Past research

The state of UK retail places

ACS is seeking to explain how the costs that affect a local shop business are made up and how they impact on the business viability and vitality.

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. During a short, 3-month, KEO project, Oxford University researchers and the Local Data Company (LDC) 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 showed 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.

How are UK High Streets different from each other?
We developed a variety of new metrics as part of a tool kit for stakeholders, in addition to calculating centre profiles by business type and category. For example, a Retail Diversity Index measures the variety of comparison goods outlets present in a place, and thus the more interesting places to shop. A Service Diversity Index recognizes that many High Streets are more than just places for shopping. A leisure services component scored highly centres with particularly strong entertainment and hospitality roles. 

How have the UK's High Streets changed?
Over the past two years, the story is as much about a change in the mix as it is of massive across the board declines. Several very specific structural changes underlie this.

(a) Digitisation. High Streets have already begun to respond to the most obvious effects of online retailing. In the most vulnerable categories, where the product itself is being digitized there has been a -13% fall in High Street outlet numbers – this equates to over 1,000 stores.

(b) Value. The last two years has seen a +12.4% increase in value-related retailing. There are now over 10,000 such shops, comprising 9% of the total.

(c) Pawnbrokers, pay-day lenders and betting shops have attracted special attention from politicians. There has been a +17% growth in these outlet numbers since 2011, not just in more traditional metropolitan High Streets but also in smaller market towns. 

(d) Food is returning to many High Streets. Independent c-stores in High Streets have grown by +17%, whilst multiple convenience stores, driven by the interest of the major grocery brands, have grown by +8%.

(e) Health & Beauty. This category grew by +10.4%, or by more than 2,300 outlets over the last two years. Indeed, there are now more nail salons on British High Streets than Chinese restaurants.

Over the longer term (30 years) there is longstanding stability amongst the top ten centres, there are clear rises and falls lower in the list. The biggest rises include centres with new development as well as, of course, wholly new entrants. Falls include Croydon, Doncaster and Plymouth, as well as several centres that have exited the top 50 altogether, including Sheffield (63), Swansea (61), Coventry (58) and Middlesborough (56)

What of future prospects for High Streets?
Based on recent historic change, the number of comparison goods multiple outlets in our town centres by 2018 could undergo a further fall of some -13% (some 5,000 outlets) over and above the -5% fall since 2011. But such analysis is simplistic: the reality is much more complex, given the relative growth and decline of particular categories of business. OXIRM & LDC have agreed to work to develop a series of possible trajectories for town centres, based on a set of assumptions about the future.

Research outputs

Sponsored by the Economic and Social Research Council

  • Economic and Social Research Council logo

Value-driven service innovation

VDSI logo

There is a strong need for understanding innovation in services as most value creation and employment in developed economies occurs in this sector.

Sponsored by Research Council of Norway, Accenture and Borg Innovation

Most value creation and employment in developed economies occurs in the service sector, including healthcare, retail, financial services, tourism, education, social services and consulting to name a few. Hence, there is a strong need for understanding innovation in services. However, there is no universally agreed definition of services and no universally agreed definition of innovation. Moreover, service innovation cuts across traditional academic areas, such as economics, strategy, organisational behaviour, marketing and operations management.

Research outputs

Economic study on commerce in the EU

This study aims to document and quantify the importance of commerce (retail and wholesale) in the European economy and society. 

Commissioned by Eurocommerce, Independent Retail Europe and the European Retail Round Table

The study looks at the contribution of the sector to growth, employment and added societal value in terms that are relevant to EU policy-makers.

Specific areas include the structure of the sector and its contribution to the growth agenda; the impacts of employment within the sector; consumer benefits and the performance of the European retail and wholesale sector versus other international comparators; the economic impact of e-commerce and multi-channel retailing on the sector and third party organizations; and the impact of supply chain initiatives and the contribution of European retailers to other economies and societies.   

  • Logo's of funding organisations

Further projects

The development of a consumer society in India



Retail logistics best practice



Economic, social and political impact of retail in Europe


Reynolds, J. & A.D. Treadgold, (2016), Navigating the New Retail Landscape, Oxford University Press.


Retail productivity


  • Reynolds, J., (2008), ‘Règlementation et productivité du commerce européen’, Chapter 1 in Colla, E., (ed), Règlementation et commerce en Europe, Vuibert;
  • Reynolds, J., E. Howard, D. Dragun, B. Rosewell & P. Ormerod, (2005), ‘Assessing the Productivity of the UK Retail Sector’, International Review of Retail Distribution & Consumer Research. 15(3)., Routledge.
  • Reynolds, J. & A.D. Treadgold, (2016), Navigating the New Retail Landscape, Oxford University Press.


The role of loyalty cards, private label products and electronic media


  • Reynolds, J. & Ezrachi, A., (2009), ‘Advertising, Promotional Campaigns and Private Labels’, in Ezrachi, A. (ed), Own Labels, Branded goods and Competition Policy: The changing landscape of retail competition, Oxford University Press.
  • Cuthbertson, R.W. & Bridson, K. (2006) Online retail loyalty strategies. International Journal of Information Technology and Management, 5:4 279-294.
  • Cuthbertson, R.W. & Messenger, S. (2006) Marrying market research and customer relationship marketing: Are they good bedfellows? Journal of Direct, Data and Digital Marketing Practice, 8:2 109-120.
  • Cuthbertson, R.W. & Laine, A. (2004) The role of CRM within retail loyalty marketing. Journal of Targeting, Measurement & Analysis for Marketing, 12:3 290-304.
  • Capizzi, M., Ferguson, R. & Cuthbertson, R. (2004) Loyalty trends in the 21st Century. Journal of Targeting, Measurement & Analysis for Marketing, 12:3 199-212.


Trends in 'teleshopping'



  • The Oxford retail technology research programme
  • Shop Costs Barometer
  • Retail Industry Business Engagement Network
  • The effects of major out of town retail development
  • Mobile, commerce, consumer and retail productivity
  • Amdocs intentional customer experience programme
  • Scenarios for retail growth and development