Academic journal article Australasian Journal of Regional Studies

The Economic and Employment Impacts of Shopping Mall Developments on Regional and Peri-Urban Australian Towns

Academic journal article Australasian Journal of Regional Studies

The Economic and Employment Impacts of Shopping Mall Developments on Regional and Peri-Urban Australian Towns

Article excerpt


A major discourse in the wider discussion of sprawl, place and placelessness has been between the merits or otherwise of the shopping centre in its various manifestations in comparison to the traditional neighbourhood, town or civic commons, (traditional high streets, main streets, town and city precincts) (Childs 2004). In particular, the detrimental effects the opening of a new major shopping centre can have on the traditional commons and the businesses within them (Kowinski, 2002; Staeheli and Mitchell, 2006; Dovey, 2010; Mitchell, 2006).

The shopping centre exists in three basic types. Shopping malls, neighbourhood centres of one or two anchor supermarkets and a few stores, and single store hypermarkets, superstores and bulky goods outlets. The latter two use a car park rather than a pedestrian environment as the primary organising element of uses and are functional environments, dedicated to the instrumental distribution of goods and to a lesser extent services (Casazza et al., 1985). On the other hand, the mall offers an alternative to the instrumentality of the neighbourhood centre and superstore because it attempts to create pedestrian environments and destinations where the public can 'go shopping' rather than just 'do the shopping' in an environment offering personal and social attractions (Buttle, 1992).

One of the great successes of the mall has been its ability to use convenience and commercial arrangements to attract the most visited and profitable retailers, isolating them from the traditional commons and taking with them significant numbers of routine visitors (Kowinski, 2002; Reimers and Clulow, 2009). In doing so, they have left many of the secondary uses found in the traditional commons with reduced exposure to passing crowds and their viability subsequently weakened (Mitchell, 2006; Voyce, 2003 and 2006). In the United States, the birth place of the shopping mall, as early as the 1960s shopping malls were documented as having a devastating impact upon once thriving and dominant traditional commons, producing streetscapes of boarded up and decaying town centres, village centres, high streets, inner-city strips and even downtowns (Jackson, 1996; Kowinski, 2002).

Attitudes to the shopping mall and the traditional commons and the impacts of the latter on the former fall into two ideological camps. On one side, shopping malls are seen as modern forms responding to modern requirements of motor vehicle access, convenience and efficiency as well as postmodern desires for brands, the fashionable, and consumption as entertainment (Backes, 1997; Kowinski, 2002; Reimers and Clulow, 2009; Rybczynski, 2000; Staeheli and Mitchell, 2006; Williams, 1995). On the other, they are the destroyers of public places and the endogenous dynamism, pluralism and entrepreneurship that creates and evolves them (Brugmann, 2009; Dovey, 2010; Forsyth and Crewe, 2009; Mitchell 2006; Voyce, 2003).

A major plank of the discourse is the purported effects major shopping centre development has upon local retail businesses and employment, but also the economic health of the town as a whole. The opening of a major shopping centre typically comes with the promise of a net increase in employment and an overall boost for the economy of the town in which they establish. Thus, they are often welcomed into communities as employment generators and economic stimulators (Mitchell, 2006: Voyce, 2006: Ryan, 2006).

This research analyses both the short term and long term effects of shopping centre development in three case studies carried out in rural and peri-urban towns in New South Wales and South Australia. The first case study measures short term changes in local business activity and employment by comparing empirical employment data before and after the opening of major shopping malls in three regional towns. The analysis compared business sectors typically found within a shopping mall, retail, food and beverage, and personal services. …

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