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ACADEMIC PAPERS

Clustering retailers by store


space requirements
Comparable evidence, retail function and
rental value

Clustering
retailers by store
space
133
Received August 1997
Revised November 1997

Brenna ORoarty, Stanley McGreal and Alastair Adair


Introduction
Fundamentally, retail rental values represent a proportion of business turnover
and the potential profit margin of a store. At the micro-scale, the turnover which
may be generated from a given store is partly determined by locational,
physical and lease term characteristics which may either attract or repel
potential consumers (Cox and Brittain, 1988; Dale, 1989). Consequently store
selection is an integral part of the specific marketing strategy of any retailing
organisation (Brown, 1992). The assessment of retail rental values at the review
and renewal stages draws on evidence of rents agreed for comparable
properties. Derived from the economic principle of substitution, the method
attempts to identify and weight micro-scale value influencing factors (Fisher
and Martin, 1994). In making comparisons valuers apply subjective rental
adjustments to reconcile for differences in property characteristics occurring
across the properties. Indeed the utilisation of the comparative method to
accurately assess the relative ranking of such attributes in the marketplace and
determine their impact on rent is problematic (Adair et al., 1996).
In a previous article examining the impact of specialization and market
segmentation on the perceived effects of individual property characteristics we
argue that in determining retail rental values, the function of the retailer must
be considered (ORoarty et al., 1997). Also, in assessing store location at the
micro-scale retailers focus on the relationship between rent and turnover.
Generation of the latter is in part determined by locational, physical and lease
term characteristics of given premises, the impact of which varies between
different types of retail specializations. Different tiers emerge in the market as
the optimum location choice, where maximisation of the cost:profit ratio occurs,
is variable among different types of retailer. While in an open market letting
situation this is generally inconsequential as the rent is determined naturally
through bids from interested parties, difficulties arise at rent review and lease
renewal when rents are determined by a more artificial process.
In adopting the comparative method, valuers fail to account for variation
between retail function and the impact of individual property factors on rental
value. This potentially leads to misguided valuations. First, in determining the
rental value of a subject property inappropriate evidence may be devalued to

Journal of Property Valuation &


Investment, Vol. 16 No. 2, 1998,
pp. 133-143. MCB University
Press, 0960-2712

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determine a unit value, even though in the marketplace the subject and
comparable properties belong to distinct tiers, that is the occupier of the subject
property would not be expected to make a bid for the comparable property and
vice versa. Second, by considering the impact of micro-scale criteria to be
uniform across all retail functions, valuers interpretations of evidence may lead
to over or under estimations of rent as the perceived impact of a factor may have
a positive impact on trade and hence rental bid for one type of retailer and a
negative impact for another. Consequently, the unit area derived is not
necessarily representative of its true market price. However, store space
requirements are a key component of retailers property selection criteria
varying according to retail function. As the type of goods merchandised have
implications for floorspace requirements, it is arguable that variation in
property selection criteria between retailers may be due to a diversity of space
requirements rather than the influence of retail function and are therefore
already encapsulated within the comparative process adopted.
This paper addresses this hypothesis by examining retailers evaluation of
specific micro-scale property selection criteria. The analysis is based on a
survey of 50 storenames providing information on the preferred size and
configuration of property together with an evaluation of retailers perceptions
of value influencing characteristics. Cluster techniques are used to derive
classifications based on natural groupings according to store space
requirements.
Store space requirements
While location may remain the most important criterion of a retail store it is one
of a number of many marketing strategy decisions including store size, format
and pricing (Brown, 1992; Davies and Harris, 1990). In making retail rental
assessments valuers recognise the importance of such physical characteristics
(Adair et al., 1996). Indeed the unit of comparison employed varies according to
size of retail property with an overall rate applied to premises over 1,900sq.m
with zoning analysis commonly employed to derive a unit of comparison for
properties under this threshold and taking into account the frontage, depth and
size of retail property. Founded on the principle of the most valuable part of the
shop premises occurring closest to the entrance, value decreases at a differential
rate towards the rear of the premises.
An inherent assumption in the methodology is that the value impact of
micro-scale property factors does not vary with store space requirements and
apart from a potential adjustment for locational differences they are considered
directly comparable. Adjustments for other physical and lease term criteria are
generally made prior to the derivation of a unit area value rather than in direct
relation to space criteria. Evidence indicating otherwise augments recent
criticisms that the method over emphasises the importance of frontage,
particularly as retailers consider the cost of space as being equal throughout the
store with any variation in turnover being a direct result of the merchandising
strategy (ORoarty, 1996). However, the floor area of the property and frontage

to depth ratio are crucial to the selection of retail property in that a store must
Clustering
be large enough to enable goods to be effectively merchandised. Furthermore retailers by store
the type of retailing activity carried out influences the perceived impact on
space
value of micro-scale property selection criteria (ORoarty et al., 1997). For
example, the perceived importance of upper floor trading is related to the ability
of different types of retailers to trade profitably from such space.

135

Survey anlysis
In order to evaluate the importance of locational, physical and lease term
characteristics on property selection and examine variation according to store
space requirements a questionnaire survey of 50 storenames responsible for a
total of 9,833 retail outlets within the UK was conducted with representatives
responsible for property acquisition within each organisation, but restricted to
prime high street properties. The targeting of the survey ensured that the
respondents had the ability to define and explain the rationale underpinning
property selection criteria, a thorough understanding of various aspects of the
business of retailing and an awareness of the position of property within the
business strategy. As an integral part of the survey, the respondents were
required to detail store space requirements and to evaluate the impact of certain
specific property characteristics on the store selection decision.
The analysis presented in this paper comprises two stages. First, data
relating to store space requirements are forwarded and cluster analysis used to
form subsets of retailers based on natural relationships. Second, the impact of
store space requirements on the perceived rental influence of selected physical
and lease term characteristics is assessed using the identified clusters.
Clustering retailers by store space requirements
Regarding store space criteria the optimum size, shape and layout of property
varies between retailers with the size of prime property ranging from 80 sq. m
to 9,300sq.m in major centres (median size of 370sq.m). Similarly, the size of
prime property required in minor centres ranges from 35sq.m to 9,300sq.m
(median size of 160sq.m). Optimum frontage to depth ratio ranges from 1:10 to
3:1 with the modal ratio being 1:4 while the number of retail floors preferred
ranges from one to five. The level of variability in these factors suggests that
there is an appreciable diversity in the space requirements of retailers.
To test whether such space differences impact on the perceived effect of microscale property factors, sub-sets of retailers are identified statistically on space
criteria using cluster analysis. The technique is a dimension-free classification
procedure employed to develop homogeneous sub-groupings and has been used
relatively widely in other aspects of property research (Cullen, 1993; Goetzmann
and Wachter, 1995; Hoesli et al., 1996). In this analysis four variables reflect
retailers space requirements; namely, the average size of sales space in major
and minor retail locations, the preferred frontage to depth ratio and the desired
number of floors. The most commonly used measure of similarity within cluster
analysis, Euclidean distance, is in this example the sum of the distance between

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two cases over all four variables. Output is dependent on the unit of
measurement, hence variables represented by large numbers will contribute
more than those measured on a small numerical scale (Norusis, 1992). As the size
of property is measured on a larger scale than the number of floors or frontage to
depth ratio the variables are transformed to standard scores.
A regularly used method for forming clusters is agglomerative hierarchical
clustering utilising Euclidean distance to determine the selection of cases in the
model. A single linkage procedure combines cases into clusters based on the
distance of their two closest points as derived from the initial calculation of
euclidean distance between each pair of cases. Average linkage between groups
procedure calculates the distance between clusters as being the average of the
distances between all pairs of cases in which one member from each pair is from
each of the clusters. This is the preferred procedure in this analysis as it uses
information about all pairs of distances rather than just the nearest.
Essentially the procedure begins by treating each case as a separate cluster
and ends with all individual cases fused into a single cluster. However, identifying
the correct number of clusters is problematic and is a matter of interpretation.
Examination of the coefficient value of the distance between the most similar
parts of the clusters at each stage provides an indication of the relevant number
of clusters. Small coefficients indicate that fairly homogeneous clusters are being
formed while large coefficients indicate dissimilarity between cluster members
(although the actual value is dependent on the data employed). Distances between
clusters at successive stages serve as a useful guide particularly where there is a
large escalation in the value of the coefficient (Hair et al., 1992).
In this analysis the coefficient values indicate that an 11 cluster solution is
appropriate (Table I). The largest grouping is cluster 1 which contains 50 per
cent of the sample (25 of the storenames). Clusters 2 and 3 each contain 6 per
cent (three storenames) while cluster 4 consists of 24 per cent (12 storenames)
and the remaining 14 per cent of the sample includes seven clusters each
representing a single case. In evaluating the cluster solution, six of the seven
single case clusters represent storenames which each require an average sales
space in excess of 1,900sq.m. Traditionally the application of valuation
techniques distinguishes these large stores from premises below this
approximate threshold sales area. The remaining single cluster case represents
a storename with an average sales area of 1,500 sq. m. Although this storename
is not a large store as defined by Reeves (1985) its unusual size isolates this
retailer as it is the only case with an average sales area in a minor location
which lies between 900 to 1,900 sq. m.
Clusters 2 and 3 each contain three case members and significantly, can be
distinguished by retail function (Table II). Retailers operating jewellery stores
characterise cluster 2 and have a preference for square-shaped properties with
an average sales area of 136sq.m and 87sq.m of ground floor sales in major and
minor retail centres respectively. The unusual configuration of such property
resulting from this 1:1 frontage to depth ratio distinguishes this cluster. Cluster
3 represents cards, books and stationers and is distinguished by a low frontage

Stage
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
21
22
23
24
25
26
27
28
29
30
31
32
33
34
35
36
37
38
39
40
41
42
43
44
45
46
47
48
49

Clusters
combined
Cluster 1
45
12
20
3
9
5
45
10
35
35
2
3
2
4
47
39
43
36
15
3
2
11
2
1
27
33
3
34
27
3
1
15
27
1
11
1
11
8
7
25
1
1
7
1
4
17
1
1
1

Coefficient
Cluster 2
46
29
21
20
12
6
49
13
40
42
14
10
9
5
48
41
44
37
31
16
45
24
35
39
38
47
30
36
43
23
2
22
34
33
27
3
15
18
8
28
11
26
25
7
19
32
4
17
50

Stage clusters
1st appear
0.000000
0.000000
0.000000
0.000000
0.000000
0.000000
0.000095
0.000406
0.000593
0.001326
0.001622
0.001982
0.001997
0.002177
0.002372
0.002372
0.003401
0.003401
0.004352
0.004463
0.004954
0.006488
0.006579
0.007081
0.009454
0.016301
0.019876
0.023446
0.030587
0.038260
0.045840
0.059271
0.076243
0.077425
0.122212
0.204977
0.272032
0.312776
0.810092
1.470219
1.742879
2.930769
3.272264
4.810669
5.030529
6.151575
14.036548
20.112923
78.550941

Clustering
retailers by store
space

Next stage
Cluster 1
Cluster 2
0
0
0
0
0
0
1
0
0
9
0
4
11
0
0
0
0
0
0
12
13
0
21
0
0
0
20
0
25
27
24
19
29
31
22
34
35
0
0
0
36
41
39
42
14
0
44
47
48

0
0
0
3
2
0
0
0
0
0
0
8
5
6
0
0
0
0
0
0
7
0
10
16
0
15
0
18
17
0
23
0
28
26
33
30
32
0
38
0
37
0
40
43
0
0
45
46
0

7
5
4
12
13
14
21
12
10
23
13
20
21
45
26
24
29
28
32
27
23
35
31
31
29
34
30
33
33
36
34
37
35
36
37
41
41
39
43
43
42
44
44
47
47
48
48
49
0

137

Table I.
Agglomeration schedule
using average linkage

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Table II.
Cluster groups and
store selection criteria

Percentage sample
Median area
(major centre)
Median area
(minor centre)
Frontage to
depth ratio
Number of floors
Retail function(s)
(per cent)

Cluster 1

Cluster 2

Cluster 3

Cluster 4

50

24

258m2

110m2

1,380m2

483m2

138m2

74m2

460m2

164m2

At least 1:4
1 Sales floor
only
Fashion (28)
Shoe (24)

1:1
1 Sales floor
only
Jewellers (100)

Less than 1:4


Up to 3 Sales
floors
Cards, books
and stationers (100)

At least 1:4
2 Sales floors
only
Fashion (66.6)

to depth ratio with an average sales area of 1,363 and 387sq.m in major and
minor centres respectively and may occupy up to three floor levels. These
characteristics reflect the generative trade of such retailers who require a
minimal window display opportunity while being able to efficiently trade
cheaper space to the rear or on an upper or lower floor.
The membership of clusters 1 (50 per cent) and 4 (24 per cent) are
comparatively large and hence more complex (Table II). Cluster 1 consists of 25
storenames covering a wide spectrum of retailing functions, dominated by a
mixture of fashion (28 per cent) and shoe retailers (24 per cent) but also
including electrical, stationery, CD and video, and sports retailers. Cluster 4 is
more heavily dominated by fashion retailers (66.6 per cent) and similarly
includes stationers, CD and video, and sports retailers. The clusters have two
main distinctions. First, the clusters are distinguished by the number of
preferred sales floor levels, with cluster 1 having ground floor sales only while
cluster 4 has two sales floor levels. Second, cluster 1 represents storenames
which are of a comparatively smaller size in both major and minor retail
locations than those storenames belonging to cluster 4. Storenames within
cluster 1 have a median area of 138sq.m in minor retailing centres and a median
area of 258sq.m in major retailing centres, while storenames within cluster 4
have a median area of 161sq.m in minor retailing centres and a median area of
483sq.m in major retailing centres. However, while this analysis demonstrates
that cluster 4 generally contains storenames with larger sales floor areas than
cluster 1, the clusters are not mutually exclusive in terms of size of sales areas.
The application of cluster analysis produces both meaningful and useful
groupings of storenames with respect to retailers size, shape and layout
requirements. Clearly the size and range of merchandise influences such space
requirements together with the function of the retailer. Hence, clusters 2 and 3 are
closely associated with the function of particular storenames while clusters 1 and
4 suggest that retailers with different functions may share the same space
requirements, but can be clearly differentiated in terms of the number of floors
operated. The results suggest that retail function together with further operational

policies dictate store space requirements to some extent, further supporting the
Clustering
contention that such issues must be considered in comparative rental analysis.
retailers by store
Store space requirements and micro-scale property selection criteria
Differences between the space requirements of the clusters may influence the
consideration of further property characteristics involved in the store selection
procedure as opposed to retail function having any direct effect. Clusters 1 and
4 are employed in this appraisal as they form the only groupings which have an
adequate case membership to enable effective sub-sample analysis. In order to
identify the influence of store space requirements on further property selection
criteria relationships between sub-groups and selected locational, physical and
lease term criteria are examined (Table III).
Analysis involving a functional classification indicates that large/department
store retailers consider the locational considerations, transportation nodes and
car parking facilities to be of greater importance than other retailers (ORoarty et
al., 1997). This greater dependency on suscipient trade may reflect the nature of
such diverse retailing business or may indicate that as larger sales areas are
desired, reliance on generative trade diminishes and suscipient trade increases.
However consideration by cluster sub-group demonstrates that there is no
significant difference in the perceived importance attributed to such locational
factors between Clusters 1 and 4 (Mann Whitney corrected for ties, 0.05
probability level) and the responses within each cluster suggest that for stores
under 900sq.m, the desirability of locating adjacent to generators of suscipient
trade is not directly influenced by store space requirements. The inference is that
the six single case clusters representing properties in excess of 1,900sq.m,
attribute greater weighting to this factor, supporting the contention that large
stores place a greater emphasis on suscipient trade, and is linked to the retail
function carried on rather than a direct influence of the amount of space required
(ORoarty et al., 1997).
Concerning access, analysis by cluster membership indicates that within
cluster 4, store selection is never or rarely affected by service accessibility (75
per cent of respondents) while approximately a quarter of respondents within

space
139

Property characteristic
Transport termini, car parks
Access
Excess frontage to depth
Return frontage
Provision of upper floor**
Vertical flow**
Term of years
User clause
Note: ** Significant at 0.01 probability level (Mann Whitney U, corrected for ties)

Table III.
Influence of store space
requirements on store
selection criteria

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cluster 1 state that store selection is usually or always affected by this feature.
It is suggested that retailers trading in goods which are easily transported are
less likely to require good service access. Cluster 4 is more heavily dominated by
fashion retailers than cluster 1 which may explain why retailers trading from
two floors consider this factor to be less important than those trading from
ground floor only.
With respect to physical property characteristics, for example excess
frontage to depth, return frontage, provision of upper floors and importance of
vertical flow, the impact of store space requirements is variable. Analysis of
excess frontage to depth by cluster membership suggests that retailers trading
from ground floor sales only (cluster 1) and those operating two floor levels
(cluster 4) consider many of the possible impacts of this feature, namely;
prominence, the importance of floorspace near the entrance, customer flow,
additional window display, additional security costs and store layout, in a
broadly similar manner. Indeed statistical inference indicates that there is no
significant difference between the clusters (Mann Whitney corrected for ties, at
0.05 probability level). While members of both clusters 1 and 4 agree or strongly
agree that excess frontage to depth provides prominence (88 per cent and 83.4
per cent respectively) they further acknowledge that it causes store layout
difficulties (80 per cent and 58.1 per cent respectively).
Concerning characteristics such as, value of space within zone A, the
inhibition of customer flow, the provision of an additional window display
opportunity and additional security costs, greater diversity is shown than when
these factors are considered by functional sub-groups (ORoarty et al., 1997).
This infers that store space requirements do not have a direct relationship with
the perceived impact of excess frontage to depth and the greater variation in
response may reflect the assortment of retailing specializations characterising
each cluster.
The distributions representing the influence of a return frontage
demonstrate broadly similar responses from the clusters. The majority of
retailers trading only from a ground floor sales area agree or strongly agree
that this feature reduces the internal display area thereby causing store layout
difficulties (76 per cent and 84 per cent respectively within cluster 1) perhaps
reflecting the greater impact of a return frontage on smaller properties.
Although to a lesser extent, such impacts are also identified by retailers trading
from two floors (66.7 per cent and 66.6 per cent respectively within cluster 4).
The provision of an upper floor and access to it has a greater impact on the
store selection criteria of retailers trading from such sales areas (cluster 4) than
those trading from ground floor sales areas only (cluster 1), an observation that
would be anticipated. Statistical inference indicates that there is a highly
significant difference between the clusters employed and the weighting of both
these factors (Mann Whitney corrected for ties, 0.01 probability level). Cluster
membership indicates that most retailers within cluster 1 expect to derive less
than 50 per cent of ground floor turnover from an upper floor sales area (93.3

per cent) while the majority of retailers within cluster 4 project a turnover which
Clustering
achieves in excess of 50 per cent of ground floor sales (83.4 per cent).
retailers by store
From further investigation it is apparent that membership of cluster 4
space
includes all fashion retailers operating both male and female departments
which through careful store policy can accrue a higher turnover from this
relatively low cost space than from two separate stores. The differential is
141
obviously increased when considered in terms of profit margin due to the
impact of relative costs of ground floor and upper floor sales space. This
suggests that rents agreed in respect of properties with upper floors should be
devalued with respect to the tenants store space requirements, it also raises the
question whether the retailer can trade efficiently from an upper floor. Exactly
what the rental bid includes may be variable; the rent may reflect either a
proportion of the projected turnover from both floors or may be solely a
proportion of the projected turnover of the ground floor depending on the
expected productivity of such space. Furthermore, even where an upper floor is
desired the expected ratio of upper floor turnover to ground floor turnover may
vary between different types of retailer.
Estimation of the value of upper floor space is critical to effective rent
determination. In interpreting comparable evidence under-valuation of such
sales space results in an inflated value for ground floor sales space and derived
unit area value, while over estimation of the value of an upper floor results from
an under-valuation of the ground floor sales area and therefore unit area
derived. Such evidence is subsequently employed to assess rents of other
properties with or without ground floors, which in turn form new comparable
evidence. In these circumstances valuation becomes a self-generating cycle.
Concerning lease terms, the analysis of lease length by store space
requirements results in frequency distributions which indicate that within each
cluster, respondents may perceive the impact of different lease lengths in an
opposing manner. Statistical analysis shows that there is no significant
difference between clusters 1 and 4 and their perception of the impact of each
term of years (Mann Whitney corrected for ties, 0.05 probability level). This
suggests that although the perceived impact of a lease length may be diverse for
properties under 900sq.m, it is unaffected by variation in store space
requirements. However, the conflicting responses within each sub-group
indicate that retailers differ in their perceptions of the inherent risk of different
lease lengths and the desirability of a store, a practice which may be
attributable to retail function.
Regarding a restrictive user clause, analysis by cluster membership indicates
that both clusters consider this factor to have a negative impact on store selection.
Retailers within cluster 1 are more likely to refuse a property with a restrictive
user clause than those within cluster 4 (36 per cent and 8.3 per cent respectively)
while retailers in cluster 4 are more likely to accept a discounted rent than those
within cluster 1 (83.3 per cent and 64 per cent respectively). This may reflect
differences in the functional composition of each storename as cluster 4 is
characterised by a higher proportion of fashion retailers than cluster 1.

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Conclusion
Store space requirements are critical to retailers selection of property as a store
must be large enough to enable goods to be effectively merchandised. The
optimum size, shape and layout of a store obviously varies according to the
requirements of an individual retailer. This analysis suggests that there is an
integral link between store space criteria and retail function which dictates
further operational policies such as store format.
Variation in further property selection criteria between retailers cannot be
explained by diversity in space requirements and hence the assumption within
valuation practice that the value impact of micro-scale property factors does not
vary with store space requirements is valid. However, clustering retailers by
store space criteria produces homogeneous groups which are readily
identifiable according to retail function. Although the larger clusters comprise a
mixture of retail functions, cluster 4 is clearly dominated by fashion retailers (66
per cent) while cluster 1 incorporates all of the shoe retailers within the total
sample. These clusters are chiefly distinguished by the preferred number of
sales floors. This criteria is dictated by the ability to successfully trade from
such space which varies with retail function.
Consequently, the derivation of unit area values from properties of varying
size and layout is suspect as retailers do not necessarily consider properties
with diverse space criteria as being substitutable in the marketplace. Rather in
the open market, there may be a number of tiers based on store space
requirements, in part, dictated by retail function. At rent review and lease
renewal, any arbitrary allocation of value to upper floor space in the analysis of
comparable evidence may lead to the derivation of unit area values which are at
best, misleading and at worst, erroneous. Hence suspect unit area values
employed to assess the rental value of a property with ground floor sales area
only may be further magnified through the valuation process with the assessed
rent itself becoming rental evidence.
References
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the United Kingdom, in Benjamin, J.D. (Ed.), Megatrends in Retail Real Estate, Research Issues
in Real Estate, Vol. 3, Kluwer Academic Publishers, Boston, MA, pp. 335-63.
Brown, S. (1992), Retail Location: A Micro Scale Perspective, Avebury, London.
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Cullen, I. (1993), Cluster Analysis and Property Risk in The Cutting Edge: Proceedings of the RICS
Property Research Conference 21-36, RICS, London.
Dale, G. (1989), The Business of Retailing, Hutchinson Education, London.
Davies, G.J. and Harris, K. (1990), Small Business: The Independent Retailer, Macmillan,
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Economics, Vol. 23, pp. 271-310.
Hair, J.F. Jr, Anderson, R.E., Tatham, R.L. and Black, W.C. (1992), Multi-variate Data Analysis with
Readings, 3rd edition, Macmillan, New York, NY.

Hoesli, M., Lizieri, C. and MacGregor, B. (1996), Cluster analytic techniques in commercial real
estate investment: a case study, paper presented at the 12th Annual American Real Estate
Society Meeting, South Lake Tahoe, CA.
Norusis, M.J. (1992), Advanced Statistics Guide, 2nd ed., SPSS, Chicago, IL.
ORoarty, B.A. (1996), A critical assessment of the rental valuation of retail property, DPhil.
Thesis, University of Ulster.
ORoarty, B.A., McGreal, S. and Adair, A. (1997), The impact of retailers store selection criteria
on the estimation of retail rents, Journal of Property Valuation & Investment, Vol. 15 No. 2, pp.
119-130.
Reeves, D. (1985), Valuing large stores at rent review, Rent Review & Lease Renewal, Vol. 5 No. 1,
pp. 5-15.
(Brenna ORoarty is a Lecturer in the Department of Land Economy at the University of
Aberdeen, Aberdeen, UK. Stanley McGreal is a Reader and Alastair Adair is Head of School, both
at the School of the Built Environment, University of Ulster, Northern Ireland, UK.)

Clustering
retailers by store
space
143