In this paper we summarise key elements of retail change in Britain over a twenty-year period. The time period is that covered by a funded study into long-term change in grocery shopping habits in Portsmouth, England. The major empirical findings—to which we briefly allude—are reported elsewhere: the present task is to assess the wider context underlying that change. For example, it has frequently been stated that retailing in the UK is not as competitive as in other leading economies. As a result, the issue of consumer choice has become increasingly important politically. Concerns over concentration in the industry, new format development and market definition have been expressed by local planners, competition regulators and consumer groups. Macro level changes over time have also created market inequality in consumer opportunities at a local level—hence our decision to attempt a local-level study. Situational factors affecting consumer experiences over time at the local level involve the changing store choice sets available to particular consumers. Using actual consumer experiences thus becomes a yardstick for assessing the practical effectiveness of policy making. The paper demonstrates that choice at local level is driven by store use and that different levels of provision reflect real choice at the local level. Macro-level policy and ‘one size fits all’ approaches to regulation, it is argued, do not reflect the changing reality of grocery shopping. Accordingly, arguments for a more local and regional approach to regulation are made.
- retail structure