Shopping is one of the most commonplace human activities; shops and shopping centres characterise most settlements in the developed world. It is not surprising, therefore, that retail location has for many years been a prime concern of geographers. Following the development of central place theory in the 1920s, the spatial patterns formed by periodic markets and urban settlements became a subject for study. Much empirical research of a descriptive nature was carried out into these patterns, increasingly linked with studies of shopping travel (for reviews see, for example, Beaujeu-Garnier and Delobez 1979; Carter 1995). More recently, research into retail location has become informed by theories of consumer choice behaviour and strategic decision making by retail organisations (Guy 1980; Brown 1992a; Jones and Simmons 1990). There are signs now that the subject is forging renewed links with mainstream concerns in economic and cultural geography (Wrigley and Lowe 1996).
There has been a strong tradition of applied research in retail geography, in developing methods of analysis and forecasting that can be applied to enhance the profitability of commercial organisations in retailing. These methods, which first appeared in the United States in the 1920s, later became established as ‘marketing geography’ (for a historical review, see Thrall and del Valle 1997). They are summarised well in texts such as Davies (1976), Davies and Rogers (1984), Wrigley (1988), Berry and Parr (1988), and Jones and Simmons (1990). More recently, geographical techniques have been widely used in town planning practice to assess the impacts of proposed retail developments upon existing shopping provision (BDP Planning 1992; Bromley and Thomas 1993a).
This chapter has two broad purposes. First, it sets out some broad principles of marketing geography, relating these to the UK context. Second, it explores two areas of applied practice in retail geography: the forecasting of retail store or shopping centre sales; and the analysis of the impacts of major new shopping developments. Examples are given of ways in which geographical techniques can be used to assist these objectives, using British case studies. The economic and social contexts for these applications are also examined in some depth. The chapter ends with a brief examination of possibilities for further research, in the interests of integrating retail location analysis more firmly with current concerns in human geography.
Retail location analysis is founded upon a series of interrelationships, which have strong geographical reference. This section summarises these interrelationships as a prelude to the case studies.