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Professor Gillian Hopkinson

Head of Marketing Department, Professor

Gillian Hopkinson

Charles Carter Building



Tel: +44 1524 510994

Office Hours:

Please email me if you wish to see me

PhD supervision

I would welcome applicants interested in food controversies - GM food, food waste, food related obesity, approaches to food security, food sustainability - and many more

Research Interests

From my previous professional career I developed an interest in marketing channels - or routes to market - and in the relationships between suppliers, retailers and consumers. I have pursued these interests academically through a PhD that examined franchisor franchisee relationships in car retailing and subsequently in a variety of sectors, most especially the food sector.

My initial conceptual interests in power, narrative and sensemaking in marketing channels lead me now to take a rather unconventional approach in my studies - how do channel members make sense of their world and communicate that to influence others? In this I use a broader definition of the 'marketing channel' than is often applied, to include governments, the media, celebrity chefs and consumer/pressure groups. This approach is apposite to food, given the multiple controversies and key challenges srrounding food - and this lies at the centre of my recent and current work. Recent controversies that I have examined include the inclusion of male dairy calves in the food chain, sustainable fish and regulation concerned with sugar intake. My approach shares some common terrain with those from other disciplines who are exploring food systems, my distinctive marketing-based contribution lies in the particular attention I pay to the food industry and retail as important participants in broader sensemaking systems.

I would welcome approaches from organisations, researchers or prospective PhD students who share some of my interests in food controversies, food systems and food access. Important topics of the moment that share some characteristics I have mentioned above include (but are not limited to) questions of nutrition and especially sugar and also genetically modified foods.


I have worked with several major companies, most especially through collaborative sector-wide groups. For example, research I undertook and reported to The Responsible Alcohol Sales Group fed into the development of a new inter-agency collaborative approach to reduce alcohol sales and harm amongst young people (Community Alcohol Partnerships).




As an undergraduate I studied history at the University of East Anglia. I think this has hugely influenced my current academic interests and particularly my social constructionist beliefs. The discipline at the time was moving towards a greater concern for the more marginal actors and away from a 'big man' explanation of history. Consequently this directed my attention to the multiple perspectives on any situation that drive diverse actions. History also reinforces the idea that nothing is perfectly knowable. Our understandings of all events are continuously revised both as new source material is found and in the light of contemporary concerns that direct us towards alternative explanations. Thus I am deeply suspicious of realist and positivist accounts of social life and I place great weight upon narrative forms of knowledge and upon multiple explanations.    

Subsequently my ‘first career’ was in the tourist industry where I travelled extensively and also gained experience in both contracting. My primary role was building and managing relationships with suppliers (and to a lesser extent customers). This experience underpins my academic interest in marketing channels. It also allowed me to develop a passion for language - a feature which I draw on frequently in analysis.  

My next move took me to Bradford where I completed an MBA and stayed to conduct doctoral research. Since completing my doctorate I have been on the faculty firstly at  UMIST (now Manchester Business School) and now at Lancaster University Management School. I lecture primarily in areas of industrial/organisational marketing and channel management and also enjoy teaching related to research philosophies and methods.

Current Teaching


229 - Routes to Market


Postgraduate  (MSc in Advanced Marketing Management)

406 - Managing Marketing Channels 

Professional Role

As I am currently on study leave my role in the department is temporarily limited


BA (Hons) in Modern British History MBA PhD

Current Research

Selected recent/current research projects

A study of cashiers’ perceptions and behaviours in young alcohol sales situations.

This work, conducted with Dr Michael Humphreys (Nottingham University Business School), generates an understanding of shop work from the perspective of cashiers in UK stores of diverse formats (superstore, convenience store, community store and off-licence). The work explores how cashiers manage the processes of requesting age identity and refusing alcohol sales to younger customers. It contextualises this aspect of cashier work more broadly within the cashiers’ perspectives on or constructions of shop work, of their organisational environments, and of their relationships with other agencies. The work was sponsored by and reported to the Retail Alcohol Standards Group and presented at the Home Office to a range of policy makers. 

How do young consumers live their lives?

I addressed this question with Dr Terry Newholm (Manchester Business School) through a multi-method study that intensively tracked two small cohorts of young people (undergraduates and working graduates) over a period of about six weeks in each case. Our aim was to explore their lives in everyday and mundane aspects as well as the quirky, the exceptional and the (seemingly) contradictory aspects. An emphasis upon narrative allowed us to see how young people used these aspects to account for their lives and produce coherence and a sense of self. Of particular interest to me in the data was the construction of (auto) biography; and also the relationship between this (auto)biographical construction and their construction of career. The work was sponsored by and reported to the Manchester Retail Research Forum. 

A narrative and discursive study of conflict in a franchised network.

In this study I developed ideas and extended theories about how organisation is constructed within the inter-organisational arena of a franchised network. Looking at one small car distribution network, where I was able to access participants at several levels and in both manufacturer and franchised dealership firms, I was able to relate particular versions of self constructed across the network to the presence (or absence) of tensions across the various organisations and to the actions through which members approach these tensions.

External Roles

Associate Editor (business-to-business) for the Journal of Marketing Management

Track co-convenor for Critical Management Studies, 2017 -  Stream: Reorganizing the neo-liberal food system: Evolution, rebellion or revolution?

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