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The Evolution of Retailing in the United States

Working paper #443
Peter Linneman and Deborah C. Moy

Retailing in suburban America has undergone a dramatic evolution over the last 50 years. The authors explore the competitive forces that have fueled this transformation, noting that retail developers frequently misunderstood the process. Only recently have competi-tive forces created supply and demand equilibrium, a development that has vastly increased the challenges facing suburban retailing. The authors estimate that in 1950 there were more than 650,000 suburbanites per existing shopping center, but by 2000, that ratio had drastically declined to just over 4,000 suburbanites per shopping center. Opening a storefront and just “being there” is no longer a sufficient criterion for success in retailing. Today, from neighborhood centers to regional malls to outlet centers to big-box category killers, evolution in retailing continues. Only retailers who pay great attention to cost con-trols, as well as design detail, will have even a chance at leading the next wave.

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