Shopping in the early 20th century
By the webmaster’s mother, 1906-2002 based on her experiences as a child in north London
We paid in pounds, shillings and pence, i.e.£-s-d. In practice, though, most things we ever bought in the early 1900s only cost a few coppers. More expensive things were normally priced at a penny below the next shilling. For how these prices were displayed in shop windows, written in handwriting and pronounced, see the separate pages.
Women shopped locally when I was a child in the early 1900s, and I sometimes went with my mother to our local shops in Edmonton. (Never with my father, as it was unheard of for men to be seen doing women's work.)
Why shopping took such a long time
There were no supermarkets to sell everything in one visit. So we had to go to all sorts if different shops - see the side menu. So shopping was a lengthy business. This was especially so because even everyone was served individually and had to wait while the shopkeeper went to get or took out every single item. Also many of the goods had to be weighed out and wrapped for each customer, and social chit-chat was expected. It was, though, quite interesting for me to stand and watch the shopkeepers rapidly manipulating the weights on the scales as we waited in turn to be served. They did it so quickly and they always seemed to get nearly right just from size alone.
Why shopping was such hard work
Quite apart from the time that shopping took, it really was physical work. This was because we had no cars to carry our purchases back home, and the wickerwork baskets were heavy even before anything was put in them.
Fortunately it was common for shops to deliver. It was also common to send children on small errands. I often had to go and pick something up when my mother ran out.
How goods were wrapped
In my mother's time in the early 1900s, children's sweets went into a cone of twisted newspaper, but I never saw this.
When shops were open
Why shops stayed open late on Saturdays
Men worked a five and a half day week and were paid on a Saturday morning. After that there was money in people's pockets. So shops would be open till perhaps 8 pm.
whose family owned a greengrocer shop
Although most of the shops were built as shops with flats for the shop keepers above their shops, some shopkeepers opened shops from the front rooms of their Victorian/Edwardian terraced houses - see for example, the photo of the shop front in Leicester.