Paul C. Cheshire, Christian A. L. Hilber, Piero Montebruno, Rosa Sanchis-Guarner
2022/09: (IN)convenient stores? What do policies pushing stores to town centres actually do?
England´s Town Centre First Policy, introduced in 1996, restricted the opening of new retail and other ‘traditional town centre activities’ to ‘Town Centre’ (TC) locations. The aim was to halt the decay of high streets. We explore the impact of the policy on the supply and location of grocery shops and patterns of shopping by comparing English with Scottish TCs before and after the policy change in England. Using store level census data, we show first that supply trends for grocery stores in TCs were similar in both countries prior to the implementation of the policy. After the policy took effect, however, stores in TCs increased relatively more strongly in England, but with no change in grocery employment. Second, using survey data, we show that the policy changed the composition of shops in TCs in favour of convenience-type shops supplied by the “big four” grocery chains. However, although it increased the number of TC shops, the policy had no effect on the number of shoppers choosing TC locations.