The high revenues produced by the discovery of oil in Kuwait have led to a growth in national affluence reflected in increased consumer wealth and education. At the same time, greater contact with western society and culture has led to a degree of westernisation. These two factors have combined to bring about a general change in shopping habits, an increased demand for luxury goods, and a radical restructuring of the retail system.
Planned shopping centres are now a noticeable phenomenon within the retail structure of Kuwait, and may be expected to have an impact upon the traditional retail system centred around the markets (souks). The new centres have a unified architectural style: they are modem, western, enclosed, and air-conditioned. The development of these new shopping centres will be investigated in this chapter. In order to put this development into perspective, the process is examined against the background of the hierarchical models which have typified retail analysis and planning in Western Europe and North America. The potential application of these models is evaluated in the Kuwaiti situation. A description is given of the particular characteristics of the retail structure of Kuwait which make it so distinctive. As the development of this retail structure is discussed it is important to identify and highlight the impact of western culture distinguishing this from indigenous influences on retail structure.
Many studies of retail structure in the western world were stimulated by the development and application of central place theory. Discussion of the hierarchy of centres in Kuwait is preceded in this section by a brief consideration of the major studies of central place hierarchies in western countries. This will facilitate assessment of the applicability of western findings to the different socio-economic and commercial environment of Kuwait.