The breaking of the fourth wave: recent out-of-town retail developments in Britain

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In the early 1990s there was considerable speculation about the potential impact which new retail formats may have upon UK retailing. These "fourth wave" out-of-town developments, primarily of US origin, were viewed as a major threat to town centres. This paper revisits these estimates for the new retail formats and assesses the relative success or failure of the formats in light of research undertaken with senior executives of companies involved in the development process. The research shows that the high expectations pertaining to the fourth wave of out-of-town development have not materialized and the predictions of the early 1990s were over-optimistic. The tightening of planning policy guidelines has been partially responsible for the downgrading of initial estimates, especially for factory outlet centres, where several key developers have accelerated their search for sites in other parts of Europe because of the lack of development opportunities in the UK. Warehouse clubs, on the other hand, have not only experienced planning difficulties but have yet to gain consumer acceptability in a highly competitive retail marketplace.


Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: July 1, 1998

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