The trembling young man raised his pistol and pulled the trigger. And William Whiteley dropped dead, blood pooling around his body as crowds of terrified shoppers rushed for the exits.

Whiteley was a pioneer when it came to employing women in retail, but he was also infamous for sleazily taking advantage of their gratitude, winding up in the paternity-related pickle that saw his spurned son gun him down.

His fate was just one of many interesting stories that emerged from Shopgirls: The True Story of Life Behind the Counter (BBC2, 24 June, 9pm), which traced the growth of women working in retail from a standing start 150 years ago.

It wasn’t all good, however. Presenter Dr Pamela Cox is knowledgeable and inquisitive, and we learned a lot about the shopping scene in the mid-19th century, but there weren’t enough anecdotes from the shopgirls themselves.

The show also leerily investigated how “some girls” working at London’s Burlington Arcade also worked as prostitutes. But the show spent so long talking about it that it left the impression the majority of shopgirls were also turning tricks, ironically veering towards the sort of broad generalisation that offers a foundation to any form of prejudice, including that which kept women out of retail for so long.

Overall, this was an interesting first episode of a three-part series. Perhaps by the end Dr Cox will shed some light on why, bafflingly, after 150 years, there has never been a female CEO at one of the big five supermarkets?