Outline the nature of supermarket power on the high street and beyond.
For this essay, I will attempt to construct an argument based on outlining and explaining supermarket power and where it comes from. To do this, I will go back to the very basics of consumerism and build up from there to the market power and buying power of supermarkets.
Consumption is defined as the “utilization of economic goods in the satisfaction of wants or in the process of production resulting chiefly in their destruction, deterioration, or transformation”, (Merrian Webster, 2013). This definition sets the tone for consumer society and consumption itself. Kevin Hetherington describes a consumer society as a “label used to refer to a society which is defined as much by how and what people purchase and use as by what they make or do.” (Hetherington, 2012, p.13)
Social consumption is affected by two main factors: need and want. Need is something of necessity, for example food, shelter. A want is something that an individual requires mostly out of impulse without any essential need for the product or service.
Why do we consume?
An individual consumes for many reasons. Some of which are outlined below.
- They are influenced by the media and advertising.
- Social status.
- The theory of “keeping up with the Joneses”.
- The economy encourages it and thrives on it.
- The need for identity.
Schouten and McAlexander theorize subculture by using the example of the Harley Davidson Bike Club and it’s role in society. This is an excellent example of the progression of a product within the consumer society. It is a product that has spawned it’s own specific society and identity. At present, there are numerous Harley clubs all over the world with individuals who associate and identify with the Harley Davidson brand and product. That society then use that brand and product to convey their own identities. Another example of a company that has created a subculture is the World of Warcraft online game. Their followers have used the game to create their own culture of gaming fanatics. However, like many activities, their reputation perceives them to be social out-casts despite the fact that they are a collective group. Identities can be created with a product and brand but unfortunately so can stereotypes.
Income is a necessity when it comes to consumption however the level of income can be the deciding factor of social status (and in some cases even identity) due to income being the main method of consuming assets. When an individual is employed and has a higher disposable income than other people, their social status goes up and they inevitably become a valuable strength for the consumer market.
The media is generally responsible for making products and services look attractive and irresistible to the public. The marketing of products and services are focused directly on target audiences whom are derived and identified by market research. The media can also exploit the fame of celebrities to convey messages to the public to set trends. These trends encourage and influence the general public to consume. The psychology of this can be interpreted as by purchasing items that are conveyed to us by the media, we can ultimately become what they portray. An example of this would be the marketing of Beats by Dr Dre. They are expensive, designer headphones that were previously advertised by Canadian singer Justin Bieber. Mr Bieber was pictured in magazines wearing a specific style of the headphones. His fans purchased the exact style of headphones as he wore; sub-consciously wanting to be closer to him or possibly in some cases to be just like him. Endorsements by celebrities are extremely popular nowadays and with the popularity of social media, endorsement is everywhere.
Social scientist Zygmunt Bauman believes that collectively, a group of consumers can be divided and defined into two groupings....
References: Corneliussen, Hilde G., Rettburg, Jill Walker., (2008) Digital Culture, Play and Identity: A World of Warcraft Reader. MIT Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts.
FanPop.com (2012) “Justin Bieber JustBeat headphones will 'open the ears ' of young fans”. Retrieved from http://www.fanpop.com on 4th January 2013.
Hetherington, Kevin., (2009) Making Social Lives., Material Lives, Chapter 1., page 13. The Open University, Milton Keynes.
Hetherington, Kevin., (2009) Making Social Lives., Material Lives, Chapter 1., page 29. The Open University, Milton Keynes.
Hetherington, Kevin., (2009) Making Social Lives., Material Lives, Chapter 2., page 66. The Open University, Milton Keynes.
Hetherington, Kevin., (2009) Making Social Lives., Material Lives, Chapter 3., page 72. The Open University, Milton Keynes.
McAlexander, James H., Schouten, John W., Subcultures of Consumption: An Ethnography of the New Bikers. Retrieved from http://classes.bus.oregonstate.edu on 4th January 2013.
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