Shopper’s Paradise

Retail Stores and American Consumer Culture

In: Brill Research Perspectives in Popular Culture
Arthur Asa BergerProfessor Emeritus, Broadcast, and Electronic Communication Arts, San Francisco State University, USA

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This book deals with an important aspect of everyday life and popular culture in which everyone engages, often more than once a week, which involves shopping in retail stores of one kind or another. We need to eat and continually replenish our supply of food, so we shop at supermarkets and farmers markets and we need to have clothes to wear and many other things, so we shop in department stores, big-box stores like Costco and Walmart, and various other kinds of stores. Much of our shopping is done online, on sites such as, the most important online retailer in America. Its popularity has challenged traditional brick and mortar stores, most of which now have an internet presence and many of which are going out of business—a phenomenon sometimes called “the retail apocalypse.” This term, let me point out, has religious implications. The subtext of Shopper’s Paradise involves the notion, only dimly perceived by most people, there is a paradisical element to shopping and that in curious ways, shopping represents an unrecognized attempt to return to the Garden of Eden, where all our wants were taken care of by God. We have replaced the talking snake in the Garden with advertising agencies and marketing experts. Now, depending on our incomes, we rely on stores ranging from Neiman Marcus to Dollar stores to help us take care of our needs. Shopper’s Paradise demonstrates how ubiquitous and varied retail stores, explains how they function, and suggests, by their very presence, that they play an important role in our lives.

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