HGIS Bibliography

Novak, Matthew J.; and Jason A. Gilliland. “Trading Places: A Historical Geography of Retailing in London, Canada.” Social Science History 35(2011): 543-570.

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  1. Serious consideration of the role of retail districts in urban development in social science research has often been isolated spatially and temporally, Mathew J. Novak and Jason A. Gillibrand argue. Historical GIS techniques enable researchers to study the role of retail in city development over time, thus creating a much more comprehensive understanding of the relationship between residential and commercial development. In “Trading Places,” Novak and Gillibrand trace the development of the retail sector in London, Canada, which was established in 1826, during the mid to late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Looking specifically at spatial and quantitative data from the years 1844, 1863, 1881, and 1916, Novak and Gillibrand seek to demonstrate the relationship between population and residential growth and the growth of retail through time. Although it seems that the conclusion that retail grows with the increase in population is rather self-explanatory, the use of GIS enables the researcher to demonstrate how this growth is related spatially and gives visual proof of this assumption.
    Novak and Gillibrand focus on two major categories of retailers, those that sold food and those that sold fashion items. Food retailers, they write, represent “convenience goods,” which were needed regularly. Fashion retailers, on the other hand, represent “comparison goods” or non-necessities, which were often compared to other like products before purchased. By looking at the way the locations of these two types of retailers evolved, one can get a better understanding of “the changing relationship of shopping with the general social structure of the city,” (544) they argue. By looking at the spatial distribution of shops over time, one can see that the number of retail stores in the urban core expanded each year. By 1916, retail centers were also springing up in areas in peripheral locations, often along major transit arteries. Retailers selling goods other than fashion and food also grew exponentially by 1916. Novak and Gillibrand use the location of butchers and dry goods stores to demonstrate the differing distribution of retail shops. Butchers were typically located in residential areas, within easy travel distance, while dry goods shops were usually located in retail centers. Using the data, Novak and Gillibrand also calculate the minimum distance traveled between peoples’ homes and the various types of retail shops. As the size of the city increased, the distance between most residential areas and the downtown retail core also increased. However, the distance needed to get to grocery and meat retailers typically decreased, as these types of stores moved from the core to the neighborhoods where there was greater demand. They conclude that there is a three-stage model of the linkage between retail and residential growth. In the first stage, retail stores remained in the center core, while residential areas expanded the size of the city. In the second stage, about 50 years into the development of the city’s retail sector, businesses began to move to the residential areas. This move had the result of attracting more people to these residential areas because access to retail shops was more convenient. After World War II, due to the entrance of the automobile, retail and commercial clusters began to develop in isolation from major residential areas.

    Jessica DeWitt
    March 2013

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