Sign consumption in the 19th century department store: An examination of visual merchandising in the grand emporiums (1846-1900)

Parker, Ken W. (2003) Sign consumption in the 19th century department store: An examination of visual merchandising in the grand emporiums (1846-1900). Journal of Sociology, 39(4), pp. 353-371.


The department stores of the 19th century continue to fascinate social theorists. This paper will expand on the work of two such theorists, Laermans and Featherstone. Extending Laermans’ and Featherstone’s analysis and applying the early work of Baudrillard, this paper will assert that through the manipulation of visual merchandising, the 19th-century department store’s managers constructed a world of sign consumption where goods were not only consumed for their use- or exchange- value but also were consumed as signs of luxury, exoticism, and excess. By asserting that highly developed forms of sign-consumption existed in the 19th century, this paper challenges the view that symbolic consumption in spaces such as shopping malls is particular to the contemporary or postmodern age.

Impact and interest:

7 citations in Scopus
3 citations in Web of Science®
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ID Code: 55
Item Type: Journal Article
Refereed: Yes
Additional URLs:
Keywords: Baudrillard, consumption, department store, 19th century, sign, value, visual merchandising
ISSN: 1440-7833
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > STUDIES IN HUMAN SOCIETY (160000) > SOCIOLOGY (160800)
Divisions: Past > Research Centres > Centre for Social Change Research
Past > QUT Faculties & Divisions > QUT Carseldine - Humanities & Human Services
Copyright Owner: Copyright 2003 Sage Publications
Copyright Statement: Reproduced in accordance with the copyright policy of the publisher: This journal is available online - use hypertext link.
Deposited On: 04 Jun 2004 00:00
Last Modified: 10 Aug 2011 16:44

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