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The Changing Design of Shopping Places

Working paper #439
Witold Rybczynski

Shopping is an interaction between a marketing strategy and the design of the shopping place. The environment is an integral part of the retail equation, as important as the way that goods are marketed. Sometimes changes in shopping are driven by environmental innovations, and sometimes by innovations in strategy; sometimes innovations occur in both realms at once. The only constant is change, because retailing, more than other sec-tors of commercial real estate, is particularly susceptible to fashion: whatever attracts con-sumers one year may repel them the next. This article is a historical review of how shop-ping environments have changed and evolved from nineteenth-century arcades, to depart-ment stores, to shopping malls, and to the modern big-box self-service stores. Although the trend seems to be in the direction of reducing overheads (and prices) and increasing convenience, the town-center format suggests that, in a simplified form, there is still room for shopping-as-recreation.

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