The History Of Retail In 100 Objects – The Royal Exchange

Royal Exhange

It’s Tuesday so it’s The History Of Retail In 100 Objects post – This weeks object is The Royal Exchange

The Royal Exchange in London was established in 1565 by Thomas Gresham to serve as a centre for financial trading, as well as, commerce. The Royal Exchange was a forerunner to the modern shopping mall as Gresham had the vision to dedicate several floors of the structure to retail uses and collect rent from tenants who occupied the space. Thomas Gresham was a wealthy businessman who set out to change the crude financial trading practices that were common in London during the 16th century. Gresham had served as a royal agent for both King Edward VI and Queen Mary and spent time at the bourse in the Belgian city of Antwerp and wanted to bring a similar concept to London. He invested a large portion of his personal wealth to construct a bourse on land provided by the city of London between Cornhill and Threadneedle Street. Queen Elizabeth I officially opened the Royal Exchange in 1571 and the timing could not have been better for several reasons. London’s population was expanding rapidly and the nation’s ascension as a global power had created newfound wealth among residents who were eager to purchase merchandise from retailers who occupied the upper floors of the Royal Exchange. In addition, the Royal Exchange brought London’s financial trading activities up to the standards of continental Europe at a pivotal moment. The completion of the facility five years prior to the Spanish sacking of Antwerp set London on a course to become the financial capital of Europe.The original structure stood for nearly 100 years before it was destroyed by fire in 1666. A rebuilt structure that opened three years later was again destroyed by fire in 1838. The third Royal Exchange building, which still stands today, was reopened in 1844. The financial firms left the Royal Exchange in 1939 and it became a purely retail establishment.

Contribution to Retail History

The Royal Exchange is considered by many to be the world’s first shopping mall. Founder Thomas Gresham established the principle of combining multiple shopkeepers under a single roof to offer a broad range of merchandise categories to create a compelling retail destination.

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The History Of Retail In 100 Objects – The Ledger

History of Retail  - The Ledger

It’s Tuesday so it’s The History Of Retail In 100 Objects post – This weeks object is The Ledger

Originally a ledger was the name for a service boo k kept in on e place in a church – “The curates should provide a boo k of the Bible in English, of the largest volume, to be a ledger in the same church for the parishioners to read on .” The actual system of reconciling balances was invented by the famous and successful 15th century Italian banking family: the Medici. They developed the double entry system of tracking credits and debits in a ledger. Their Medici currency was once the most used in Europe, and the principles of their ledger system are still in use today – even if many are now computerised. If you want to total up your financial transactions for the day, week or month, no doubt you will have some kind of ledger to record those ‘takings’ in. On the page in front of you the debits and credits are shown in different columns and there’s a balance when you begin and one when you end. The golden rule is that every debit recorded must have a credit, so that in the grand total when you finish, the debits equal the credits.

Contribution to Retail History

Bookkeeping – or keeping the ledgers – was, and remains, fundamental to a retailer’s ability to track and balance goods in against goods out. The resulting financial metrics produce a clear gauge of how well the business is doing and can be used to evaluate the success of business strategies.

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The History Of Retail In 100 Objects – Signage

Signage and Chalkboard_RT

It’s Tuesday so it’s The History Of Retail In 100 Objects post – This weeks object is Signage

Early statistician Gregory King estimated that by the late 17th Century, England and Wales had about 40,000 shopkeepers. They hung signs to display the emblems of their trades and these became a common way for traders to communicate with their customers. When retail began to expand from outdoor markets to permanent premises, retailers (who often lived over the shop) also needed a sign to be able to communicate on e particularly essential piece of information – Open or Closed? In China, signs were originally used in restaurants, teahouses, drugstores, and then draperies, pawnshops, hotels and tobacconists. They were made of cloth, and later leather, bamboo, wood, aluminium, iron, copper and tin, and were hung in front of the doors showing the particular symbol of their trade. Interestingly, there are various taboos in the use of shop signs in China; signs are not ‘hung up’ but ‘invited in’ because gua (hang up) is thought to be unlucky. When a shop sign falls on the ground it is also thought to be a bad omen because the God of Wealth, held in awe by the Chinese, might not approve. In 1389, King Richard II of England, decreed that landlords must put signs outside their inns, so that inspectors could identify and visit them; there is a record from 1393 of a publican being prosecuted for not having a sign. In 1567 and 1577, France issued similar rules. When the signs became too large for safety reasons, in Paris in 1761 and in London around the same time, laws were introduced which dictated that signs had to be placed flat against a wall or removed. Today, retail signage is used to communicate a raft of different messages to consumers. Exterior signage attracts passing trade, while signage inside the retail environment is used for both navigational and promotional purposes. The tent card at the checkout, the (invariably) red and white posters and banners that trumpet ‘SALE’, the branded fascia running the width of the store front – each form of signage has a distinct role to play.

Contribution to Retail History

As well being informative, shop signage also provides a ‘canvas’ through which retailers can speak to their customers, promote and differentiate their brand, inside and outside their premises.

 

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The History Of Retail In 100 Objects – The Rialto Bridge

 

History Of Retail Rialto Bridge

It’s Tuesday so it’s The History Of Retail In 100 Objects post – This weeks object is The Rialto Bridge

Recognised worldwide as an architectural icon , the Rialto Bridge in Venice is the oldest of four structures spanning the ancient city’s Grand Canal. Construction of the bridge was necessitated by the popularity of the Rialto Market on the canal’s eastern bank. Venice flourished as a centre of trade throughout the 13th and 14th centuries and its dominance of the maritime industry and trade made it one of Europe’s most prosperous cities.

The Rialto Bridge was at the centre of it all and for centuries served as the only dry land connection across the Grand Canal. As such, the bridge helped facilitate commerce in one of the world’s most vibrant trading hubs. An early version of the bridge established in 1181 was made of floating pontoons. However, the establishment of the Rialto Market and its growing popularity prompted construction of a higher capacity wooden structure. The original wooden bridge was built with inclined ramps on either side and a centre section which could move to accommodate the passage of larger vessels on the canal. Although an improvement from earlier versions, the wood structure required frequent maintenance, occasionally caught fire and collapsed on several occasions. To remedy the situation, a stone structure was considered and in 1551 proposals were requested from architects. A design for a stone structure similar to the wooden bridge to be replace was accepted from Antonio da Ponte. The design was regarded as bold, if not foolhardy, and sceptics feared the centre span would collapse due to the weight of the stone. Construction proceeded and the bridge was completed in 1591. The concerns of sceptics proved unfounded as the Rialto Bridge has withstood the test of time and more than four centuries after its completion remains serviceable.

 Contribution to Retail History

The Rialto Bridge in all its various forms contributed to the success of the Rialto Market and the establishment of Venice as a hub of global commerce. The bridge highlighted the important role infrastructure plays in facilitating commerce and provided crucial ingress and egress to the city’s vibrant market. The establishment of new sea routes diminished Venice’s role on the world stage, but the enduring image of the Rialto Bridge serves as a reminder of the city’s bygone greatness.

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