Food Retail in the Rural Periphery Using the Example of Germany: Identifying Success Factors

Food Retail in the Rural Periphery Using the Example of Germany: Identifying Success Factors

Ulrich Juergens
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-2220-2.ch012
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Using a mixed-method approach, the author documents processes of decline in food retail on the spatial meso-scale of a northern German federal state and investigates the attitudes and patterns of demand of households dealing with the loss of local retail. Cluster and discriminant analysis are used to identify five relevant sub-groups, all of which are characterised by an ongoing discourse concerning the local retail structures. The five sub-groups define their (dis)interest in local retail using very different spatial, temporal, and substantial criteria. These criteria are drawn upon by local retailers to develop strength and weakness profiles and identify learning potential in an attempt to use innovative forms of niche marketing to better attract non-users or minimal users. Expert interviews with village shopkeepers and local producers of fresh goods indicate which solutions are being implemented to secure the commercial success of rural local retail in the long term and to distinguish such retail from the offerings of ubiquitous chains of supermarkets and discounters.
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Background And Aims

Since the 1990s there has been a clear increase in research interest in the spatial inequality of food supplies and food retail formats, right down to the micro- and meso-scales. In the 1970s and 1980s the discussion focused rather on food insecurity, hunger, production, growth in the world’s population and declining natural resources, a discussion that adopted a global perspective and was primarily anchored in the global South (Maxwell, 1996). In contrast, in the global North and its so-called developed industrial and service societies, attention is increasingly directed towards country-wide, comprehensive, ‘fair’ and alternative supplies of food on the local scale (Wrigley, 2002; Bitto, Morton, Oakland, & Sand, 2003). In recent decades innovative retail formats like supermarkets, discounters, self-service department stores and shopping centres have spread globally (Reardon, Timmer, Barrett, & Berdegué, 2003; Nandonde, & Kuada, 2018). These retail formats target customers with cars and focus on growth in floor space, diverse ranges of goods, quality of the shopping experience and the coupling of different retail, gastronomic and service offerings. The visible results of these developments are processes of displacement and depletion that particularly affect traditional, labour-intensive, owner-run and non-chain shops with limited floor space and underdeveloped technology, shops that are often close to residential areas and can be reached by foot. This is because the mobility patterns and retail demands of many customers have changed and there is no longer sufficient demand for convenience stores (Coca-Stefaniak, Hallsworth, Parker, Bainbridge, & Yuste, 2005). In Germany alone the number of businesses in food retail has declined by about 75% to 38,600 units within 50 years (1966-2013) (Deutscher Bundestag, 2015: 3).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Supermarket: A retail format with a broad range of branded food articles, characterised by a self-service set-up with, usually, counters for serving fresh products like meat, cheese and bread.

Geographical Information System (GIS): Software for the computer-aided processing and cartographic representation of large amounts of data.

Convenience Store: Usually a retail format with limited floor space, such as a kiosk, a petrol station shop, railway station shop or neighbourhood store, which attracts customers due to its convenience and accessibility, both temporally speaking and in terms of transport, and its limited product range.

Food Desert: A residential area characterised by the depletion, increasing monotony or complete loss of food retail facilities. This is linked to sustained deterioration in the product range. ‘Objective’ food deserts can be contrasted with ‘subjective’ food deserts in which people, due to a lack of information or interest, fail to make sufficient use of local retail, placing a question mark on the viability of these retail offerings.

Food-Related Lifestyle: A concept that links interest in and demand for food goods with psychographic attitudes and perceptions.

Schleswig-Holstein: The most northern state of the Federal Republic of Germany with extremely rural settlement structures.

Accessibility: The spatial and temporal effort required to reach a place. Accessibility can vary with changes in speeds, forms of mobility (car, bicycle, on foot) and landscape (e.g., slopes, mountains) and can be graphically depicted as catchment areas using Geographical Information Systems.

Discount Store: Retail chain format with a limited product range, aggressive price-based marketing, few service features and a self-service set-up. Particularly successful in the food retail sector; Aldi and Lidl are the most well-known globally active companies from Germany.

Village Shop: A retail format in rural areas that should safeguard local food supplies but is fighting for survival following years of intense commercial pressure arising from competition with chains of discounters and supermarkets.

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