Scotland's Towns Partnership's Chair and Professor of Retail Studies at the University of Stirling, Leigh Sparks, has co-published new research with Dr Maria Rybaczewska on the social and economic value of local convenience stores in Scotland. Read Professor Spark's blog post on the research below. 


The Multiplier and the Glue: Locally owned convenience stores and the local economy

Longer term readers of this blog will possibly recall a long standing interest in the impacts of small convenience stores on the local economy. This has taken the form of some discussion about what may be termed ‘the local multiplier’.

We have continued this work, in association with the Scottish Grocers Federation and some of their members. Some results from this research have just been published (see reference below) and I summarise this work here. The timing is rather apt as the ACS has also just produced its annual Local Shop Report, which again emphasises the scale and significance of the sector.

Our work is very much at the detailed level and attempted to consider not only the economic but also the social impact of local convenience stores. Much focus has been on the economic side (the ‘multiplier’ for the local economy) but we argue that the social function (the ‘glue’ for the local society/ community) is every bit as interesting and important.

Using both focus group and case study work our (Dr Maria Rybaczewska and myself) research attempted to understand the scale of local economic and social interactions and operations. This is not as straightforward as it seems, as sensitive data is needed and this data is also often collected and structured in incompatible ways in each of the businesses.  Some social dimensions tend to be understated: ‘of course we do that’.

Nonetheless, the work highlights the social and community emphasis of the retailers and the reasons and benefits they felt they achieved. On the economic side a range of direct impacts was identified and again the cohesion element of these was brought into focus. Figures were difficult to compare and impacts will be locally conditioned, but overall the combined social and economic effects were clear and consistent. Socially such stores are a lifeline for the community and sometimes very specifically for local residents.

It is interesting to speculate on how these impacts and elements differ by organisational format; this though was beyond the scope of this paper. ‘True’ independents will likely have different impacts and depth of engagement than corporate retailers or affiliated convenience stores. This remains work in progress. The main function of the paper is to emphasise the social impact of stores, rather than the routine consideration of economic impact alone. This paper shows how such retailers’ contribution to the local economy and community often goes under-acknowledged.


Rybaczewska M. & L. Sparks (2020) Locally owned convenience stores and the local economy. Journal of Retailing and Consumer Services

Please contact [email protected] or  [email protected] if you want further details or if you want the author copy of the manuscript it is available in the University of Stirling’s research repository (STORRE): Locally-owned convenience stores and the local economy at

Source: Stirling Retail

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