Reframing the intra-urban retail hierarchy

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Over recent decades there has been the development of a significant number of ‘out of town’ retail centres in Western countries. This paper reviews the theoretical background to retail hierarchies before analysing the changing UK retail context and long term forces shaping shopping centres. It reframes the intra-urban hierarchy concept under the banner of a ‘convenience retail model’. This paper then examines the process of change in Edinburgh from the 1980s and the interface with planning. New out of town development was opportunity driven by the availability of vacant brownfield sites. Despite restrictive planning policy from the early 1990s out of town retailing continued to grow. The process was piecemeal and the physical nature of these centres was transformed over time. The city centre is found not to be a single entity and the largest outer centre is almost comparable in terms of size of fashion floorspace with individual central segments. The major distinction between in and out of town is now the scale of provision of restaurants and cafes. The paper confirms the dilution of the retail hierarchy and finds that planning policies need to embrace such urban change rather than seek to maintain the status quo.

Original languageEnglish
Article number103037
Early online date26 Nov 2020
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2021


  • Edinburgh
  • High street
  • Out of town
  • Retail hierarchy
  • Retail planning
  • Shopping centres

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Development
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Urban Studies
  • Tourism, Leisure and Hospitality Management


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