Thursday, June 10, 2010

Richard Longstreth's "The American Department Store Transformed"

Richard Longstreth is Professor of American Studies and director of the Graduate Program in Historic Preservation at George Washington University in Washington, D.C.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, The American Department Store Transformed, 1920-1960,
On page 99 of The American Department Store Transformed, you will read about a debate between advocates of municipally and commercially operated parking facilities and will probably ask what on earth that has to do with department stores. Quite a bit, actually. From the 1920s on, customer parking emerged as an ever-more pressing issue for department store companies as increasing segments of the best customers grew ever-more inclined to drive downtown. I devote an entire chapter to the subject, exploring the numerous strategies taken by, and disagreements among, these companies in trying to address a need for which they were ill-equipped to resolve.

The book explores many other such issues, including customer service, systematization of operational practices, warehousing, display, store location and design, lighting, and branch development. The period covered encompasses four decades, 1920-1960, when department stores were transformed in many ways, ending at a time when leading retailers thought they had re-invented their stores to the degree that they would continue to enjoy dominance for decades to come.

Besides the chapter on parking, two chapters focus on downtown stores, one on off-site warehousing and service facilities, two on freestanding branch stores, two on department stores in shopping centers, and one on the department store’s role in attempts at urban redevelopment around 1960.
Learn more about The American Department Store Transformed at the Yale University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue