Papers of the Regional Science Association

, Volume 9, Issue 1, pp 65–106 | Cite as

Retail location and consumer behavior

  • Brian J. L. Berry
  • H. Gardiner Barnum
  • Robert J. Tennant
Spatial Relationships in Economic Activity


Central place theory is the theory pertaining to the spatial aspects of retail and service business. Among these spatial aspects are the location and groupings of central functions, the consequent size and spacing of central places, consumer travel behavior, and the size, shape, and arrangement of trade areas. This paper has attempted to view these aspects in their interdependence at both the aggregate and elemental levels of inquiry, and to present some theoretical implications of the findings. Of interest are the recognition that the basic requirements of the theory (thresholds and ranges) are satisfied in the Iowa case, and the verification of the major postulate of the theory (the hierarchy). While the spatial pattern of centers conforms to a particular set of location principles (the principles of transportation), the nesting of trade areas does not, due to the importance of the information content of central places (number of central functions performed) in consumers' shopping and travel be havior.


Spatial Pattern Information Content Consumer Behavior Basic Requirement Central Place 
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  1. 1.
    Brian J.L. Berry and Allen Pred,Central Place Studies: A Bibliography of Theory and Applications. Philadelphia: Regional Science Research Institute, 1961.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    These five are, in decreasing order of population density and intensity of occupance: an urban case, part of the City of Chicago; a suburb and satellite case, the southern lobe of the Chicago metropolitan area; an intensive agricultural case, part of the corn belt of southwestern Iowa; an extensive agricultural area, in northeastern South Dakota; a rangeland case, in southwestern South Dakota, also including parks, recreational areas, and mining communitiesGoogle Scholar
  3. 3.
    In a book which is entitled, tentatively,Market Centers and Retail Distribution. The volume will appear in the new Prentice-Hall monograph series in economic geography.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    See the studies by Lösch and Brush, for example.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Rural is defined in the U.S. Census of Population as “other rural territory.”Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Under the direction of Prof. John D. Nystuen, this crew comprised R.J. Tennant, H. G. Barnum, K. Pataki, D. Czamanske, and J. Welker.Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Consisting of a 10 per cent random areal sample of rural families and families residing in centers with less than 150 households, an 8 per cent sample of families in centers with 150–450 households, 6 per cent in 450–2000, 4 per cent in 2000–5000, and 1 per cent of families residing in centers with over 5000 households.Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    For a review of the relevant evidence, see Berry and Pred,op. cit. The following operational definitions are used in this study:firm: a unit of organization.establishment: a store performing one or more central functions.central function: a type of activity, such as drug store, church, or veterinarian, regardless of size.functional unit: the part of a store performing a single central function, in the event that more than one function is performed by the district: a group of spatially contiguous establishments less than 300 feet from each other, andeither separated from other establishments by more than 300 feet at the peripheryor, if in a continuous shoestring of business, falling into “peaks” or ”ribbons” of land values (this latter aspect of definition, together with analyses of land values and their relations to the locational structure of business and to pedestrian counts will be explored in detail in the larger study). An isolated store is counted as a single-establishment district.Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    Note the similarity of these results and those obtained by Thomas. Edwin N. Thomas, “Comments on the Functional Bases for Small Iowa Towns,”Iowa Bussiness Digest, Winter 1960, pp. 10–16.Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    For other examples of such deviations caused by non-central functions see Thomas,op. cit. “. and Brian J.L. Berry, “The Impact of Expanding Metropolitan Communities upon the Central Place Hierarchy,”Annals, the Association of American Geographers, 50 (1960). pp. 112–16.Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    National Carbon Company, making Everady Batteries−135 males, 315 females, of whom 12 males and 41 females are rural commuters; Wilson Concrete Company, making prestressed concrete −100 males, 6 females; Thos. D. Murphy Company, making art calendars, pencilis, etc.−97 males and 123 females. However, Red Oak only has 13 dealers in farm equipment and supplies, etc., in contrast Atlantic's 34, a fact attributable to the farmers' coop in Red Oak, which dominates the farmer supply business. Taking account of this means a 20 unit shift of Red Oak's positon on the abscissa of Figure 2.Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    D. E. Saunders,Practical Methods in the Direct Factor Analysis of Psychological Score Matrices. Ann Arbor: University Microfilms, 1950, and Brian J.L. Berry, “Grouping and Regionalizing: An Approach to the Problem Using Multivariate Analysis, “Proceedings, NAS-NRC Conference on Mathematics in Geographical Research. New York: Atherton Press, in press. Both present these methods of analysis mathematically; hence the mathematical formulation will not be presented here.Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    That the trade areas constructed from home interviews, and those constructed from either interviewing customers in the store, or using charge account, check cashing or delivery lists are consistent is illustrated also in Figs. 4 and 6. Crossed points are those based upon home interviews, uncrossed the rest. The points all fall very neatly within the appropriate regime.Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    For a longer discussion see H. Gardiner Barnum,The Range of Goods in a Rural Area. M.A. Thesis, University of Chicago, 1961.Google Scholar
  15. 15.
    These points are elaborated in Robert J. Tennant,Shopping Patterns of Urban Residents, M. A. Thesis, University of Chicago, 1962.Google Scholar
  16. 16.
    A. Lösch,The Economics of Location, New Haven: Yale University Press, 1954, p. 433.Google Scholar
  17. 17.
    R. Vining, “A Description of Certain Spatial Aspects of an Economic System”,Economic Development and Cultural Change, 3 (1955), 147–195. J.E. Brush, “The Hierarchy of Central Places in Southwestern Wisconsin,”The Geographical Review, 43 (1953), pp. 380–402. Some unsatisfactory evidence was produced in an attempt to resolve the Vining-Brush controversy in Brian J.L. Berry and William L. Garrison, “The Functional Bases of the Central Place Hierarchy,”Economic Geography, 34 (1958), pp. 145–154.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. 18.
    H.T. Odum, J.E. Cantlon and L.S. Kornicker, “An Organizational Hierarchy Postulate for the Interpretation of Species, Individual Distributions, Species Entropy, Ecosystem Evolution, and the Meaning of a Species-Variety Index,”Ecology,41 (1960), pp. 395–399. Also J. Rothstein, “Organization and Entropy”Journal of Applied Physics, 23 (1952), pp. 1281–1282.Google Scholar
  19. 19.
    Brian J. L. Berry and William L. Garrison, “A Note on Central Place Theory and the Range of a Good,”Economic Geography 34 (1958), pp. 304–311, and “Recent Developments of Central Place Theory,”Papers and Proceedings, Regional Science Association, 4' (1958), pp. 107–120.Google Scholar
  20. 20.
    J.A. Laska,The Development of the Pattern of Retail Trade Centers in a Selected Area of SouthwesternIowa. M.A. thesis, University of Chicago, 1958.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Regional Science Association 1962

Authors and Affiliations

  • Brian J. L. Berry
    • 1
  • H. Gardiner Barnum
    • 1
  • Robert J. Tennant
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of GeographyUniversity of ChicagoChicagoUSA

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