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Consumer Data Research Centre


The Consumer Data Research Centre (CDRC) is a Big Data initiative run jointly between University College London (UCL) and the Universities of Leeds, Liverpool and Oxford. Over five years, it aims to provide the focus for ESRC's interests in the retail sector and its commitment to capacity building in relation to big data. The CDRC is designed to preserve data that will provide retailers and academics alike with insights into medium and longer-term trends within an industry that is undergoing rapid and dynamic change.

The Centre seeks to open up consumer data resources and focuses on ways in which value can be extracted from new sources of data to benefit researchers in business, government and society at large.

Oxford's primary contribution to the project lies in the provision of capacity-building activity through building awareness of these resources with stakeholders, developing and supporting events, workshops and training. An annual CDRC conference will provide a forum for academics and their students to network with retailers and devise shared projects grounded in knowledge exchange.

Jonathan Reynolds is Associate Director of the Centre and Claudia Seiler, based in Oxford, its Knowledge Exchange Manager.


  • To provide services to enable research access to business data that will provide safe and secure access for researchers to work on the data and will have the technical infrastructure to deliver a national open and secure service through a three-tier data system.
  • To collaborate with data owners and encourage the participation of further data owners through active engagement with retailers and other customer focused organisations.
  • To act as a centre of expertise in consumer data and to harness the potential of consumer-related Big Data.
  • To conduct and stimulate an original programme of research using the data made available, and explore ways to improve access to analysis of data, as well as opportunities for data linkage.
  • To develop a programme of knowledge exchange that will facilitate the exchange of skills, knowledge and technologies between the research base and practitioners/research users to realise the opportunities closer partnership and collaboration can bring.
  • To develop a programme to build capacity and capability in data analytics, within both the commercial and academic sectors.

Research outputs

The Changing Geography of Retail Places

Jonathan Reynolds & Wojciech Piotrowicz

The future vitality and viability of the UK’s High Streets have attracted considerable attention over the last few years. However, much of this attention – not least recent policy-making in this area - has been based on rhetoric and anecdotal evidence rather than data-driven reality. This project analysed the ways in which the retail mix of over 150,000 shops across 1,300 UK High Streets has changed over the past two years, as well as over the past thirty - using research previously conducted in Oxford. Our findings identified the effects of online retailing, the growth in value outlets and the proliferation of consumer service businesses. For the UK’s High Streets to thrive in the future is not just about being big enough to withstand a mixture of economic austerity, online and out-of-town retailing. Whilst many big retail centres continue to be resilient, the most successful smaller town centres are proving to be diverse and versatile, perhaps developing specialist roles. The research team calculated a retail diversity, as well as a service diversity index, for every UK High Street. Our research to date shows that many of the country’s High Streets continue to evolve to play the changing roles required of them by residents, workers, visitors and their competitive context – although not always into roles that match the expectations of commentators or politicians, perhaps fed by misplaced nostalgia rather than by the realities that some High Streets face.

Partner: Local Data Company
Researchers: Jonathan Reynolds & Wojciech Piotrowicz, University of Oxford


Mapping Retail Sector Business Rate Inequalities

Alex Singleton

This project examines geographic variation in business rates between retail centres of England and Wales, examining differences emerging within regions and also by composite retail function. The project is conducted in partnership with the Local Data Company (LDC) provides evidence that may be useful in reconfiguring future rates in order to serve issues of regional vitality and the economic health of town centres.

Partner: Local Data Company
Researchers: Alex Singleton, University of Liverpool


E-resilience of UK town centres

Les Dolega and Alex Singleton

The concept of resilience has attracted the attention of increasing numbers of social scientists from a wide range of disciplines to help describe the impacts and response to disruptions and more gradual processes of change.
The rapid growth of online sales have impacted UK retail centres in complex ways and can be viewed as a source of long-term change to their structure, referred to as a 'slow burn'.  However, these issues are difficult to measure as they are complex and multidimensional.

Partner: Local Data Company
Researchers: Les Dolega, University of Liverpool; Alex Singleton, University of Liverpool

Blog posts

June 2015 Not Lost in Translation
June 2015 Location thinking: 29 not out
May 2015 Retail Location Analysis - 29 years of location planning
May 2015 CDRC Issue Bursaries
May 2015 LDC/CDRC Thought Leadership Event 2015


February 2014 - February 2019