Retail geographies

Wrigley, N. (2009) Retail geographies In, Kitchin, Rob and Thrift, Nigel (eds.) International Encyclopedia of Human Geography. Oxford, UK, Elsevier pp. 398-405. (doi:10.1016/B978-008044910-4.00226-1).


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The ‘new retail geography’ was a term which emerged in the 1990s to describe a reconstructed and theoretically engaged subdiscipline of retail geography which took both its economic and cultural dimensions seriously, and which argued that the transformation of retail capital and of its production and consumption spaces offered some of the most fascinating and challenging areas of study in human geography. This article outlines some of the key economic-geography-oriented themes which have been explored within that perspective – namely, geographies of retail concentration, corporate restructuring and regulation; geographies of retail sourcing networks and supply relations; inconstant geographies and the spatial switching of retail capital; and virtual geographies of retail capital. A picture is presented of retail industries which progressively consolidated in the final quarter of the twentieth century and in which major corporations emerged, some with global presence. That trend was accompanied by significant shifts in the balance of power between manufacturers/suppliers and retailers, with retail corporations progressively emerging as lead firms within increasingly ‘buyer-driven’ national and global sourcing networks. The article focuses on the important contributions geographers have made to understanding the consequences of these developments – contributions which range from: analyzing geographies of corporate restructuring in the industry; through conceptualizing the nature of retail regulation, retailer–supplier relations, and ‘buyer-driven’ forms of coordination and governance of global supply networks; to illuminating the active creation and recreation of markets by the spatial switching of retail capital, and assessing the impacts of e-commerce on traditional retail channels, spaces, and consumption practices.

The article focuses, in particular, on new areas of research activity which have begun to emerge during the early 2000s. These include geographies of retail exclusion and underserved markets; geographies of transnational (globalizing) retail; the rise of ethical/responsible sourcing initiatives; and the consequences of the emergence of a generation of ‘digital natives’ and of e-commerce’s ability to both expose and drive demand down the ‘long tail’ of products which had previously struggled to find an audience in the traditional physical world of retail distribution. The article concludes by outlining some emerging issues which will ensure that ‘the new retail geography’ continues to offer some of the most challenging but rewarding areas of study in human geography

Item Type: Book Section
Digital Object Identifier (DOI): doi:10.1016/B978-008044910-4.00226-1
ISBNs: 0080449115 (print)
ePrint ID: 69004
Date :
Date Event
October 2009Published
Date Deposited: 14 Oct 2009
Last Modified: 18 Apr 2017 21:17
Further Information:Google Scholar

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