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Dagligvarudistributionens strukturomvandling: Drivkrafter och konsekvenser för städers utformning och miljö
Linköping University, The Tema Institute, Technology and Social Change. Linköping University, Faculty of Arts and Sciences.
1998 (English)Doctoral thesis, monograph (Other academic)Alternative title
Structural change of food distribution : Driving forces and consequences for urban design and environment (English)
Abstract [en]

The purpose of this study is to describe and analyse the dramatic structural changes in the wholesaling and retailing of food and groceries in towns and cities in Sweden, with emphasis on the period after the Second World War. Besides a general analysis based on national data, the town of Linköping is used to illustrate the spatial dimension in the development of food distribution at the micro level. By studying Linköping, the close relationship between the changing structure of the food distribution system, town planning, and transport system becomes apparent. The following research questions are the focal point of the study:

  • Can the driving forces behind the structural change be identified?
  • What consequences did the structural change in food retailing have on the shape of cities and the urban environment?
  • Is it possible to evaluate these consequences in a cost-benefit framework?

The study assumes an interdisciplinary perspective, where the economic analysis is based on Adam Smith´s famous theorem that ”the division of labour is limited by the extent of the market”, interpreted in the relevant historical and institutional context, and on the observation that technical development is typically ”scale-biased”. The distribution of goods is made up of four basic activities or ”links”: (1) transport, (2) storage, (3) assortment assembly, and (4) handling of goods. It is necessary to study the interplay between the technological development of each of these basic activities and relative factor prices in order to understand how the structure of the food distribution system has changed. In combination with widely different scale-economies of each activity in each particular time period, the complementarity of these activities, which are described well by the ”links of a chain” metaphor, results in sudden leaps in the development of the total productivity. The history of the food distribution system is therefore characterized by the appearance now and then of Dahménian ”development blocks”.

After the Second World War, a rapid increase in the capital to labour ratio took place by a change of the structure of wholesaling towards fewer and larger outlets. New systems to facilitate the logistics were put into operation. The development of the lorry and increasing investments in road infrastructure substantially reduced the costs of transportation and extended the market. In the case of retailing the rationalisation process was delayed due to the high transport costs of the last link in the food distribution chain; from the stores to the dwellings of the customers. In the 1950`s the typical Swedish housewife did all the shopping without a car. For the distribution firms and allied interest organisations the solution was to influence town planning to ensure that the necessary market -that is to say a sufficient number of customers within walking distance- was literaly built up, and the new modern supermarkets could be established.

However, with the economic recovery and increasing private consumption during the second half of the 1980´s, the large companies revised their marketing strategies and started to establish out-of-town supermarkets in industrial areas on the outskirts of urban areas, or out in the country. When the use of the car had reached a critical level, the old attachment to the neighbourhood planning model was abandoned in favour of a more ”laissez-faire” view of urban development. In order to analyse the consequences of this major structural change in food retailing in detail, a before-and-after study of out-of-town supermarkets in Linköping, a town with 130 000 inhabitants, was carried out.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Linköping: Linköpings universitet , 1998. , 232 p.
Linköping Studies in Arts and Science, ISSN 0282-9800 ; 179
Keyword [en]
wholesaling, retailing, town planning, structural change, food, groceries, out-of-town supermarkets, cartrips, urban environment, technological change, Linköping, Sweden
National Category
Social Sciences Interdisciplinary
URN: urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-34380Local ID: 21387ISBN: 91-7219-294-1OAI: diva2:255228
Public defence
1998-09-29, Sal Elysion, Hus-T, Universitetsområdet Valla, Linköping, 13:15 (Swedish)
Available from: 2009-10-10 Created: 2009-10-10 Last updated: 2012-06-08Bibliographically approved

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