Consumption and Identity at Work

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Paul du Gay

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    Acknowledgements

    This book has been a long time in the making and as a result the debts accumulated are vast. Where to begin? Well, thanks first to John Allen and Graeme Salaman who supervised the doctoral research project upon which this book is based and with whom I am glad to say I still enjoy a close working relationship.

    A significant part of this book resonates with the voices of women and men who work in retail. I would like to thank all those people in the various organizations I visited who gave up their time to talk to me about their work and lives.

    I am also pleased at last to be able to thank publicly my friends and family for their emotional and (let's face it) financial support during the PhD process; in particular, I would like to thank my parents, Pat and Peter du Gay, for their love and other forms of assistance, and Celia Lidchi, for allowing me to use her house as if it were my own.

    Another debt is owed to those who have discussed ideas with me, or allowed me to steal them. Among the many I would like to thank especially: Huw Beynon, Frances Bonner, Richard Brown, Julie Charlesworth, John Clarke, Gill Court, James Donald, Stuart Hall, Stephen Hill, Peter Miller, Beverley Mullings, Keith Negus and Nikolas Rose. I would also like to thank the ESRC (Grant No. R00428824061) and the Social Science Faculty Research Committee at the Open University for providing the financial support which enabled my research to take place.

    During the long period of preparing this text I have received considerable encouragement and support from Sue Jones at Sage. I would like to thank her for helping me to develop some implicit themes from earlier drafts.

    Henrie Lidchi read the entire text in draft and it has benefited greatly from her wise counsel. My greatest thanks, as ever, are to her.

    Some of the material contained in this book has appeared elsewhere in modified form: parts of Chapter 3 have appeared as ‘Enterprise culture and the ideology of excellence’, New Formations, 13, 1991; and ‘The enterprising subjects of excellence’, in J. Child, M. Crozier, R Mayntz, P. du Gay et al., 1993, Societal Change between Market and Organization (Aldershot: Avebury). An earlier version of Chapter 5 appeared as ‘Numbers and souls: retailing and the de-differentiation of economy and culture’, in British Journal of Sociology, 44(1), 1993.

  • Appendix: Research Details

    The original empirical research presented in this book derives from a study into the construction of new forms of work-based subjectivity and identity in contemporary British retailing undertaken between December 1989 and January 1991. During that period over 100 semi-structured and unstructured individual interviews were conducted with a range of staff – from senior management to sales assistant level – in four multiple retail organizations. These interviews were combined with non-participant observation of a variety of formal organizational practices and informal shopfloor practices in a small number of stores located in the south-east of England.

    Company A

    Company A is the main retail division of a corporation specializing in the production and marketing of health and beauty products. Company A has been the main contributor to overall group profits since at least 1986. At the end of March 1990, the chain comprised 1, 051 outlets – divided into ‘small’ stores and ‘large’ stores – with a total staff (including area offices and head office) of 55, 168. The chain is a market leader in many areas of its core business.

    Research at A was conducted between April and July 1990. The research took place at the company's head office, at its Central London area office, its Central London training office, and in two stores in Central London, one large and one small. In all, 52 interviews were conducted with members of staff during that period. Five repeat interviews were conducted.

    Company B

    Company B is the young women's wear division of a large fashion retailing corporation. During 1990–1, the company employed around 3, 000 staff operating in 269 outlets of varying size nationwide. Research at B was conducted between August and November 1990. The research took place in B's head office and in six stores of differing size located in the south-east of England. Two of these stores were located in Central London. Interviews were conducted with 42 members of staff. Six repeat interviews were conducted.

    Company C

    Company C produces and sells health and beauty products. Although the company operates more than 700 shops in 40 countries, with one-third of these located in the UK, it directly controls very few of the stores carrying its name. Most are franchised. In 1990, only 42 UK stores were run directly by the company. As a result the company doesn't employ many people itself – around 2,000 – the rest are employed through franchisees.

    Research at company C was conducted in January and October 1990, and in January 1991. Three in-depth interviews were conducted with senior management staff responsible for the development and implementation of employee relations and human resource policy within the company.

    Company D

    Company D is one of the UK's leading retailing organizations. Its variety store chain in the UK forms the core of the company's operations. The chain is distinctive in that it sells only ‘own brand’ products. Company D has around 300 stores and around 57, 121 employees. Research at company D was conducted in May and October 1990. This research consisted of two in-depth interviews with senior management staff responsible for personnel and training policies.

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