In the 1950s and 1960s shops selling high-order goods, like furniture and jewellery, were in the town and city centres, which attracted customers from a wide catchment area. Shops selling low-order goods, like food, were located in the local neighbourhoods. However, this traditional shopping pattern began to change in the 1970s, when shops like supermarkets and DIY stores began to move to the outskirts of towns by decentralisation. Although it is obvious that the decentralisation of retailing and other services has had a major impact on urban areas, the impacts have been negative, positive or neutral.
There are a number of reasons for the growth in out of town retailing. Firstly, increased car ownership has meant that many more people drive to the shops. Out of town retail complexes are often located close to a motorway, so they are easy to access, and they usually have fewer problems with congestion than town centres. Also, the price of parking in town and city centres is increasing, whereas parking in out of town retail complexes is usually free, which encourages people to shop there. Moving on from this, the use of cars and home freezers also means people can do one weekly shop as opposed to only buying what they can carry home and use immediately. This means people are more likely to shop at out of town retail complexes and supermarkets, where they can park outside and get everything they need under one roof. In addition to this, increased road building, particularly of motorways and bypasses, makes out of town shopping centres easy to access and attracts customers from further away because driving on these roads reduces travel times and expenses.
Furthermore, it’s not just shops that have moved to out of town retail parks. Many large retail centres also offer services such as bowling, cinemas and restaurants. This helps to attract more customers by making a trip to a shopping centre more of a family activity. Finally, it is a lot cheaper to build retail parks out of town than it is to rent or buy premises in the city centre. Retail parks are often built on reclaimed derelict land, so it’s easy for developers to get planning permission. All these points about out of town retailing attracting more and more customers mean that the decentralisation of retailing and other services is going to have a major impact on urban areas.
However, the decentralisation of retailing and other services has had major positive and negative impacts on both city centres and the rural urban fringe. Some may argue that the negative impacts are worse in the city centre as out of town retail complexes compete with city centre shops, so fewer people shop in the city centre. This can force shops in the city centre to close, so people lose their jobs. This decline in the number of people coming to the city centre to shop also decreases the number of customers using the city centre services such as restaurants and cafes, which may force them to close. A decline in business and retail can lead to a more general decline in the area, as investment in the city centre decreases and it becomes run down. This can lead to problems with vandalism. Contrastingly, in the rural urban fringe, where the retail parks are normally located, the negative impacts have not been as bad. For example, the retail complexes require a lot of construction, which leads to noise pollution and congestion, as roads are often disrupted (but it also created short term jobs). Also, most people drive to out of town retail complexes, which causes polluti0n and air pollution.
This leads people to believe that the decentralisation of retailing and other services has had a major impact on urban areas, but more so in the city centre than the rural urban fringe. Similarly, it could to be argued that the positive impacts of decentralisation are more apparent in the rural urban fringe than in the city centre. This is because out of town retail complexes create jobs for the local people living in the suburbs and houses with easy access to the shopping centre often increase in value. In addition to this, retail parks are often built on brownfield sites. For example, Bluewater in Kent is built in a former quarry. This redevelopment of brownfield sites can often help to regenerate an area. In city centres, positive impacts include local councils and the government investing money into improving the city centre, in order to attract customers back. Some of these improvements may include creating new pedestrian zones, renovating older shopping malls and organising events. Also, pollution and congestion may decrease as fewer people drive to the city centre to shop.
These positive impacts may lead people to believe that the decentralisation of retailing and other services has had a major positive impact on urban areas. The Trafford Centre opened in 1998. It was built on a brownfield site in the industrial area of Trafford Park, 5 miles west of Manchester. The site covers 150 acres and cost £600,000 to complete. The Trafford Centre has the largest catchment area of any shopping centre in the UK, with over 5.3 million people living within a 45 minute drive. The Centre is popular for a number of reasons. Firstly, the Trafford Centre has over 200 shops, a 1600 seat food court, a 20 screen cinema, crazy golf and ten pin bowling. In addition to this, it is well connected by road, being very close to the M60 for customers coming from outside of Manchester, and the M602 into the city centre. There are also many buses that go direct from Manchester to the Trafford Centre. Moving on from this, it has 11500 free parking spaces and a traffic control system to reduce congestion and car park waiting times. Also, it is indoors and air conditioned to protects customers from the weather all year round. Finally, it has long opening hours, as shops are open until 10pm Monday to Friday. The decentralisation of retailing and services in Manchester by the Trafford centre has had a major impact on Manchester as a whole. The Trafford Centres impact on the surrounding area has been negative and positive.
Some of the negative impacts include increased congestion and pollution as most visitors drive to the centre. This can get to extreme levels in busy times of the year, such as Christmas. Also, the Trafford Centre has had major impact on the surrounding towns, as fewer people go to these town centres to shop or for leisure activities. This is because they can’t compete with the advantages offered by the Trafford Centre (e.g. free parking). A town called Altrincham has suffered very badly, with 37% of shops being vacant in 2010. However, the Trafford Centre has had some positive effects on the surrounding area. For example, the centre supports local community projects and charities such as the Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital, though fundraising and donations. In addition to this, the Trafford Centre provides work experience for students studying retail business, and the centre as a whole employs 8000 people, who receive benefits such as health care and childcare vouchers. Finally, The Trafford centre is growing, so that it offers a wider range of services, which attract more customers and bring more economic benefits, such as jobs. For example, LEGOLAND Discovery Centre opened in 2010. As the positive and negative impacts the Trafford Centre are fairly even, some people would be inclined to think that the decentralisation of retailing and other services in Manchester has had a neural impact on the surrounding urban areas and Manchester as whole. In addition to the positive impacts that the Trafford Centre is having on the surrounding areas, there are some schemes in place to manage the negative impacts. For example, the centre is investing in improving public transport and cycle and pedestrian routes in order to reduce traffic.
There are now 40 bus services an hour to and from the Trafford centre and a shuttle bus to the Metrolink tram station. Also, in 2011, Altrincham Forward (a board made up of local business owners, residents and councillors), produced the Altrincham Town Centre Action Plan. This plan outlines strategies to draw people into the town, including establishing an annual calendar of events in the town and reducing parking charges. These measures to prevent the negative impacts of the Trafford Centre becoming a problem, would cement peoples view that the decentralisation of retailing and other services is not a problem in Manchester and the surrounding areas. To conclude I do not completely agree with the statement ‘The decentralisation of retailing and other services has had a major impact on urban areas’. This is because, as seen in Manchester, if the decentralisation is managed efficiently and the positive impacts outweigh the negative impacts, the decentralisation of retailing and other services can have a neutral impact on urban areas.