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The impact of changes in retail distribution on a peripheral region: the case of Scotland
This research examines recent changes in retail distribution and the implications of such changes on the logistical support to stores in Scotland. As increasing volumes of stock are channelled through warehouses controlled by retailers, stock is being centralised in large regional distribution centres (RDCs) serving wide geographical markets. Scotland is geographically marginal to the mainstream operations of most British retailers; the research therefore focused upon the current pattern of retail distribution facilities in Scotland and the future demand for sites by retailers and third party contractors acting on their behalf. Data were collected by personal interview and postal questionnaire from a total of 63 multiple retailers and 23 distribution companies.
Most retail multiples supply their Scottish outlets from RDCs in England, either by a direct trunk haul or via intervening transhipment or demountable points. There has been a tendency for both manufacturers and retailers to withdraw stockholding from Scotland and serve the Scottish market from warehouses in England. Many of these companies, however, continue to require a break‐bulk operation north of the border. While the main phase of RDC development appears to be over, particularly in the grocery trade, it is likely that significant new investment in distribution facilities in Scotland will occur in the near future. Seventeen of the retailers in the survey expected to undertake some form of distribution development by 1995, eight of them anticipated setting up an RDC. In aggregate terms this translates into warehouse demand for around 80,000 square metres and approximately 20‐25 hectares of land. Although this and past investment has created thousands of jobs, job losses have also occurred through various displacement effects, most notably the rationalisation of retailers′ supply systems, the decimation of manufacturers′ depot networks and the closure of contractors′ common user depots.
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