out-of-town shopping

out-of-town shopping
   Patterns of retailing have been changing in Britain over the last three or four decades. Although convenience stores offering limited ranges of food and domestic products and, particularly, newsagents that also sell tobacco and confectionery still retain significant (though relatively low volume) trade, traditional high streets with their stores under local ownership and others belonging to national chains have lost business virtually everywhere to shopping centres (known as ‘malls’ when in urban situations). To accommodate a range of shops ranging from large ‘anchor’ stores (such as Debenhams, House of Fraser and Marks & Spencer), a major food retailer (such as Tesco or Sainsbury), chemist (such as Boots), banks and a variety of smaller specialist shops down to a post office, dry-cleaning outlets and newspaper kiosks, shopping centres require huge premises and, despite efforts (notably at Gateshead’s Metro Centre) to promote public transport, they also need vast car parks for customers who often come from quite long distances and hope to return with their car boots laden with purchases. Generally located out of town on greenfield sites (such as Lakeside, at Thurrock in Essex), shopping centres sometimes also participate in large-scale schemes for urban and suburban renewal, on occasion taking over redundant premises and adapting them for new purposes.
   Shopping centres develop the supermarkets’ concept of one-stop shopping by offering customers facilities for making all their purchases, from the week’s food, clothing and footwear to durables such as carpets, furniture and electrical goods, during a single trip to one site, often all under one roof. Customers buy snacks or more substantial meals at a ‘food hall’ in the course of what is often a halfday visit. Huge crowds and ever-climbing turnover, especially at peak times (for example, the pre-Christmas period) and during sales, demonstrate that people generally like to drive, often in a family group, to a shopping centre; once the car is parked, they can stroll around safely in a cheerful environment viewing a wide choice of goods. Retailers, together with companies that carry out development and lease the premises, such as Capital Shopping Centres, achieve outstanding results. Doubts have, however, been raised. As declining local retailing has social implications, and in order to protect green belts around conurbations, official planning guidance since the mid-1990s has discouraged further out-of-town shopping centres.
   Further reading
    Gayler, H.J. (1984) Retail Innovation in Britain, Norwich: Geo.
   CHRISTOPHER SMITH

Encyclopedia of contemporary British culture . . 2014.

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