Economic Geography - Lecture 5

  • Created by: Howard
  • Created on: 18-04-16 15:22

What is the Retail Sector?

- Is the high street traditional? and to what extent is there a 'typical' high street?

- Out of town shopping centres, increasingly diverse sector and outlets

- The supermarket sector, including low cost stores, online retailers, seconhand and charity sectors, airport terminals, corner shops ect...

- Multinational corporations vs national specialists

Independent traders vs chain stores

Traditional names vs new players

Luxury brands vs bargain basement

Specialists vs generalists

Convenience vs mega-stores

Multi-channel vs single channel

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As sites of consumption

Wrigley and Lowe (1996, 2002) Consumption can be understood as a range of geographical sites: department store, mall, high street and virtual - Each has its own culture, is designed for its purpose, and is unique to consumers and the interactions...

Why does retail matter?

- Acts as a good indicator of the underlying health of the economy and of consumer confidence in their economic outlook.

- Many companies in retail operate on tight margins, so small changes in consumer behavious is responded to quickly

- The way we shop says much about who we are as a society and where we are going

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Retail in the UK Economy

- The retail sector comprised 16% of UK GDP in 2012 and employed 16% of the workforce, making the sector worth £151 billion...

- The sector is highly season (think of christmas ect)

Online sales have grown year on year since 2007 and are increasingly seasonal

Concumption and Identity:

- There is something psychological and impulsive about the experience of shopping...desires and choices, satisfaction

- Lunt and Livingstone (1992: 85): “consumption cannot simply be reduced to the nature of the commodity and the consumer is more than simply the process by which the commodity is obtained. Rather, through the contribution of intrapsychic, biographical, family, gender and cultural forces, a person-object relation is regulated which in turn gives rise to identities, understanding and everyday practices”

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The High Street Under Pressure

- Been in decline for the last 30 years

- Initially because of growth of 'out of town' shopping centres

- And more recently because of the growth of 'online' retailing

- The economic 2008 recession

- "In 1976, the opening of Brent Cross in north London marked the birth of Britain’ s out-of-town shopping mall phenomenon" (Miller et al., 1998)

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2008 Christmas

- Crisis of consumer confidence, indicated by falling spending in stores

- Data only suggests falls of 10%

A range of measures indicate falling demand: store cash flow, industry sales data, footfall measures...


- "the exodus of many pure-play e-tailers, who were unable to achieve profitability, and the rise of traditional retailers that pursued a dual or multichannel strategy by operating an online store alongside their physical stores” 

(Farag et al 2006: 60) (e-tailers originally were major mail orders)

Netflix v Blockbuster ect...

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The High Street Fights Back?

Celebrity retail consultant Mary Portas reviewed the health and future direction of high streets...gave 28 recommendations!

Including: Increase functionality, support markets, tackle vacant units, tighten up on betting shops, make high streets attractive and accessible, reform business rates… 

Retail at Christmas 2015:

-When does the Christmas retail season begin?

-Lights on in mid-November. ‘Christmas Creep’ into October

- Black Friday and the internationalisation of Christmas promotion

- Towns and cities in competition

- The upscaling of Christmas events like markets, festivals, outdoor activities, food and drink events, entertainment

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