About the Project
Guidance on social distancing and remaining out of the ‘public realm’ except for the purchase of necessities were introduced into a retail landscape in which different forms of shopping experience existed concurrently (e.g. out-of-town retail park, High Street, online, local shopping parades and ‘corner’ shops) offering people a range of ways to pursue this everyday activity. The growth of urban living over more than two centuries has been accompanied by continual evolution in the retail sector and adjustment of the shopping experience in tandem with changes in transportation, globalisation in the manufacturing and food industries and, more recently, the arrival of mobile and static information technologies enabling consumers to discover, pursue and purchase their desires in real time wherever they may be located. Previous research and policies have tended to focus on the extremes of the retail sector ranging from the ’High Street’ (Hubbard, 2017) and out-of-town retail park to village shops and service outlets (e.g. banks, police stations and post offices) (Marshall, 2018). Over a period of time the cumulative impact of these changes in the retail sector led in the crisis in local and high street shopping highlighted in the UK by Portas (2011) report.
Local shopping parades and individual ’corner’ shops, although recognised as capable of adapting to fashions and trends in the goods and services they offer, have received comparatively limited attention in respect of their accessibility and use by different demographic groups, and of their changing function and utility in the retail sector. Local shops play a crucial community or ‘placemaking’ role as ‘social hubs’, for example by supporting older people’s emotional and social needs (Experian, 2012).This doctoral research project will explore features of the built environment and the accessibility of local shopping parades and individual ‘corner’ shops by walking, cycling and similarly sustainable modes of transport that allow older people and others to keep mobile in their everyday lives and investigate whether suburban (non-central) residential environments are good places to grow old, be a single parent or be relatively disadvantaged. Keeping active and engaged in society are seen as important for older people’s independence and wellbeing; and outdoor activity is regarded as beneficial to physical and mental health, promoting social engagement and postponing the shrinkage of people’s radius of movement (Sugiyama and Ward Thompson, 2007). Measures introduced to manage people’s use of outdoor space during the Covid-19 pandemic have explicitly restricted social engagement and movement away from the people’s domicile and are regarded as having impacted negatively on their physical and mental health.
Drawing these themes together, the main aim of this project is to determine the barriers and enablers of people’s mobility to and within local retail settings. The intention is to employ a mixed methods approach that captures a broad perspective on the accessibility, utility and use of local shops as a context for more in-depth analysis of qualitative and quantitative data potentially incorporating geo-enabled mobile methods including photographic images, recorded narratives and focus groups in a small number of case study areas. Co-creation of knowledge between researcher and participants will be feature of the project thereby extending current understanding of the importance of local shopping and how people differentially respond to unexpected disruption of their everyday lives and activities.
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