Monday, August 02, 2004

The new Yellow Pages: goodbye greengrocers, hello cosmetic surgeons

Press Association
Tuesday August 3, 2004
The Guardian

Napoleon's famous jibe that Britain is a nation of shopkeepers may still ring true, but the butcher, baker and candlestick maker are being replaced by the aromatherapist, reflexologist and cosmetic surgeon.

Changing lifestyles over the past decade are killing off the more traditional shops and services, a trend picked up by a report published yesterday which analyses the companies in telephone directories.

In their place has come a bewildering array of fledgling businesses catering to personal fulfilment.

Among the new categories to emerge in the 10 years covered by the study are practitioners in the Japanese healing art of shiatsu, nutritionists, yoga and farm shops.

The report, called the Alternative Census, looks at the changes in 108 key classifications in Yellow Pages directories between 1992 and 2002.

Greengrocers declined most, having 59% fewer entries. They were followed by butchers, down 40%, and coppersmiths, down 35%.

Other categories with substantially fewer entries include hardware retailers, farmers, insurance brokers, gamekeepers, bakers, clinics, carpenters and joiners.

Businesses helping people to reduce stress or achieve the body beautiful have muscled in on time-honoured services.

The section with the largest increase in entries is aromatherapy - up by 5,200%. Cosmetic surgery, its listings up by 1,780%, confirms how the market for a nip and a tuck has blossomed in recent times.

Entries for diet and weight control have risen by 1,445%, make-up artists and services 1,007%, and reflexology 829%.

Then come tutoring, up by 601%; mobile phones 546%; recycling 356%; and saunas and sunbeds 299%.

Tim Leunig, professor of economic history at the London School of Economics, who analysed the results, said: "Just as changes to the Oxford English Dictionary reflect the evolution of language, changes to the classifications in Yellow Pages reflect the evolution of business and are an equally valid tool for social scientists.

"In the last 10 years businesses have responded to the new opportunities arising from rising incomes and new technologies.

"But if we're no longer a nation of butchers, bakers and candlestick makers, what are we? It seems we've not only moved beyond the basic necessities of life, but almost beyond goods themselves, so the areas of growth are things that make us feel better about ourselves.

"Rather than trying to keep up with the Joneses, we're running to keep up with ourselves and with the pressures of modern life."

Richard Duggleby, head of external affairs at Yell, publisher of Yellow Pages, said: "Not only do individual businesses come and go, but also entire classifications.

"Each year we introduce new ones that resonate with modern lifestyles, while removing others that are simply no longer relevant."


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