For me, it is the same question every month, should I go shopping or pay my insurance? Most of the time it comes down to going shopping until the insurance has to be paid, and I am sure I am not the only one that has been in this situation. There are different ways of shopping and each one of these ways are coded systems that construct our own identity. They each encourage consumers to buy products and then group the consumers with one identity. In “The Signs of Shopping”, Anne Norton explores the many ways these shopping methods sell products by selling to the public who they should be.
Shopping malls, catalogs and home shopping networks are three different methods for buying products and each of them brings in more and more consumers daily, which in the real world, uncontrollable shopping is not a healthy habit to get into. Shopping was seen as a subversive activity for women. The role of women was to care for their family before putting themselves first. Shopping would allow women to escape from their homes and enjoy the company of other women without the presence of their husbands.
They were responsible for housework and taking care of their family’s needs. Shopping was an activity that had replaced those cares. Norton explains, “The housewife who shops for pleasure takes time away from her husband, her family, and her house and claims it for herself” (106). Shopping gave women the option to make their own decisions. As their daughters grew up, they were brought along and bonded over shopping trips. Shopping malls are a place to escape reality and enjoy with others. It manipulates people to leave and experience an ideal reality.
While on the topic of women, statistics have shown that women either do most of the shopping, have a hard time saving up money, or even have a general knowledge about funds, bonds and stocks (Statistics Picture- Bruce Sallen). In one statistic given, about seventy-one percent of men have a handle on their cash flow and spend less money than they make each month (Sallen). Women on the other hand, do not have such a good handle on their cash flow. Only fifty-one percent of women have a good handle and spend less than what they make each month (Sallen).
When given a statistic such as this one, you can assume that the women do more shopping than men do, and one place they can get this done is at the mall, one of the biggest places to advertise clothing, jewelry, etc. When looking at this picture, we can conclude a few main points. One point is that females take a lot longer to shop than males do (Blog). As shown in the picture above, males go straight to their destination while women wander around the whole mall until they find exactly what they are looking for and more. The mission is to go into one store, in this case being GAP, and find a pair of pants.
Males understand this mission and head straight towards the GAP, while women must circumnavigate the whole mall before going into GAP (Blog). From a personal mall experience, it is very difficult to go to the mall and only go into one store. Personally, I can plan on going into one store at the mall. However, as I walk by other stores, I see what is advertised on the mannequins and see the big blowout sale signs. This is a form of advertisement that really draws me and I am sure many other people into more than one store. Another point that can be concluded from this picture is that women spend much more at the mall than men do (Blog).
As shown in the picture, when men go shopping, they spend an average of thirty-three dollars in one store (Blog). However, when women go shopping, they spend an average of eight hundred and seventy-six dollars in multiple stores throughout the mall (Blog). Of course they spend more money because they walk all around the mall looking to spend more money, while men travel to one store and then leave the mall. The mall is seen as a place of meeting where people of different races, classes and ages come together. As the mall appears to be a public place, Norton claims it is not.
Her reasoning is because freedom of speech and freedom of assembly is not permitted. Norton states, “Those who own and manage malls restrict what comes within their confines. Controversial displays, by stores or customers or the plethora of organizations and agencies that present themselves in the open spaces of the mall, are not permitted. These seemingly public spaces conceal a pervasive private authority” (105). She strongly feels that the mall has many limits and restrictions and has been portrayed to be something it is not. The idea of a shopping mall draws in customers from its appearance of a place to explore and socialize.
Malls then manipulate people once they enter. One way they do this is with their display windows. Whether it is the newest outfit they just received or blowout sale signs, everything in the display window attracts more and more consumers to go into stores. If nothing was in the display window, stores would not get as much business as they normally would if the display window was full. The mall appears to be public but is unknowingly confined (Norton). Window displays in the mall advertise to the customers who they are and what it is that they need to purchase.
Norton uses an example of Ralph Lauren’s Polo line. She writes, “Everyone, from the architecture critic at the New York Times to kids in the hall of Montana High School, knows what Ralph Lauren means. The polo mallet and the saddle, horses and dogs, the broad lawns of Newport, Kennebunkport, old photographs in silver frames, the evocation of age, of ancestry and Anglophilia, of indolence and the Ivy League, evoke the upper class. Indian blankets and buffalo plaids, cowboy hats and Western saddles, evoke a past distinct from England but nevertheless determinedly Anglo.
The supposedly arcane and suspect arts of deconstruction are deployed easily, effortlessly, by the readers of these cultural texts” (Norton 105). The clothing line is seen as an image of upper class. The logos used to represent the line shows the admiration of England and their customs. By seeing these displays outside of the stores, it enables shoppers to want to buy the merchandise to be apart of the upper class. The idea of a shopping mall as an escape from reality is not the only form of manipulation. Shopping malls also trick their customers into buying their products by what the clothes stand for from the advertisements.
The example of the Polo line expressing high class evokes shoppers to want the upper class lifestyle. Promoting these advertisements manipulates shoppers into buying the products. On a personal level, I can come to an agreement with Norton as she discusses the “Ralph Lauren” branded clothing. I myself have only been in the store a few times, but once you walk in, you can most certainly tell that is it an upper-class store. Not only can you tell by the classy clothing and high pricing, but you can also tell by the people shopping around you in the store.
Most people in the store had purchased clothing and accessories previously, which I noticed very quickly because a lot of customers were wearing Ralph Lauren clothing. Stores such as this one use little things to get our money out of our wallets fast. For example, Ralph Lauren makes polo t-shirts for men in all different colors. However, in the corner of their shirts, they have a little horse. Because of that little horse, people will spent at least thirty dollars to have the horse on their shirt rather than go to Walmart and pay five dollars for the same shirt but without the horse on it.
Logos are used as a big part in the advertising industry. Direct mail catalogs permit people to shop wherever and whenever they please. They provide twenty-four-hour phone numbers for ordering without needing to leave the house. Catalogs create communities of shopper by a shared mailing list. It constructs identities with related topics of catalogs. Norton’s example is, “One who orders a spade or a packet of seeds will be constructed as a gardener and receive a deluge of catalogues from plant and garden companies.
The companies themselves may expand their commodities to appeal to different manifestations of the identities they respond to and construct” (Norton 108). This example shows how purchasing one item will categorize the buyer as a certain identity. The more similar catalogues sent to the consumer, the more they are manipulated into buying more. Home shopping networks have many layers in purchasing. The product is introduced and described with numerous qualities by the announcer. The announcer is seen as a mediator between the product and the consumer and also between the salespeople and the consumer.
Norton describes, “Television claims to distinguish itself by making objects visible to the eyes, but it is largely through the ears that these commodities are constructed” (Norton 109). The product is shown to catch the viewers eye but mostly illustrated through the elements that product acquires. When the consumer purchases the commodity, they are not only buying the product but buy what that product stands for. Anne Norton’s “The Signs of Shopping”, describes how shopping is used and what ways companies confine consumers into purchasing their products.
Malls, catalogs and home shopping networks are three different outlets for shopping. They each obtain shoppers to buy into their products through advertising what their products stand for. They classify shoppers as one identity from previous purchases. Norton makes it aware to consumers of all the strategies the malls, catalogs and home shopping networks use to buy into their products. These three different outlets for shopping all contain forms of advertisement whether it be blowout signs, free shipping, or even buy one get one sales. All of these outlets for shopping bring in more and more consumers day in and day out.
Courtney from Study Moose
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