More than any other element of the city centre, the retail sector epitomises the tensions around sustainability. Changing consumer behaviour is creating a desire for policy and interventions to support 'retail sustainability' as a key component of the city centre economy. But concerns over the footprint of global supply chains, fast fashion and waste suggest more fundamental change is needed to enable retailing to make more of a contribution to climate change and sustainable economic systems. Resolving these tensions are pivotal in shaping the future of the city centre.
Find out about some of the issues and recent insights below.
The way we conduct our retailing is changing rapidly. Online viewing of products, purchasing, and payment has impacted on city centres. The resulting reduction in footfall and commercial retail space has created opportunities for imaginative, innovative ways to draw in customers and to repurpose spaces. A focus on experiential aspects of shopping as a social activity matters.
Read more here.
The high street store
Renewed attention is being given to the experience economy as a means to avert the death of the city centre. In-store experiences matter, with more emphasis on consumer needs, entertainment and leisure, and an environment. Adjusting to this is challenging and costly in the short term, but catering for a different store experience where sustainability is prominent is one positive response.
A key response to changing retail habits and concerns about 'fast fashion' has been an emphasis on local - locally owned stores with more unique and artisanal merchandise; local sourcing of goods and products; local relationships between consumer and business. In the future city centre, opportunities to reuse space to support local production can offer a premium.
Is this more sustainable? Read some thoughts here.
Find out more about research into the impact of change on retailing and consumption in the city centre and its role in the regeneration and revitalization of the area. Click on titles below for access.
Barat-Salgueiro and Guimaraes (2020) Sustainability, 12, 9433
This paper focuses on the triangle of retail, urban resilience and city sustainability, aiming to uncover how cities have coped with retail challenges to increase their resilience towards a sustainable path, highlighting the role played by public policy.