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The UK food retail ‘race for space’ and market saturation: a contemporary review

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This conceptual review paper explores food retail space saturation in the UK in the light of an apparent recent peak of store space growth, an inferred decline of the hypermarket format, and, in particular, the stagnation and subsequent deterioration in performance of the UK market leader, Tesco. Despite saturation being widely discussed by retail executives and analysts, the last significant academic work in this area occurred in the mid-1990s. In this paper, we develop an understanding of retail saturation that rests on a spatial conceptualization of retail development at a local catchment level and rationalize why, and in what ways, saturation manifests itself through sales impacts and cannibalization. In the process, we analyse the differing local effects of new store openings, store extensions and format innovation to illustrate how saturation is contingent on local catchment conditions, competitive interactions and the particular geography of retail brands and formats. Although a significant slowdown in new store construction may be a logical response at the level of the industry, this may not necessarily be the case for individual retail firms.
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Keywords: food retailing; location planning; retail geography; retail saturation; store format

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Surrey Business School, University of Surrey, Guildford, GU2 7XH, UK 2: Investec Securities, 2 Gresham Street, London, EC2 V 7QP, UK

Publication date: 2014-03-15

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