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Final Thoughts on London

May 24, 2010

Today’s our last day in London. So weird to say that. It feels like we’ve been here a day, even though we’ve done a million things – sightseeing in Central London, winery tour, visited ad agencies, Abbey Road, marketplaces, pubs and clubs, shopped – the list goes on and on. Since we’ve done so many things, I’ve collected more than enough notes, thoughts, and perspectives on the ethnography of shoppers in London.

I’ll start out with our final ethnography field work that we did today. We took a trip to ASDA, which is basically London’s equivalent of Walmart.

I walked around the store to get a feel of the place, then focused most of my research on the clothing section. The clothes were layed out in an organized way. The pieces were all very generic – all sizes, basic colors, nothing very fancy. There were some more basic pieces and some more ornate ones – this represented the idea of ASDA being a store fit for every person, no matter what size or sense of style they have. The inexpensive prices were advertised with big yellow signs, emphasizing the great deals that ASDA had. Above the clothing, there were pictures of young, pretty models wearing the clothes, showing the customer that they would get the high-end look without paying a high-end price.

The customers at ASDA were mostly adults or elderly people, equally men and women, and a lot moms bringing their families along for the shopping trip. They did not have overflowing shopping carts like one would expect to see at a Walmart – they collected the ten or fifteen items that they needed and went immediately to the check-out. They seemed like they had a purpose for being at ASDA instead of wandering aimlessly through the aisles. They were calm, casual, and relaxed while shopping.

After ASDA, we went to Tesco.

Tesco is the superstore giant of London. They have everything anyone would need, and have stores everywhere. We’ve gone to the Tesco by our flat at least twice a day since we’ve been here. Tesco is layed out in a very organized manner with lots of signs, promotional ads, and exciting posters directing the customer where to go next.

The customers at Tesco were mostly adults. There weren’t any teenagers and there weren’t many elderly people, but there were a lot of little children walking around with their parents. Most people only purchased a moderate amount of items – they didn’t seem like they were stocking up on food. They were focused on the food that they needed and often checked prices.

We walked around some shopping areas and came to Carnaby Street.

The stores on Carnaby Street were average-sized stores and were mostly recognizable American brands. My friends and I walked into two of our favorite American stores – American Apparel and Steve Madden – to look at the set-up, atmosphere, and prices compared to our stores back home. They were almost identical with the exception of a few pieces. The tags at American Apparel even had a US Dollar marking along with the UK Pounds mark.

The customers walking around Carnaby Street were very similar to us – young, trendy, with friends, and enjoying the shoppingn experience. They had one or two bags on their arms and were taking in the atmosphere of the street as they went from store to store. They seemed very happy with their shopping experience.

We met as groups to collaborate and decide what our most important observations have been over this past week. We made a word cluster to highlight the most frequent trends and habits we’ve seen. We decided that the typical London shopper is —

  • young
  • trendy, hip
  • collected, put-together, organized
  • unique and comfortable with their style
  • mixes old and new pieces
  • confident, ready for the next trend

Lets say we’re looking at a typical young London girl that’s shopping around. From what we have seen, she would usually walk around alone, in a couple, or occassionally a group of three. The London shopper knows what she wants, so she’s not afraid to go by herself. She is comfortable with her unique style, knows how to put together old and new pieces, and is calm and casual about shopping.

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