Change has been a continuous feature of retailing in Britain since the mid-1960s. New types of shopping facilities have been developed, usually in decentralized locations, while the largest town and city centres have retained their commercial dominance. These changes have had significant negative competitive effects on all types of smaller traditional centres, especially middle-order centres (small towns, district centres and small market towns), where a ‘spiral of decline’ has been widely evident. Many communities face the prospect of losing their commercial and social focuses. Government activity has attempted to contain this problem by constraining retail decentralization and promoting redevelopment in the traditional centres. Limited evidence suggests that the revitalization process is strongly dependent on the scale, quality and location of the food shopping facilities of such centres and the associated ‘spin- off’ shopping linkages. This article aims to provide additional insight into this by investigating the shopping linkages between a closely integrated new shopping precinct, incorporating an edge-of-centre superstore, in the small town centre of Llanelli in South Wales. Redevelopment, which retained a compact structure based upon spatial proximity, was found to encourage high levels of linkage between the component parts of the centre and generated favourable attitudes to the shopping environment. However, the successful spatial integration of the superstore with the centre needed a site that approximated to an in-town/edge-of-centre site rather than to a more peripheral edge-of-centre or out-of-centre site. Clearly, considerable care is required to define edge-of-centre locations for new developments if they are to assist in regenerating a declining centre. This study strongly supports governmental caution on this issue. The advan- tages of undertaking shopping linkage analyses for the formulation of planning strategies designed to revitalize declining town centres is also demonstrated.
Continuous change has characterized the British retail scene since the mid-1960s. A series of ‘waves’ of retail innovation have added considerable variety to the range of shopping opportunities available to consumers, while presenting increasingly for- midable competition to the traditional shopping opportunities provided by the city centres, small and market town centres, district centres and local neighbourhood facilities. However, regulatory constraint has been imposed with varying degrees of commitment by successive governments throughout this period in order to retain the presumed commercial and social advantages of the traditional system. Constraint upon new developments has been strengthened steadily since the late 1980s, and particularly by the introduction of the ‘sequential test’ in 1996 (Department of the Environment, 1996; Welsh Office, 1996). Such constraints have been complemented by a series of measures designed to positively promote the range of traditional facili- ties.
Analyses of the effects of the new facilities on the traditional centres suggest that they have impacted most adversely upon the middle-order centres. This has been exacerbated by the larger town and city centres retaining their commercial primacy. Those centres most adversely affected comprise small town and district centres in urban situations, and small market towns in rural areas. Evidence suggests that a‘spiral of decline’ is an increasingly common feature of such centres. Limited investi- gations of the effects of revitalization strategies in such centres suggest that the scale, quality and location of their food-shopping opportunities are critical to their continuing success (Bromley & Thomas, 2002). These centres, it appears, are strongly reliant upon a combination of the attraction of such facilities along with associated ‘spin-off’ shopping linkages that they generate. However, while there is a general agreement on the importance of the nature and location of food shopping opportunities and their associated linkages for the redevelopment of declining centres, there is scant evidence on the details of such strategies. Of central signifi- cance in this respect are likely to be the specifics of the spatial configuration neces- sary to optimize the functional linkages between the improvements and the older facilities. To redress this deficiency, this study investigates the shopping linkages between a closely integrated new shopping precinct incorporating an edge-of-centre superstore in a small town centre.