Using a continuous dataset, the purpose of this study is to explore the evolution of retailing in the historical city centre of Utrecht between 1974 and 2003.
Following an evolutionary framework entropy statistics and sector analysis are used to investigate the structural changes that have occurred over this period.
The results indicate important changes over time. First, there is a decline of shops selling daily and space consuming goods. Second, the expansion of some sectors and the emergence of new sectors has compensated fully for the loss of these shops. The success of some of these sectors is related to the rise of recreational shopping. Despite increased competition of “out‐of‐town” retailing and other forms of retailing, Utrecht's historical city centre has remained on top of the retail hierarchy in The Netherlands by transforming itself into an attractive location for recreational shopping.
The results indicate that new policies should encourage retail entrepreneurship to adapt to ever changing socio‐economic and spatial contexts. Furthermore, in most sectors that are under pressure, possibilities exist to shift to related categories through what may be called upgrading.
In the main, the data investigate sector dynamics. Future research on the evolution of retail locations using time‐series, therefore, should try to include more variables, like floor space, organisation type, etc. which can also provide explanations for the patterns of structural change.
The paper has introduced entropy statistics as a new technique to analyse sector variety dynamics of retail locations, since it captures both the number of sectors and the skewness of distribution.
Weltevreden, J., Atzema, O. and Frenken, K. (2005), "Evolution in city centre retailing: the case of Utrecht (1974‐2003)", International Journal of Retail & Distribution Management, Vol. 33 No. 11, pp. 824-841. https://doi.org/10.1108/09590550510629419
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