Rural retailing: a sector in decline?

Andrew Paddison, Eric Calderwood

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

64 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose – The paper seeks to review dynamic forms of rural retailing, by location, that have innovated through a mixture of actions leading to growth, adaptation, diversification and differentiation.
Design/methodology/approach – Reviews relevant academic literature and draws upon contemporary policy‐related material that details recent innovation within the sector. A rural retail typology by location is presented: retailing within market towns, village shops and stand‐alone retailing forms (farm shops and speciality rural retail outlets).
Findings – Since, the nature together with form of what characterises dynamic and innovative rural retailing differs by location, the typology is based on the above schema. First, market towns have used growth and differentiation opportunities as strategic foci. Second, innovative village shops have applied strategies that seek to counter their structural weaknesses, harness the community and yield new revenue streams. Third, the manner in which stand‐alone retailing forms, such as farm shops together with speciality rural retail outlets, have grown and developed is reviewed.
Practical implications – Reviewing dynamic forms of rural retailing allows for a greater understanding of the operational needs for success. A lack of relevant research is cited together with examples.
Originality/value – Stereotyping rural retailing is erroneous since marginalised enterprises are juxtaposed against more innovative forms. Contrary to perceptions of rural decline, the sector is multi‐faceted with prospering sub‐sectors. The paper focuses on these more dynamic and innovative forms of rural retailing. Much of the previous focus in this sector has been on negative issues and decline. A synthesis of the key contributory phenomena is presented.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)136-155
Number of pages19
JournalInternational Journal of Retail and Distribution Management
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 31 Dec 2007


  • rural regions
  • retailing
  • adaptability
  • diversification


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