Why Are Pawnshops Becoming Increasingly Popular?

The humble pawnshop has been a mainstay of city high streets in the UK since as early as the 1300s, if not even earlier. They can be cornerstones of the community in some places, providing swift and easy access to short-term income or an opportunity to access cash otherwise. In recent years, though, the way they are regarded – culturally, societally and economically – has changed, leading to them becoming more popular than ever. What are these changes, and how have they impacted the image of the pawnbroker?

The Economy

It is impossible to talk about the increasing popularity of what is essentially a financial service without acknowledging the shifting financial landscape in the UK. There have been economic uncertainties since the banking crisis and ensuing recession of 2008-9, but the past five years have been an especially difficult test for the average family.

Numerous factors, from Brexit-related trade issues to geopolitical tensions and far beyond, have created a troublesome economic environment – wherein wages have stagnated but living costs have risen significantly. For the one in seven UK adults with no savings to speak of, personal assets have become their best bet for covering unexpected costs – hence an uptick in the usage of pawnbroking services.

Shifts in Perception

Concurrently with shifting economic conditions, so too has the cultural perception of pawnbrokers shifted in recent memory. Traditional depictions of pawnbrokers in cinema and television connected the profession with organised crime and illegal activity, or otherwise used pawnbrokers and jewellers as settings for character studies on loneliness, desperation and alienation – decidedly negative depictions, which painted pawnshops as a last resort at best and dens of vice at worst.

In recent cultural history, this has changed. Reality television programmes like Pawn Stars brought the profession into the public eye through a different lens entirely, using the excitement of exotic appraisals and the warmth of familial leadership to paint a more congenial view of such establishments. Even Coronation Street had some form of hand in the contemporary rehabilitation of the pawnbrokers’ image, itself prominently featuring an outlet.

A Collector’s Bazaar

Pawnbrokers are often evaluated from the lending end of the spectrum, but their popularity potentially owes more to the other side of their business – the sale of pawned goods. Pawnbrokers often truck primarily in jewellery, and are often a venue of choice for buying statement wrist-pieces or other such accessories; many, though, take on a wide variety of items and object d’art as collateral – leading to a unique, esoteric and ever-changing catalogue of odd and obscure items.

In Conclusion

It is impossible to deny that the cultural and societal seating of pawnbroking as a service has changed in recent years. However, there is no singular overarching reason for this. Rather, a confluence of changing cultural and economic factors have led to a rehabilitation of image, and a new era of financial consideration.


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