Which countries have a strong consumer economy?
Luxury goods only for aristocrats
In the 18th century things were still quiet when the first small consumer plant slowly sprout out of the ground. At this time, the people of Europe stock up on what they need to live at the weekly or annual market. It buys what it cannot produce or produce itself. Fine spices, exquisite fabrics or fine jewelry are beyond their dreams for most of them.
Such luxury goods can only be afforded by the nobles. They are financially able to satisfy their longing for beautiful things and amenities and value appropriate clothing, food and drink. The nobility cultivates prestige consumption according to the motto: "Tell me what you eat and I will tell you who you are."
With the increasing emancipation of the bourgeoisie and the associated growing purchasing power, prestige objects are no longer reserved for the nobility alone.
Food and drinks are also important to the citizens to highlight their stand, as are furnishings and clothing. Now it is no longer consumed for the need, but for the desire to own and represent something.
The consumer revolution in Great Britain
The development of today's consumer society began in Britain in the early 18th century. The country's thriving industry is creating jobs. The cities are growing, a new class of society is emerging.
Workers and craftsmen have more money than before. The farms are flourishing and increasing their yields.
As purchasing power increases, so does the demand for mass consumer goods such as schnapps, beer, tallow, soap and printed clothing. Tea consumption is growing enormously. Significantly more tea has to be imported than a few decades before.
The first mass products hit the market, for example cotton clothing. It is made in India, is more creative, more colorful and cheaper - and you don't have to apply it for as long as the good old English woolen thread, as it breaks much faster. Fashion is becoming more and more important.
The industry pays careful attention to at least changing the pattern of its collections every year so that new models can be sold.
Consumption is therefore already consciously controlled at this time. Fashion journals are created that set trends. Suddenly there is the term "to be out of fashion" and even then hardly anyone wants to be "out".
Consumption is becoming European
Countries like France, Germany and Holland will soon be caught up with the consumer revolution and develop in a similar way to Great Britain. Fashion journals are a medium for promoting consumer needs. The fashion magazines are particularly popular in Germany.
In 1786 the first fashion magazine was published in Weimar, the "Journal des Luxus und der Moden". It spreads quickly and becomes the most successful means of communication for conveying dreams and longings from the beautiful, colorful consumer world.
It is read primarily by the nobility and the upper middle class. Other journals will soon follow suit, and more and more French journals are coming onto the market in Germany.
In the middle of the 19th century, advertising to increase sales became more and more important. If the market crier used to be a medium for advertising, it is now increasingly advertised and placarded. In 1855 the first advertising pillar was erected in Berlin, offering a lot of space for advertising in a small space.
Who advertises, sells
The ads are initially quite text-rich and visually unappealing. It was not until the end of the 19th century that the products and their forms of application were also shown.
Advertising graphics are always evolving. At the beginning of the 20th century, advertising messages were reduced to simple symbols. For example, the Manoli cigarette brand has a simple circle with an M in the middle.
Not only is advertising in magazines and newspapers developing, the design of shop windows is also gaining in importance. The goods are offered in a more sophisticated way and advertising is increasingly shaping the streets of big cities.
The first advertising magazines were created at this time and the window dressing profession was born. Consumption can no longer be evaded now at the latest.
The first consumer palaces
The first large department stores were built at the end of the 19th century. Karstadt, Althoff and Tietz build consumer palaces in Berlin, Hamburg and other large cities in Germany.
Shopping becomes a leisure experience - "shopping" becomes fashion. There is no trading here as before, instead there are fixed prices and the goods must be paid for in cash.
The wishes of the consumers grow with the increasing supply, which can put a strain on the wallet. Over time, the small credit economy established itself, the indebtedness of the population increased.
The desire to consume also gives rise to the first forerunners of shopping addiction and is noticeable in the growing number of kleptomaniacs.
The consumption of the masses
After the First World War, the Great Depression at the end of the 1920s and the Second World War, consumption developed into what we know today: mass consumption. It has to be more and more, more and more beautiful, always better. After many years of doing without, consumption has almost become a basic need.
With the reconstruction after the war, the time of the economic miracle comes for the Germans. The television, the car, the trip to Italy - almost everyone wants and needs to have all of these.
Perl stockings and electric refrigerators are no longer luxury, but mass-produced goods. International products like Coca Cola conquer the market. This is how the globalization of consumption began in the 1950s.
The history of consumption continues to evolve with giant strides. Frozen products are becoming the norm in German households.
You can find them in the new supermarkets, where customers first have to get used to self-service. The man of the house no longer shaves wet, but with his new electric razor.
The electrical appliance market is booming. There is hardly a household in which electrical helpers did not make everyday life easier for the modern housewife from the 1960s onwards. Thoughts on the associated mass consumption of precious raw materials and energy sources only come later.
Even in the 1970s, the "ex and hop" principle was considered completely normal. The dumpsters overflow and it is consumed for hell out of it. Advertising suggests that more and more products belong to a modern household. Plastic is ubiquitous.
Plastic furniture was all the rage in the 1970s and absolute bestsellers. Star designer Luigi Colani, for example, shaped the furniture visions of the time with his futuristic plastic furniture.
Eco-movement and more critical consumers
The 1980s were all about addiction to luxury. "Better to consume today, because who knows what will be tomorrow" seems to be the motto of this time. For many, beauty and wealth are the desired goal. Branded clothes are becoming even more of a must. The yuppie generation emerges at this time.
At the same time, however, a countercurrent is developing, because it is the time of the retrofitting debates and the anti-nuclear movement. The threat of nuclear weapons and the stationing of cruise missiles and Pershing II in Western Europe make people afraid. They take to the streets, demonstrate and form human chains.
Many of them are also committed to the environment. The eco-movement is finding more and more friends and the first organic shops are opening up in the cities. A different type of consumer is developing. More critical, environmentally conscious consumers who want to get away from mass consumption.
Shopping at the click of a mouse
"We're in" at the end of the 1990s. The World Wide Web opens up a completely new dimension in consumption. Apparently limitless, we can quench our thirst for the latest goods. Almost every household in Germany is now connected to the Internet.
For example, if you fancy a fresh salmon from Canada, you can order it online directly from the producer. The globalization of consumption took place at the latest with the introduction of the Internet into living rooms.
For many, consuming has become a full evening leisure activity when they wait for hours at the auction houses for "3,2,1 - auctioned". A new stimulus that combines gaming and consumption has now been added.
The Federal Association of German Mail Order Retailers assumed that consumers in Germany spent around 72 billion euros on goods and services on the Internet in 2019 - and the trend is rising.
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