Bringing affluence to the masses: innovations in production, marketing, and value chains for consumer durables in inter-war Britain
|Starts:||14:00 5 Mar 2015|
|Ends:||15:00 5 Mar 2015|
|What is it:||Seminar|
|Organiser:||Manchester Institute of Innovation Research|
|Venue opening hours:||2-3pm (coffee from 1.30pm)|
|Who is it for:||University staff, Adults, Alumni, Current University students, General public|
The United States witnessed a “consumer durables revolution” during the 1920s. This is often contrasted with Britain where, it is argued, low working-class incomes could not sustain mass markets for consumer durables. However, the examples typically cited (cars and white goods) are problematic, owing to the existence of much stronger close substitutes for their services in Britain than in the USA. This paper looks at how manufacturers and/or retailers of durable goods re-structured value chains in an effort to bring consumer durables to a mass market. It also shows the importance of innovative marketing, to weaken consumer resistance and inertia and over-turn traditional attitudes - that the goods in question were too expensive, too difficult to operate, or subject to predatory credit practices.
The extent to which these strategies were successful was determined by a number of factors, including the item’s cost; the utility and social status consumers attributed to the product; the presence of `rents’ from patents or collusive trade practices, that raised prices; and the possibilities for joint supply with complementary goods (such as power companies selling white goods on generous terms to boost power sales). We show how these factors interacted to make goods such as radios, or new suites of furniture, spectacular success stories of mass market diffusion, while other products, such as telephones and cars, failed to become `necessities’ even for the typical lower-middle class household.
Role: Professor of International Business History
Organisation: Henley Business School, University of Reading
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Harold Hankins building