The 1920s famously dubbed the “roaring twenties” is a period that saw a drastic and phenomenal change in the American consumer market. American citizens became emancipated, both financially and in terms of fashion. Indeed, their purchasing power greatly improved because of a number of factors (Glickman 1999). In addition, companies and businesses saw each other off in an emerging market trend of marketing and advertising. These among other factors led to the ability of Americans to purchase new and classy products. This essay discusses the events preceding, marking and following the roaring twenties, possibly the period that marked a new era of consumerism in the United States.
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The period of the roaring twenties was marked by an array of factors. The most notable of these was the revelation and emergence of the working population. This group of people contributed largely for the change in consumer buying and consumption practices (Cohen 1989). It is a fact that the purchasing power can majorly if not only be increased by the amount of cash, liquid or otherwise, available for a people to spend. This is after catering for all the essential needs including food, clothing and shelter. That is where the working population comes in. During the 1920s, new ways of increasing the buying power of the population came about. The most noteworthy of these was the introduction of credit buying and purchasing through installments. This move enabled a large section of the working population to purchase and possess property that only a few years earlier were considered a reserve of the well endowed in the society (Goodwin 1997). For instance, before the onslaught of the new trends in purchasing that characterized the 1920s, automobile ownership was limited to a selected few. However, a few changes in the industry saw the beginning of a new era in which more than sixty percent of the American population was able to purchase and own automobiles. In contrast, a few decades earlier, only a section (about twenty-five percent of families) of the population owned automobiles. Apart from the possibility of buying the automobiles in installments or credit, the other factor that can be attributed to this massive step was the policy provided by Ford, the main automobile manufacturing firm at the time. Together with Ford was the General Motors another car manufacturing company. Both of these (Ford was started by the famous businessman Henry Ford while General Motors was a company built under the watch of Alfred Sloan) automobile manufacturing companies embarked on the manufacturing of cheaper and conveniently available automobiles. Ford automobile manufacturing company was particularly in the forefront in this mega revolution. It started by embracing technology in its assembly plant, a factor that led to a significant cut down on the time spent and the resources accorded to assembling an automobile. This led to the production of cheaper automobiles, which many could afford (Glickman 1999).
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The other factor that made the acquisition of not just automobiles, but also other property easy and convenient was the introduction of payment through credit and installments. Through this means, Americans could purchase goods that were beyond their monthly income but were able to pay up through the installments. General Motors Company was in the forefront in selling its products through the credit system. The banks were also willing to take their chances and provide credit to the citizens effectively increasing their buying power. The method of buying through installments became popular. House appliances such as vacuum cleaners and radios were easily purchased by paying in its (Cohen 1989).
The “roaring twenties” was augmented by the fact that the companies in America saw a need in improving their workers’ standards of living and improving their working conditions. The Ford Company was again in the forefront in this instant. The company’s implementation of new technology in assembling its automobiles contributed a lot to the reduction in operational costs while at the same time increasing the production capacity tremendously. Buoyed by these facts, the company was able to raise the monthly salaries of its employees and to reduce their working hours. This in effect improved the ability of the workers to spend. Ford was not the only company that realized an improved business environment. The springing up of numerous new companies and firms led to a rise in the number of employed people. One other company that found a footing in all this was the J. Walter Thompson advertising company, which specialized in marketing and advertising for its clients (Goodwin 1997). Due to improved business, it was able to hire more workers and with it pay them handsomely for their services. All these factors contributed to a more affluent working class that could spend a significant amount to get their objects of desire. The working class, therefore, had a massive role to play in the onslaught of the roaring twenties.
It has been documented that the increase in the purchasing power gave Americans a new lifeline. Within the short period of the 1920s, the consumer tastes had changed by a significant margin. Americans could afford to buy ready-made clothes, electrical appliances among other property. A factor that brought about this new development is the emergence of marketing and advertising as strategies of increasing product turnover. This factor led to the emergence of companies such as the J. Walter Thompson Company. Such companies embarked on various methods of marketing and advertising including the use of billboards to promote their clients’ products. Such advertisements played a huge role in increasing spending among the consumers, especially the impulse buyers. Coupled with the fact that a new uprising in the name of a newly empowered group of consumers was emerging, companies saw a lot of turnover in their product sales (Cohen 1989)
The period is popularly known as the “roaring twenties” was largely fuelled and propelled by the emerging working people. This is backed by the fact that before this period, a number of products including clothes, hardware appliances and even household appliances were in the market. However, they did not see much business. It is only during the 1920s that the revolution led to a new spending habit by the citizens. Before then, most industries were filled with women and teenagers as workers. According to employers, this group of workers was easy to control. Indeed, children teenagers and women were easier to manipulate. Continuous protests and agitation by workers’ union organizations together with political activists led to companies changing their strategies, employing, and remunerating their workers adequately (Glickman 1999).
The 1920s was a new beginning for American workers. Better working conditions coupled with a better pay led to a revolution in which the working people had a better purchasing power. Before then, it was not common for workers to engage in any noteworthy purchases. However, with better living standards, they could afford to buy a number of products and access services, which were previously considered the preserve of a select few. Taking flights and owning automobiles was no longer a strange thing during the period. Indeed, much of the modern consumer trends in America today owe their beginning to this famous and highly regarded period in history.
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