Journal of Retailing and Consumer Services 13 (2006) 381–392
Macro-level change and micro level effects: A twenty-year perspectiveon changing grocery shopping behaviour in Britain
Ronan De Kervenoael
, Alan Hallsworth
, Ian Clarke
Faculty of Management, Sabanci University, Turkey
Management School, University of Surrey, Guildford GU2 7XH, UK
Management School, Lancaster University, UK
In this paper we summarise key elements of retail change in Britain over a twenty-year period. The time period is that covered by afunded study into long-term change in grocery shopping habits in Portsmouth, England. The major empirical ﬁndings—to which webrieﬂy allude—are reported elsewhere: the present task is to assess the wider context underlying that change. For example, it hasfrequently been stated that retailing in the UK is not as competitive as in other leading economies. As a result, the issue of consumerchoice has become increasingly important politically. Concerns over concentration in the industry, new format development and marketdeﬁnition have been expressed by local planners, competition regulators and consumer groups. Macro level changes over time have alsocreated market inequality in consumer opportunities at a local level—hence our decision to attempt a local-level study. Situationalfactors affecting consumer experiences over time at the local level involve the changing store choice sets available to particularconsumers. Using actual consumer experiences thus becomes a yardstick for assessing the practical effectiveness of policy making. Thepaper demonstrates that choice at local level is driven by store
and that different levels of provision reﬂect
choice at the locallevel. Macro-level policy and ‘one size ﬁts all’ approaches to regulation, it is argued, do not reﬂect the changing reality of groceryshopping. Accordingly, arguments for a more local and regional approach to regulation are made.
2006 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Retail structure; Locality; Lifestyle; Grocery
The opportunity to take both a micro- and macro-levelperspective on retail change is a challenging one: this paperattempts a perspective on a quarter century of retail changein Britain. Whilst there have been many thoughtful generalcommentaries on wider retail change (Dawson, 2000, 2004),studies that also focus on local effects and on observedconsumer behaviour are rare unless concentrating ondeprived areas affected by store loss. Change in consumerbehaviour can be driven by many factors: market competi-tion; response to consumer demand; outcomes of regulatorypolicy and so on. What has especially been neglected is the
impact of macro-level change on local (micro)areas and the effect of
change on consumer choiceand behaviour (Clarke, 2000). To support our general-isations about change we will draw brieﬂy on empiricalﬁndings from a research project on grocery shopping inPortsmouth, England. We view shopping as a wider socialpractice embedded in a deﬁned social context (place andtime) rather than seeing each purchase as a unique decision.Our perspective, then, is of a symbiotic relationshipbetween consumer behaviour and long-term retail change.The consumer both affects, and is in turn affected by, thechanging retail scene. This approach is inevitably discursive,but can be organised around a number of subheadings:
Society, work and consumption;
Retail structure and in-store provision;
Local (micro-level) choice;
Retail change and legislation.
ARTICLE IN PRESS
Corresponding author. Tel.: +441483686753.
Senior fellow, Advanced Institute of Management Research (AIM).