The history of food self-service shops in the Netherlands has only recently been linked explicitly to the field of history of technology. The main question posed in this research is how food self-service shops arose in the Netherlands, how they developed and what explanations could be given for these processes, focusing on the dynamics of technology and socio-economical aspects. What changes occurred in self-service as a socio-technical system, what kind of self-service shops and developmental stages can be distinguished based on that, and how can we explain for this? Because self-service was first introduced in food shops in the Netherlands since the forties of the twentieth century, increasingly since the end of the Second World War, this research will focus on the period 1945-1975. To be able to understand and analyze the aspects of the history of technology of selfservice shops several theoretical concepts were used. The concept of a socio-technical system provides in an analysis based on relevant actors, factors, artefacts and techniques that are shaped by society and, at the same time, influence that society. The food chain is used to structure phases and locations in which foods can be situated, such as production, distribution and consumption (phases), and factories, shops and households (locations). Furthermore, self-service shops appear to relate to the notion of innovation junction. This notion roughly stands for the integration of existing and/or new technologies, as well as actors, in a specific location such as the self-service shop, by which the technological dynamics in this location change. The introduction of self-service launched interrelated innovations in food retail. Examples are found in innovations in the shop interior, like central check-outs and shopping trolleys. Furthermore, this process of changing dynamics involved a transition from a pragmatic approach to applying self-service, implementing related techniques and innovating, to a rational, efficient approach towards this. Amongst others, the development and use of scanning illustrates this. In the growth and development of food self-service shops in the Netherlands four different types of self-service shops can be distinguished. The first is called ‘the transformed service shop’, characterizing the first, experimental self-service shops between 1945 and 1955. Around 1955 the second type can be distinguished, which is called ‘the rationalized selfservice shop’. This rationalization had been made possible thanks to the increasing knowledge and experience in relation to self-service. The third type (1955-1965) is called ‘expanded self-service shop’, referring to the first pragmatic attempts to diversify the food assortment with fresh meat, fresh fruits, fresh vegetables and several non-foods (usually defined as a supermarket). Under the influence of processes of rationalization and an increasingly professional approach, this changed since approximately 1965, which is indicated by the fourth type, called ‘rationalized supermarket’. Based on those four types of food self-service shops chapter 2 shows that self-service was introduced by a small group of independent food retailers (as opposed to big chains stores; type 1, 1945-1955). Post-war reconstruction and modernization, as well as taking the United States as an example for that, were important factors that influenced food retailers in their decision to introduce self-service. The same goes for the ever present dynamics of competition and of technology, the latter including innovations that were especially developed for self-service shops. The first processes of rationalization were strongly related to the growth of knowledge infrastructures and processes of professionalization in retailing (type 2, 1955-1975; chapter 3). Chain stores were responsible for the first attempts to run a supermarket, in which they were strongly influenced by the growth in prosperity and the changing food culture (in a positive way), but also by laws of the Dutch government (initially in a restrictive way; type 3, 1965-1975). The further growth of knowledge infrastructures and processes of professionalization in retailing, as well as additional developments in techniques (for example in cooling, freezing, transportation and logistics) and processes of internationalization (also related to the European Union) led to a rationalization in the exploitation of supermarkets (type 4, 1965-1975). This process was led and/or influenced mainly by supermarket retailers, the food industry and the government. In chapter 4 changes in the food assortment and packaging are discussed, pointing out how production and distribution mutually influenced each other, and both changed because of self-service, especially in terms of technological innovations in wrappings. In addition changes in Dutch governmental laws concerning retail and governmental consumer education are regarded in relation to self-service. Chapter 5 focuses on specific changes in the food assortment, between 1945 and 1975, that are strongly linked to self-service: the adding of fresh and frozen foods to the food assortments in self-service shops. In order to be able to sell those foods, self-service food retailers needed refrigerators, freezers and cooled or frozen transportation of foods. Producers who wanted to sell their cooled and frozen foods to retailers initially made this possible by providing the suited transportation and shop-equipment under favorable financial conditions. To complete this cooling chain – a sub-chain of the food chain that focuses on fresh and frozen foods – producers and retailers helped to fasten the spreading of refrigerators in people’s homes. Mainly Albert Heijn contributed to this by offering fridges in a gift system, but also the Dutch Association of Housewives (Nederlandse Vereniging van Huisvrouwen) played a role in this. Subsequently, chapter 6 sheds some light on the development of self-service in other European countries, namely Sweden, West-Germany and the United Kingdom. In comparison it becomes clear that the increase in prosperity is the most important common factor that explains for the growth of self-service in those countries. The main difference is that in Sweden, West-Germany and the United Kingdom cooperatives initiated the application of self-service in food shops, while in the Netherlands this was done by independent food retailers. Chapter 7 proceeds with developments related to self-service in the Netherlands after 1975. Here we see how rationalized supermarkets become dominant in Dutch food retail and how scanning is introduced systematically as an automation of checking out at the cash register, the administration and the inventory maintenance. This process clearly shows the established rationality in innovation in rationalized supermarkets. In chapter 8 the research is summarized by answering the questions that were presented in the first chapter. In spite of occasional criticism of some customers on the dominant position of supermarkets in food retail nowadays, supermarkets owe their success largely to the general public, which prefers supermarkets over smaller food retail shops.
|Qualification||Doctor of Philosophy|
|Award date||18 Oct 2007|
|Place of Publication||Eindhoven|
|Publication status||Published - 2007|