Big box, no more quick fixes : a historical account of consumption, retail and discount shopping typologies
Author(s)Scanlon, Erik R
Historical account of consumption, retail and discount shopping typologies
Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Dept. of Urban Studies and Planning.
MetadataShow full item record
As of 2011, the fastest growing sectors of the American economy are related to, or directly involved in the retail business. The conditions which led to this phenomenon are rooted in the fundamental precepts of capitalism, national growth and social welfare. European retail entrepreneurs worked with manufacturers at the onset of mass-production to transform working class society into a culture of consumers. The strategies employed during this time provide valuable insights for planners grappling with the largely misunderstood processes of today's retailing industry. Consumption lies at the core of civilization. Trading centers have existed alongside civilization's evolutionary march and will continue to steam ahead. The world's largest private employer, real estate owner and good's provider is WalMart. A company's whose name has become synonymous with greed and a glutinous American lifestyle, where the size of our waists, waste and debt has become as swollen and distended as our sprawling retail landscape. Any serious remedy to this process entails a proviso for our profession; we need to understand the historical incubation of our society in conjunction with production, consumption and their spatial products as an interdependent process with directional consequences. Surpassing the specious solutions requires a manifold understanding of the existing social, economic, and physical conditions further entrenching us in this contemporary paradox. "Big box" is simply the latest product, produced and desired by a culture of consumption. It is my position that the public and our profession would be better served if the research uncovered the complexity of consumption and made the case, for or against "big box" repurposing. I find little value in repurposing vacant "big box" and comment on three emerging retail typologies: (1) Mall Remix, (lifestyle centers with mixed use); (2) Peg + Podium, (stacked discounters with(out) integrated residential in urban settings); and (3) Wrapper, (discount retail surrounded by mix use). I argue that vacant regional centers have the highest propensity for repurposing as Mall Remix, but are contingent on regional specific demographics and amenities. I propose that highly concentrated, low income areas in the Northeast should serve as potential locations for Peg + Podium new construction, and indicate the dangers of integrating a high capital asset with an inflexible, low capital base in the event of a vacancy. Similarly, I warn against the elevated parking structure in the Wrapper typology as a limitation for growth. Lastly, I indicate the value in studying the retail industry's logistics network as a potential method for planners to track urban growth.
Thesis (M.C.P.)--Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Dept. of Urban Studies and Planning, 2011.Cataloged from PDF version of thesis.Includes bibliographical references (p. [102-103]).
DepartmentMassachusetts Institute of Technology. Dept. of Urban Studies and Planning.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Urban Studies and Planning.