Rather than regarding the pre-industrial economy as severely constrained, with such widespread poverty that only the rich could be consumers, we appreciate that from the thirteenth century a fifth of the European population lived in towns and made their livings from industry and trade. The infrastructure of retail trade included stalls in market places and fair grounds, but also many shops. Retailing stretched into the countryside with shops, inns and ale houses. Pedlars travelled to remote places. The early modern growth of commerce and consumption in large towns promoted the precursors of department stores. Retail trade reflected a growth in social ambition and self confidence, and the expansion of consumption stimulated the whole economy. It extended the economic roles of women. Dangers threatened retail trade, and governments legislated against profiteering and dishonest practices. Critics noted immoral behaviour around shops, and the frivolity of fashion.