Sunday 26 February 2017

Are we being served?

How the decline of the department store reflects women's greater freedoms

Mary Kenny

Mary Kenny

Jim Larkin's statue outside Clerys Department store on Dublin's O'Connell Street
Jim Larkin's statue outside Clerys Department store on Dublin's O'Connell Street

O'Connell Street in Dublin won't be the same with the disappearance of Clery's department store, which had been such a landmark to generations of women.

The original concept of the department store was based on feminine appeal. It was to be a place of convenience for "lady shoppers" - when invented in the middle of the 19th century - bringing so many diverse products under one roof. But it was also a place of safety where women could linger without being molested; where women could meet for lunch or snacks in an era when a respectable lady did not eat in public unaccompanied by a man.

The pioneer of the department store concept, Octave Mouret, launched "Au Printemps" in Paris in 1865, with the specific idea of targeting the female shopper with pleasing enticements - and giving her a sense of personal freedom, too.

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