Ethnic entrepreneurship on the high street

March 8, 2013

Threadneedle Man, Walworth Road SE17 Threadneedle Man, Walworth Road. Image copyright Emily Webber, published under a creative commons licence.

An interesting blog was published on 5th March by James Lowman, Chief Executive of ACS (the Association of Convenience Stores or – ‘the voice of local shops’) – about the contribution of migrants to the vitality of small retail in the UK, creating jobs and contributing to economic growth. This chimes with the recent study by Suzanne Hall of Walworth Road*, which illustrates the importance of ‘mutual dependencies of economic exchange and social interchange in ethnically diverse urban contexts’. The sort of local worlds in which such businesses thrive, tend to be the sorts of places where there are higher proportions of more vulnerable people, who are more reliant on walkable shops that provide the added social, cultural and economic knowledge needed for such populations .

Lowman’s organisation might wish to note the apparent challenge (as argued by Hall) that PPG6 creates, since whilst it is intended to protect local high streets from out-of-town shopping compeition, it has allowed for large national chains to compete aggressively on the very terrain it was intended to protect.

Yesterday’s Adaptable Suburbs advisory committee also highlighted another point that Hall alludes to: the difficulty in coming up with a measurable value for the socio-economic sustainable contribution of small businesses to high streets, which can form a vital interdependence between larger and smaller businesses, provide local jobs (and expertise), are more likely to be vested in the place and – I would argue – when located well, connect high street and residential hinterland in a powerful way. More analysis of the ethnic business angle on this is evidently a worthwhile task to consider.

* HALL, S. M. (2011) High street adaptations: ethnicity, independent retail practices, and Localism in London’s urban margins. Environment and Planning A, 43, 2571-2588. See also her ‘Ordinary Streets’ project at and a downloadable report.

via Ethnic entrepreneurship.


One Response to “Ethnic entrepreneurship on the high street”

  1. jmlowman Says:

    I think planning restrictions may be one factor in convenience store development, but I don’t think the biggest. Since 2009 in particular, there has been a growth in out of town development in actual and relative terms. The supermarkets are developing convenience stores AND very large out of town stores (and on line of course). I think the bigger driver is the trend towards local shopping driven by a rise in single person households which is well-documented and shown in yesterday’s ONS 40 year lifestyle survey publication. This grows the local shopping market and has attracted the multiples in.

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