UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Retail trade area analysis and site selection : a survey of practitioners in Greater Vancouver Graham, Scott


Within the academic literature pertaining to retail location analysis, the prominent focus over the last years has been on mathematical models capable of directly delineating the trade area of a retail facility and estimating the outlet's potential sales volume. This concentration on modeling represents an attempt to add some structure to the site selection process and to eliminate some of the problems associated with the highly subjective and intuitive alternative methods (such as Applebaum's analog approach), which tend to rely extremely heavily on past learning experiences and the analyst's decision making ability. However, even though these modeling approaches add some needed structure and objectiveness to the process, they have failed to reach any level of acceptance in the business world. One of the major purposes of this study is to determine the underlying reasons for this lack of adoption. To gain an understanding of the problem a number of planners, developers, consultants and store merchants were interviewed in order to ascertain the methods and processes involved. Aside from basic methodologies, the questionnaire also concentrated on a wide variety of locational considerations not normally dealt with in the academic literature, such as corporate strategies. This survey revealed a number of problems inherent in the application of these highly structured mathematical models. Most of the problems stemmed from the limited perspective taken. For example, only the demand for retail facilities are considered in the models, all supply considerations are neglected. Corporate strategies, past learning experiences and most financial implications are ignored. Furthermore, these approaches tend to exclude a number of important factors that are suspected to have a significant impact on determining consumer patronage patterns. Some of the more important variables identified were: tenant mix, the location of the tenants within the shopping center, accessibility, an array of site quality factors, and population characteristics. Although there is a need for some structure to be added to those methods used in practice, it is apparent the models are too inflexible and limited for the type of situation for which they are intended. The dynamic nature of the developmental process requires more fluidity in the analytical approaches used, since each situation presents such a unique set of circumstances. Unless the entire design of the models are changed in a dramatic way, they are never likely to be used in the business world. This, however, is not liable to happen in the immediate future since the direction that most of the academic research seems to be taking is towards making minor adaptations to model forms that are impractical by their general design and nature. Therefore, until research takes on a new direction, it is not likely that any practical advances will be made. In essence, the need for some new directions in academic research, the urgency for a closer association between the theorists and those in business, and the necessity for more holistic approaches are among the more important inferences made within this thesis.

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