Key Stage 3 Communities & Identity

Year 7 Consumer and Traders in my local Community

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Lesson Plan

Teaching ObjectivesPossible Teaching ActivityLearning Outcomes

Pupils should gain a basic understanding of:

  • historical developments of shopping
  • the factors we consider when deciding where to shop
  • the different types of shops available in their local area
  • the wide range of methods available for buying and selling

Begin the lesson by talking to the students about going shopping. Explain the historical development of shopping to the students and ask students to think about how the buying of goods and services is different today.

Look at the different types of shops and discuss with the students how they have developed. Look at modern day examples for each type of shop and consider the advantages and disadvantages of different shops.

Discuss the features of the students' (or school's) own local area. Think about the way in which people can shop and look at the types and choice of shops that are available locally.

Ask the students to think about other ways in which they can buy the goods that they need. Examine each of these and highlight the problems that may exist within each one.

  • Students will be able to recognise that there are many different ways in which they can go shopping and will examine which factors play a role in deciding which shops they use and why.

Teachers Notes

How has shopping developed over time?

Background Information

Everyone needs to go shopping. Most people actually love to go shopping and for some it is a hobby that takes up all of their time and their money. They way in which we shop is forever changing and before we can consider modern day shopping, it is important and interesting for students to understand how it all began.

Hundreds of years ago shopping was a fairly simple business.

There were no purpose-built shops as we know them today. Most trading took place in street markets or fairs where goods were openly displayed on trestle tables. Much was produced locally.

You could simply pick up what you wanted and start to haggle over payment. Prices weren't fixed but sellers were generally expected to make a reasonable profit without taking advantage of other's needs.

If you had no money - and coins were scarce - then you bartered or gave something in exchange. Generally it was a pretty good-natured affair with market days and fairs being something of social occasions. They were controlled by the town councils or the local craft guilds who were the forerunners of our modern trade unions.

Then times began to change.

Gradually shopping 'went indoors' and traders started to specialise in what they sold. Master craftsmen often found it more profitable to sell goods made by people other than themselves. They became retailers or middlemen acting as go-between to customer and producer. At first everything was kept in the back of the shop out of sight.

There were no window displays as we know them today so traders encouraged customers to come inside by going out into the street and shouting to attract attention.

Cash or Credit?

It was still unusual to pay cash for goods until around the mid-eighteenth century - and you were still expected to argue over the price. Coins remained in short supply and most people bought on credit with the seller agreeing to wait for payment until a later date.

But if you found yourself unable to pay your debt when it fell due you were treated as a common criminal and could expect to be thrown into the debtors' prison. Living conditions inside were atrocious, so it paid to keep a check on your spending.

Then in 1775 one London shop decided that life would be simpler for everyone if there was a cash-only rule. Flint and Palmer, a drapery and haberdashery business of London Bridge, stopped giving credit and insisted on being paid in cash. But more than that, they allowed no bargaining. Prices were fixed for the first time.

The Co-operative Shops

In 1844 the first co-operative shop was opened in Toad Lane, Rochdale, Lancashire, by a group of people called the Rochdale Pioneers. They believed that if suppliers, wholesalers, retailers and customers worked together and shared the profits everyone would benefit. They aimed to give ordinary working people an idea of business management and self-government. Payment for goods was in cash only and the profits were divided amongst all the members; how much you received depended upon how much you had actually spent in the shop.

Co-operative shops revolutionised the grocery trade by selling everything under one roof. Branch stores in other areas were soon opened and by the turn of the century there were co-op shops all over the country. They rapidly expanded into other types of trading and were soon selling furniture, clothing, hardware and electrical goods. More recently they have opened up frozen food centres.

The shops are supplied by the Co-operative Wholesale Society (CWS.) which buys bulk supplies from manufacturers and then sells them to the individual retail societies. A lot of their goods are 'own brand' but each society is free to choose whether it will stock Co-op label goods or not. Today, dividends are usually paid out in the form of stamps that can then be exchanged later for cash.

Suggested Teaching Activity

Debating Topic

Ask the students to consider the case for and against Sunday trading.

You may wish to ask the students to research and find out the current legal position and they could also talk to various interested parties, such as the Chamber of Commerce, local Church, etc.

Once the students have collected relevant information, you can hold a class debate and at the end of the session you can give the class a free vote on the subject . Have any of them changed their opinions as a result of this debate?

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How do we shop today?

Background Information

There are many types of shop today and they have all developed over time. The way in which we shop in modern times has developed over many years and is still developing.

a) Multiple or Chain Stores

Inspired by the success of the Co-operatives other organisations followed the example set by the Rochdale Pioneers. Thomas Lipton started a grocery shop in Glasgow in 1872. It proved to be so successful that he opened another - and then several more.

All of his shops looked alike; they carried the same kind of stock, all charged the same price and all expected to be paid in cash.

Other traders followed suit and branched out into other areas and other goods. The spread of chain stores grew rapidly in the early part of the 20th century.

Boots, originally a chemist's selling medicinal products, began selling a wide range of goods from cosmetics to kitchenware.

An American, Frank Winfield Woolworth, opened his first British shop in Liverpool in 1909 selling cheap fast-selling lines like pots, pans and buttons. He charged only two prices for everything; you either paid 3d or 6d.

Today's chain stores have followed Lipton's model and have a uniform style, a distinctive appearance and layout. They are almost entirely self-service.

Branches are usually in the high streets or main town shopping areas and are instantly recognisable from both the outside and within. It has been suggested that this is one of their most valuable assets; shoppers are made to feel that they are on safe, familiar ground.

Chain stores have a central buying policy, rather like the co-operatives, which helps keep costs to a minimum, And because of the size of their commercial operations they can have an enormous economic advantage over their smaller independent competitors. As they buy in vast quantities, their suppliers will often give them big discounts so that they can then afford to cut their prices to their customers.

They can employ specialist designers, advertising agents, technical and legal advisers. Their packaging, labels and price tickets are professionally designed and made by experts.

But they can't offer the same degree of personal service and attention that a small shop can. Their staff, though usually well-trained, can't predict what stock they are likely to buy in and so can't guarantee what will be on the shelves.

b) Department Stores

The Bon Marché store in Paris, which opened in 1872, is usually credited with being the first department store. It offered a new concept in shopping where you could buy a wide range of goods, furniture, clothes, carpets, hardware, food and much more under one roof.

Gordon Selfridge opened his purpose-built London store in 1909 with the slogan 'why not spend a day at Selfridges'. And people did. One reason for the popularity of department stores was that they offered restaurant and toilet facilities for their customers. Both were found particularly invaluable by lady shoppers who'd previously had to endure a certain degree of discomfort on shopping days for there were no such things as public toilets then.

Today's department stores are bigger still and sell an even wider range of goods from china and glassware to garden furniture; from home computers to pet food.

Few of them are owned by the original families who built them up - even though they may still keep the family name. Many have been taken over by groups like the House of Fraser Group who control Harrods in London and several other major department stores around the country.

Like the multiples and chain stores they, too, buy in bulk. You'll usually find that their prices are lower than the smaller independent shops but higher than chain stores. In general they will offer a mixture of self-service and personal service.

Some department stores also rent out space within the building to an independent company. This can sometimes cause confusion if, for example, you want to take something back to complain. It's unlikely that the store itself would be responsible. Instead you'd need to contact the individual company direct.

c) Supermarkets

Supermarkets grew rapidly in the 1950s when many grocery shops changed from the traditional over-the-counter method of selling to an open plan arrangement that allowed you to select goods for yourself.

Most sell food and general groceries, and today the majority are run by chain or multiple organisations like Sainsbury's, Tesco, Waitrose. They carry a wide range of both 'own brand' and branded goods.

There are also other supermarkets run by voluntary chains like Spar. These are similar organisations that grew up during the late fifties when several independent grocery shops realised that they couldn't compete with the big supermarket chains.

So they organised themselves into groups and bought in bulk at discount from a central marketing organisation and were then able to pass on the discount to their customers. Although the shops took the title of the group's chain and carry 'own brand' goods (like Spar) they are independently owned.

Voluntary chain stores have really provided a lifeline for many grocery shops which would otherwise have had to close down.

d) Hypermarkets and Superstores

The difference between these and supermarkets is simply one of size. The idea for hypermarkets originally came from France. They are enormous buildings about 20 times bigger than supermarkets, eg - Tesco Extra

Most are single-storey and all have huge car parks because they tend to be built on the outskirts of towns. Parking is free and trolleys can be unloaded directly into your car.

They carry a vast range of goods from groceries to electrical equipment to underwear and invariably have a restaurant or coffee shop. Prices tend to be low.

e) Discount Stores

These usually stock a very limited range of popular household items - often electrical goods. They rely on a very fast turnover and don't offer much in the way of customer service.

Usually the goods will come ready packed from their store room and you select the model you want from the ones out on display, so you don't have the opportunity to examine before you buy. But neither do you have to wait weeks for delivery and can take the goods there and then if you're able to carry them home.

f) Independent Shops

Sadly, these are now in declining unless they specialise in something, such as records and tapes, delicatessen, craft or health food shops.

Prices are often higher than hypermarkets, supermarkets and discount stores because they can't buy in bulk from their suppliers. So although their range may be wider they will only carry small quantities of each.

But you get the benefit of personal service and advice. You can also order more unusual or individual items instead of simply having to accept whatever happens to be there on the shelf.

Suggested Teaching Activity

Comparison Activity

In groups, ask the students to compare smaller shops to large chain stores and to identify and write down the advantages and disadvantages of both. Ask the class for ideas and make a list on the blackboard


SuperstoreLocal Grocer
Cheaper Prices / More Choice / Everything under one roof / Coffee Shop / Toilet Facilities / Takes all forms of payment
Convenient / Friendly / Customer knowledge / Personal attention / Ideal for shoppers without car / Quick to pop in to shop
Can get very busy / Can be difficult to get staff attention / Difficult to reach without a car
Usually more expensive / Smaller Range of Products / May not take Credit Cards

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What type of shops are there in my Community?

Background Notes

The face of shopping has changed over the years and every community has seen these changes. Many independent shops both in villages and towns have ceased trading, as they struggle to compete with new superstores. Many small villages have also now lost their banks and are even losing their Post Offices.

Look at the community that your school is based in and talk to the students about the types of local shops that have been closing down and some of the new stores that have opened.

Suggested Teaching Activity

Shops and Shopping Survey

Split the students into groups by the location of where they live.

Ask the students to find out more about the shops in the area that they live. They could begin by reproducing an enlarged map of the area and marking out the shops using colour coded pins to indicate the various types of shops.

What are the opening hours of these shops?

What facilities do they have to make them easier or more attractive to customers, such as parking, access for the disabled, toilet facilities?

Also introduce students to the idea of market research. They will need to find out what customers feel they want from shops and whether these needs are being met.

As a starting point, the class could begin by asking parent or relatives the following questions:

What do they like/dislike about local shopping facilities?

How often do they use their different local facilities?

What influences them to choose a particular shop?

In their groups, the students should use their results to draw up a summary and provide feedback to the class on shops and shopping in their areas.

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How else can I buy goods and services?

Background Information

It is important for students to realise that shoppers are not limited to just going into shops to make their purchases. There are a variety of different ways in which we can buy what we need:

* Street Markets - Shopping in markets can be a lot of fun and it's possible to pick up some bargains provided you're prepared to do some hunting. Lack of changing rooms can be a problem if you're buying clothes, so it's best to check with the stall holder that you can claim a refund if what you buy doesn't fit you.

The regular stall holders know their customers and want to make sure that they keep their goodwill. If you've any complaint you can usually return to sort it out quite easily. But if you buy from a casual trader with a suitcase in the street there's no guarantee that you'll find him again if something goes wrong.

* One Day Sales - These can be another problem. Traders from outside the area may hire a hall or a room in a hotel and send out brochures advertising a special sale. Often the bargains on offer look too good to be true - and that's what many of them may turn out to be.

* Doorstep Selling - these traders call on you in your own home - often without any warning. Many people have been conned by fast-talking salesmen or saleswomen claiming to be 'researchers' or 'consultants' and have been pressurised into signing agreements to buy expensive goods they didn't really want, need or could afford.

It's surprisingly difficult to say 'No' when you have been caught off guard by an unexpected caller. If you are interested in buying whatever is on offer, take your time about it. Shop around to see whether you may be able to get a better deal somewhere else.

* Auctions - Auctions are special sales where people are invited to bid for the goods on display. The auctioneer will sell to the person who offers most and when he brings his hammer down it means that the goods have been sold to the last bidder.

Normally traders can't get out of their responsibility when selling goods, however, auctions are different. Auctioneers can legally refuse to be responsible for faulty goods.

* Telephone Selling - This is becoming a popular way of contacting potential customers and many companies now employ young people to ring around touting for business. If you receive a call, and you don't want to become involved, then simply say so and put the phone down.

* Party Plan Selling - Several businesses employ agents who persuade people to host a selling party in their own home. The host or hostess usually provides tea or coffee for his/her guests while the agent demonstrates the goods. Although no-one actually says it in so many words, the guests are then expected to buy something.

In fact, it's a brave person who refuses because everyone there realises that their host or hostess stands to receive a much better "gift" from the agent at the end of the party if they all spend something. It is simple but effective persuasion.

These are some examples but the area that has become very popular recently due to advances in technology is shopping by mail order.

* Mail Order

This can be a convenient way of shopping, particularly for people who find getting out to the shops difficult. There are different ways of buying by mail order:

* Catalogues

Lots of people have catalogues that they use to buy shopping. These catalogues allow you to see a picture of the item you are going to buy and they also give you a description.

Unfortunately, sometimes the pictures don't always give an accurate impression but if you aren't satisfied with the goods when they arrive, you can usually send them back and cancel the deal.

Most catalogues normally allow you to pay for them in instalments over several weeks or months. The length of time may vary depending on the price and sometimes this leads to the goods may be a little more expensive than those in the shops

* On the internet/through your television

It's now possible to order from your armchair via the internet. You can order goods through a computer, a mobile phone and even your television. Although it's easy to operate and saves going around crowded shops it could be all too easy to overspend.

There have however been lots of problems with internet shopping where the consumer pays for goods and they never receive them.

* Postal Bargain Advertisements

Many newspapers and magazines carry advertisements for mail order goods.

These can usually be ordered as a one-off special and mean that you are not under any obligation to buy more from the Company.

Sometimes, newspapers and magazines have special schemes to protect readers who have sent off money in advance and then find that the company has gone bust or is in liquidation.

The Office of Fair Trading's Consumer Direct ( contains information and advice on High Street, Doorstep, Internet and Postal Shopping

Suggested Teaching Activity

Ask the students about shopping on the internet. How many of them shop in this way? Do they think it is a good way to shop. Discuss the pitfalls of shopping on the internet

Ask the students to design an information sheet designed for consumers giving hints and tips on how to avoid problems when shopping on-line.

The following websites have sample leaflets and hints and tips on e-shopping, which will help students with this activity:

The Office of Fair Trading's Consumer Direct - Information on e-shopping (

The Trading Standards Institute's Top 10 Tips for Shopping on the Internet (

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