Factors that led to the development of out-of-town retailing

Economic factors

Retailing in city centres was very expensive due to the expensive land rents, but land on the outskirts could be bought for less. In addition, many Central Business District (CBD) stores were old and in need of modernisation, this too would have been very expensive.

Cultural factors

Many shoppers were once quite faithful to their local store. Today, many people like to compare the types of goods and look for a competitive deal or one-off exclusive item. Large out-of-town shopping centres allow consumers to:

  • visit several shops under one roof
  • have protection from the wind and rain
  • park, more often than not, for free which is a bonus for the UK consumer who enjoys the flexibility a car brings

Technological factors

Improvements in road networks, including motorways, in and around our urban areas allow consumers to drive quickly, and often with less congestion, to out-of-town shopping areas compared with CBDs.

Costs of out-of-town shopping

Due to the success of out-of-town shopping, there has been decentralisation of retailing, whereby major retailers have moved their premises from central locations in the CBD to the edge of the city. This causes the doughnut (north America) or polo effect (UK) where there is an economic, social and retailing hole in the middle of the city.

Almost 15,000 shops in town centers in the UK closed between 2000 and 2009, with a further 10,000 losses in the past couple of years. Many household names such as Woolworths and Comet have closed completely, and HMV had had to be bought out.
UK shop vacancy rates showing the number of empty shops.The number of vacant shops in the town centre or CBD is almost double that in out-of-town retail parks

Environmental effect of out-of-town shopping

In addition, many large retail parks have also increased traffic and congestion on the roads. This increases pollution from exhaust emissions which contributes to the greenhouse effect. Some retail parks on the edge of town have been developed on greenfield sites. This is damaging to the environment and reduces the available open green spaces between one urban area and another.

Out-of-town shopping benefits for customers and retailers

  • Shoppers are often able to park for free and do not have to travel into busy congested city centre locations. In addition all stores are under one roof - often covered from the weather. There may also be crèches and play areas for children which can make the shopping experience more enjoyable.
  • Retailers benefit from these locations because they have larger contemporary shop units which allow a greater range of goods to be on show for sale. There is also good access for delivery vehicles.

24-hour shopping

Nine to five is still a popular way to shop on the high street. However people now expect to be able to shop 24/7, either online from the comfort of their own home or by visiting a large store which is open 24-hours a day.