26th May 2015

Liquid Retail: Cultural Perspectives on Marketplace Transformation

Call for Special Issue of Consumption, Markets & Culture 

Liquid Retail: Cultural Perspectives on Marketplace Transformation

(Submission deadline, 1st  of March, 2016) 

Ronan de Kervenoael, Sabanci University, Istanbul, Turkey, School of Management and Aston University, Birmingham, UK.
Domen Bajde, University of Southern Denmark, Odense, Denmark, Department of Marketing and Management.
Alexandre Schwob, Aalto University, Helsinki, Finland, Department of Marketing.

This call for papers invites cultural investigation of ‘liquid retail’, accelerated change in retail that is fundamentally tied to socio-cultural dynamics and tensions. In contrast to prevalent studies of retail environments as (more or less) stable places of shopping, we call for exploration into the socio-cultural dynamics shaping and being shaped by the spatio-temporal fluidity of retail. Despite persuasive calls to explore the socio-cultural make-up of retail contexts (Miller 1995) and a growing body of interdisciplinary work on retail-related topics – e.g., fast fashion (Barnes and Lea- Greenwood, 2009), ethical shopping (Carrigan et al. 2004), themed shops (Kozinet et al. 2002; van Marrewijk and Maaike 2012), retail brand ideology (Borghini et al. 2009), retail formats and spaces (Warnaby 2013), alternative retail (Friends and Thompson, 2003; Crewe and Gregson 1998), service work and gender (Pettinger 2004; du Gay 2004), materiality and retail objects (Cochoy 2009), credit (Ossandón 2014), etc. – systematic exploration of how socio-cultural forces drive change in retail and how change in retail shapes culture and society, remains scarce.

In recent decades, we have witnessed an unrelenting concentration of market power in the hands of global ‘big-box’ retailers. This has been compounded by the problems of small local producers and traders, who have been further marginalized by the relocation of shopping to large out-of-town shopping centres or to ubiquitous online shopping platforms (Jackson et al. 2006; Clarke et al. 2006). In this process, urban geographies, retail ‘workforce’ and working conditions, consumer shopping patterns and experiences, etc. have been increasingly transformed. While in some parts of the world, these changes capture the bulk of ongoing retail dynamics, in other more mature markets they fail to encapsulate the complex, accelerated change in retail. The latter entails multifaceted transformations shaped by volatile demographic, economic and socio-cultural shifts (e.g., aging population, economic and moral crises,  redefinition of family and gender roles and developments in information and communication technology) (IGD 2015 a, b; Friend and Thompson 2003; Scholz 2011; de Kervenoael et al. 2014; Hallsworth et al. 2010; Wrigley and Dolega 2011).

We borrow Bauman’s notion of ‘liquidity’ to highlight and problematize some of the socio-cultural dynamics taking place in modern retail. Bauman (2000, 2007) characterizes the current social condition of ‘liquid modernity’ as one of increased fluidity of socio-cultural structures, institutions, people, objects and places. Our use of the adjective ‘liquid’ in ‘liquid retail’, is neither meant to designate radical social dissolution (i.e., liquidization of everything), nor an emergence of a new social totality, but seeks to engage with the socio-economic conditions in which consumers and businesses increasingly strive to be flexible and open to change, as opposed to being anchored or striving for permanence and solidity (Bardhi et al. 2012a; Bardhi and Eckhardt 2015; Hanson 2015). Along these lines, we argue that recent developments in retailing have been marked by the corrosion of fixity and boundaries in several respects.

First, even the more stable retail spaces such as supermarkets are undergoing continuous transformations to conjure up a growing range of themed periods and cultures (e.g., Halloween season, Oriental section). While such retail morphosis often follows relatively predictable rhythms of tradition (e.g., seasonal holidays), ‘tradition’ becomes increasingly fluid as contact with ‘foreign’ cultures intensifies and multiple cultures intertwine in the process of glocalization (Grinshpun 2013). Second, catalyzed by progressive dematerialization and digitalization of the economy and society (Slater, 1997; Bardhi and Eckhardt 2015), we are witnessing the efflorescence of ubiquitous, transient and digital retail (e.g., 24/7 online retail, blog shops, pop-up stores, self-service technology, vending machines, revival of foodtrucks). Third, the conventional boundaries defining retail are becoming increasingly permeable as retail penetrates into spheres traditionally reserved for economic elites or institutions less hospitable to the ethos of commerce. As a result, ‘liquid retail’ becomes deeply implicated in the ongoing negotiation of socio-cultural and economic boundaries, such as those separating different modes of consumption (Bardhi et al. 2012a, 2012b), those separating consumers from producers (Ritzer et al. 2012), market economy from moral economy (Arsel and Dobscha 2011; Bajde 2013), or those separating one retail channel or retail brand from another (IGD 2014). There is a growing array of hybrid retail forms, formats and arrangements that have so far received scant attention in cultural consumption research.

This call for papers invites cultural research devoted to these and other facets of ‘liquid retail’. We invite both empirical and conceptual papers interested in the diverse array of topics ranging from public policy and managerial concerns to critical accounts of the moral and political implications of liquid retail. It is expected that authors will build on ongoing dialogues in Consumption, Markets and Culture on retail and socio-cultural change. The papers should follow CMC guidelines for format and references (see http://goo.gl/EGlD98), and should not exceed 10.000 words (references included). Please submit your manuscripts by 1st of March, 2016, via http://mc.manuscriptcentral.com/gcmc. Any further queries regarding this special issue should be addressed to Ronan de Kervenoael (dekervenoael@sabanciuniv.edu). 


Bajde, Domen. 2013. Marketized philanthropy: Kiva’s utopian ideology of entrepreneurial philanthropy, Marketing Theory. 13 (1): 3-18.

Bardhi Fleura and Eckhardt, Giana. M. 2015. Liquid Consumption. Interpretive Consumer Research Workshop. EIASM, Edinburgh.

Bardhi, Fleura., Eckhardt, Giana. M., and Arnould, Eric. J. 2012a. Liquid Relationships to Possessions, Journal of Consumer Research, 39: 510-529.

Bardhi, Fleura and Eckhardt, Giana. M. 2012b. Access-Based Consumption: The Case of Car Sharing Journal of Consumer Research, 39: 881-898.

Bauman Zygmunt. 2007. Liquid Times: Living in an Age of Uncertainty, Cambridge: Polity.

Bauman, Zygmunt. 2000. Liquid Modernity, Cambridge: Polity.

Borghini, Stefania., Nina. Diamond, Robert Kozinets, Mary Ann McGrath, Albert M. Muniz and John F. Sherry Jr 2009. Why Are Themed Brandstores So Powerful? Retail Brand Ideology at American Girl Place. Journal of Retailing 85 (3): 363-375.

Carrigan, Marylyn., Isabelle. Szmigin, and Wright, Joanne. 2004. Shopping for a better world? An interpretative study of the potential for ethical consumption within the older market. Journal of Consumer Marketing, 21 (6): 401-417.

Clarke, Ian., Hallsworth, Alan., Jackson, Peter., de Kervenoael, Ronan., del Aguila ,Rosanna.P, and Kirkup, Malcom. 2006. Retail restructuring and consumer choice 1. Long-term local changes in consumer behaviour: Portsmouth, 1980 – 2002. Environment and Planning, 38 (1): 25-46.

Cochoy, Frank. 2009. Driving a Shopping Cart from STS to Business, and the Other Way Round: On the Introduction of Shopping Carts in American Grocery Stores (1936-1959). Organization 16 (1): 31-55.

Crewe, Louise and Gregson, Nicky. 1998. Tales of the unexpected: exploring car boot sales as marginal spaces of contemporary consumption, Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, 23 (1): 39–53.

De Kervenoael, Ronan, Elms, Jonathan, Hallsworth, Alan. 2014. Influencing online grocery innovation: Anti-choice as a trigger to activity fragmentation and multi-tasking, Futures: The Journal of Policy, Planning and Futures Studies 62 Part B: 155–163.

du Gay, Paul. 2004. Self-Service: Retail, Shopping and Personhood, Consumption Markets & Culture, 7 (2): 149-163.

Friend, Lorrain. A. and Shona. M. Thompson. 2003. Identity, Ethnicity and Gender: Using Narratives to Understand their Meaning in Retail Shopping Encounters. Consumption, Markets and Culture 6 (1): 32-41.

Grinshpun, Helena. 2014. Deconstructing a global commodity: Coffee, culture, and consumption in Japan. Journal of Consumer Culture.  14 (3): 343-364.

Hallsworth, Alan, de Kervenoael, Ronan, Elms, Jonathan, and Catherine Canning. 2010. The food superstore revolution: changing times, changing research agendas in the UK, The International Review of Retail Distribution and Consumer Research. 20 (1): 135-146.

Hansson, Niklas. 2015. Mobility-things” and consumption: conceptualizing differently mobile families on the move with recent purchases in urban space, Consumption Markets & Culture, 18 (1): 72-91.

IGD 2014 The big blur: Retailing in disruption by James Walton Chief Economist 09 September 2014 http://www.igd.com/Research/Retail/retail-outlook/22290/The-big-blur-retailing-in-disruption

IGD 2015a. A new era of older shoppers: inspiration from Japan by Laura May senior business analyst 15 April 2015 http://www.igd.com/Research/Retail/retail-outlook/27514/Ageing-population-in-Asia

IGD 2015b. Multichannel supply chains: an evolution not a revolution by Laura John, Supply chain business analyst 01 April 2015 http://www.igd.com/Research/Supply-chain/Strategy-planning-technology/27133/Multichannel-supply-chains-an-evolution-not-a-revolution.

Jackson, Peter, del Aguila, Rosanna.P, Clarke, Ian, Hallsworth, Alan, de Kervenoael, Ronan, and Malcom Kirkup. 2006. Retail restructuring and consumer choice 2. Understanding consumer choice at the household level, Environment and Planning, 38 (1): 47 – 67.

Kozinets, Robert. V., John. F. Sherry, Benet DeBerry-Spencea, Adam Duhacheka, Krittinee Nuttavuthisita, Diana Stormb. 2002. Themed flagship brand stores in the new millennium: theory, practice, prospects.” Journal of Retailing 78 (1): 17-29.

Miller, Danniel., Peter. Jackson, Nigel Thrift, Beverly Holbrook and Michael Rowland. 1998. Shopping, Place and Identity. London and New York, Routledge.

Ossandón, Jose. 2014. Sowing consumers in the garden of mass retailing in Chile, Consumption Markets & Culture, 17 (5): 429-447.

Pettinger, Lynne. 2004. Brand Culture and Branded workers: Service work ans aesthetic labour in fashion retail, Consumption Market & culture, 7 (4): 165-184.

Ritzer, George, Paul Dean, and Nathan Jurgenson. 2012. The Coming of Age of the Prosumer. American Behavioral Scientist 56 (4): 379–398.

Scholz, Joachim. 2011. Radical consumption: shopping for change in contemporary culture, Consumption Markets & Culture, 14 (4): 397-399.

Slater, Don. 1997. Consumer Culture and Modernity, London: Polity.

van Marrewijk, Alfons and Maaike, Broos. 2012. Retail stores as brands: performances, theatre and space, Consumption Markets & Culture, 15 (4): 374-391.

Warnaby, Gary. (2013) Synchronising retail and space: using urban squares for competitive place differentiation, Consumption Markets & Culture, 16 (1): 25-44.

Wrigley , Neil Dolega, Les .2011. Resilience, fragility, and adaptation: new evidence on the performance of UK high streets during global economic crisis and its policy implications. Environment and Planning A, 43 (10): 2337-2363.