The modern phenomenon of shopping is closely linked to the emergence of the consumer society in the 18th century. Over the course of the two centuries from 1600 onwards, the purchasing power of the average Englishman steadily rose. Sugar consumption doubled in the first half of the 18th century and the availability of a wide range of luxury goods, including tea and cotton saw a sustained increase.
Marketplaces dating back to the Middle Ages, expanded as shopping centres, such as the New Exchange, opened in 1609 by Robert Cecil in the Strand. Shops started to become important as places for Londoners to meet and socialise and became popular destinations alongside the theatre. Restoration London also saw the growth of luxury buildings as advertisements for social position with speculative architects like Nicholas Barbon and Lionel Cranfield.
Much pamphleteering of the time was devoted to justifying conspicuous consumption and private vice for luxury goods for the greater public good. This then scandalous line of thought caused great controversy with the publication of Bernard Mandeville's influential work Fable of the Bees in 1714, in which he argued that a country's prosperity ultimately lay in the self-interest of the consumer.
"Window shopping" is a term referring to the browsing of goods by a consumer with no intent to purchase, either as a recreational activity or to plan a later purchase.
Showrooming, the practice of examining merchandise in a traditional brick and mortar retail store without purchasing it, but then shopping online to find a lower price for the same item, has become an increasingly prevalent problem for traditional retailers as a result of online competitors, so much so that some have begun to take measures to combat it.
In 2004 British supermarket chain Tesco, trialed shopping carts with user-adjustable wheel resistance, heart rate monitoring and calorie counting hardware in an effort to raise awareness of health issues. The cart's introduction coincided with Tesco's sponsorship of the cancer awareness Race for Life.
Also in 2004, shopping carts were identified as a source of pathogens and became a major public health concern. This was primarily due to the media spotlight on a Japanese research study revealing large amounts of bacteria on shopping carts. Those findings were later backed by a University of Arizona study in 2007. Now sanitary wipes, for cleaning hands and shopping carts, are seen near the entrances of most retailers.