The ownership and employment patterns of small shops: a case study in east Swansea G. SHAW Lecturer in Geography, University of Exeter During the last decade the interest shown in the problems and the prospects associated with small shopkeeping has grown at a considerable rate. The published research material has covered a wide variety of aspects, from the problems of stock supply faced by small shopkeepers (Kirby, 1974) to the sociological characteristics of such retailers (Bechhofer and Elliot, 1968). Needless to say such contributions have come from an equally wide variety of disciplines embodying completely different approaches. It has been the task of the geographer, however, to examine the total situation and research into the relationships between environmental factors and the oper- ational problems of small shops. In carrying out such studies geo- graphers have highlighted a number of important obstacles to the continual survival, in any great numbers of these small retail establishments. The situation briefly is that the small shop- keeper is faced with the problems of a massive change in consumer tastes, away from personalised shopping to the more 'material' attractions of the self-service store. In addition the action of local planning authorities in restricting retail development in new suburban areas since 1950 has done little to ease the plight of the small shop. Indeed, it is the action, or as Smith and Gray (1972) have shown, perhaps the inaction, of planners that has had the most singular effect on the decline of the small retailer. In addition to focussing attention on the problems facing small shops, current research has also identified a number of possible solutions. These are based essentially on attempts to improve their competitiveness with larger retail organisations using the main advantage of small shops, that of consumer convenience, together with some modicum of price cutting. To many people such solutions appear to be of a transitory nature when given the inherent weak- nesses in the business expertise of small shopkeepers. Such a factor therefore appears to be of central importance in assessing the long term durability of small shops as components of the distribution system. Despite the apparent significance of business expertise few studies
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