Retailing Environments in Developing Countries

By Allan M. Findlay; Ronan Paddison et al. | Go to book overview

Chapter one

Retailing in less-developed countries

An introduction

Ronan Paddison, Allan M. Findlay and John Dawson


Introduction

To the analyst more familiar with retailing in the economically advanced nations, the first encounter with retailing in less-developed countries is something of an academic shock. Admittedly the basic function of transaction served by retailing is similar, but the institutional structure and its spatial patterning, as two immediately observable features, appear to offer more contrasts than similarities. Western retail environments are dominated by the fixed shop unit. In recent decades these establishments increasingly have been linked by the complex organisational structure of large distribution firms with multiple retail outlets. By contrast, in less-developed countries fixed shop retailing is only one element, and sometimes a minor one among a large mix of institutions, and the economic structure of the retail sector remains dominated by the small-scale retailer. To the western observer, the urban retailing system of less developed countries may appear to have a chaotic spatial organisation by comparison with the more familiar spatial segregation and hierarchical ordering of retail institutions found, for example, within shopping districts in the 'developed' nations. In less-developed countries, retail outlets with western characteristics seem to coexist uneasily alongside 'informal' traders. The sheer number and density of informal traders generate cluttered street scenes of the type analysed by Leeming (1977) in Hong Kong, Owens and Hussain (1984) in Bangladesh, and Chapman (1984) in Indonesia.

In reality, the apparent chaos of the urban market-place in less-developed countries is more apparent than real. As Mitchell (1966:41) has so aptly stated, 'the apparent complexity of social phenomena frequently bespeaks a lack of theoretical concepts available for their analysis'. Enough is known of the Indian bazaar or the suqs of the Arab city, for example, to be able to show that, in spatial terms, the patterning of establishments is ordered by a mix of customary practices and market-based logic, but no adequate explanatory framework has yet

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