The Retail Evolution and Urban Transformation: An analysis of challenges, social implications, and municipal adaptation in Malmö City

University essay from Lunds universitet/Institutionen för kulturgeografi och ekonomisk geografi

Abstract: In the last decade, news reports about an overall doomed brick-and-mortar retail landscape have grown. The field of commerce has experienced a digital boom, causing an increased shift of businesses from traditional brick-and-mortar retail to the internet. This structural transformation is changing the commercial landscape, putting serious pressure on city centre retail and urban development. Store closures have not received adequate attention from scholars, and research surrounding the retail evolution's connection to social interaction and urban planning remains limited. The aim of this thesis is to examine the transformational effects that the retail evolution has on urban development and social interactions in Malmö. By identifying challenges with these transformational effects, this study also investigates local stakeholders' views on what the municipality needs to integrate in order to adapt to these changes. Through a case study approach, this thesis employs semi-structured interviews with six stakeholders involved in urban development and secondary document analysis of municipal and organizational documents and reports. The results show that challenges of the retail evolution in Malmö include a loss of employment opportunities, a shift in retail formats, and a change in demand within the real-estate sector. These challenges have a negative impact on the urban development and social interactions in Malmö, affecting the city’s attractiveness, social diversity, and safety. The data revealed key factors needed for municipal adaptation. These were categorized as collaboration and organization, behaviors and needs, and physical planning and identity. Despite legislative limitations, municipalities must work to bring actors and stakeholders together, and work towards common goals. As the theoretical framework helps show, this is not only important to meet demand, but to maintain and evolve the city centre as an arena of democracy, diversity, and social mixing.

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