The New Cool
Dr Pamela Cox looks at how shopgirls threw off their staid reputation to become hip in the second half of the 20th century.
Pamela begins by discovering heroic stories of shopgirls during the London Blitz, with shop workers rescuing evacuees and serving customers from bomb-damaged premises. She also explores how the Second World War created flexible working opportunities on the shop floor and gave rise to a new concept, the working mum.
The post-war baby boom created a massive demographic shift, producing record numbers of teenagers with a keen eye for music, film and fashion. By the 1960s, teenagers emulated the beautiful shopgirls working in trendy boutiques like Mary Quant's Bazaar in London's Kings Road. Being a shopgirl was more than just a job - they were status symbols who had become the embodiment of the brand. Shopgirls were crucial to the success of stores like Biba, where their jobs were more about modelling the clothes and hanging out rather than giving customers the hard sell.
Pamela looks at the 1970s, when the unstoppable growth of chain stores and the introduction of shopping malls signalled the death of many independent shops, and explores the impact that growing up above a shop had on the country's most famous grocer's daughter, Margaret Thatcher.
Pamela visits the supermarket where she worked on the checkouts in the 1980s and, glimpsing into the future, she considers how our shops and shopworkers will adapt to an increasingly online world.
You are at the last episode