She was very much trying to create a ‘quaint’, ‘olde english’ space that would be the heart of community life, filled with local produce, including a social area to encourage people to spend time there etc etc. She wanted to differentiate the village store from a supermarket based on traditional characteristics, but also based on things that supermarkets simply cannot do – fresh, local produce on a daily basis, inviting ‘knitting circles’ to spend time in the store, be at the heart and soul of community life etc. So the gaze may simply be on different things perhaps – yes there is less, but what there is may be equisite and unique to the space it occupies.

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PROMOTIONAL CULTURES & COMMUNICATION CENTRE
PROMOTIONAL CULTURES & COMMUNICATION CENTRE
Faculty of Media & Communication, Bournemouth University