The attractiveness of the small town: What roll and significance do the retail and tourism industries have?

Oana Mihaescu, PhD, the Swedish Institute for Retail Research (HFI)

Attractive town centres in small towns
The centres of many small towns have declined in recent years. As the town centre declines, the area becomes increasingly unattractive and both companies and people choose to go elsewhere.

“We want it to be possible to use the results in order to increase the attractiveness of town centres in small towns and thus contribute to them becoming more significant as both meeting places and destinations”, says Oana Mihaescu.

The town centre is depleted in many small towns as a result of structural changes in the economy and growing urbanisation. Out-of-town retail is often highlighted as being a strong contributory factor in the declining attractiveness of town centre retail.

“The depletion is problematic as the town centre fills an important social function as a meeting place in small towns”, says Oana. “A more attractive small town also has better chances of attracting tourists, companies, investments and workers.”

The tourism industry and retail
Not much is known about the retail and tourism industries’ role and significance in small towns. This is partly due to the fact that there is no scientific definition of what a small town is and what its town centre encompasses. The research group is therefore starting with the question of definitions.

“We will be working together with a broad reference group containing various significant actors in order to establish the basic definition and move forward with the significance of the retail and tourism industries”, says Oana. “It is important that we involve actors who know both industries. The project is also a partnership with consultants at HUI Research and researchers in a variety of fields from several different higher education institutions, which will give the project both breadth and depth.”

This will lay the groundwork for the survey that will then be conducted in order to study and analyse how the retail and tourism industries contribute to creating a living urban space and meeting places. Out-of-town retail areas will also be looked at in the analysis using registry data in order to see what significance out-of-town retail has to the development and attractiveness of town centres.

“The plan for the project includes a photographic book in which pictures of the towns’ retail areas and attractions are combined with an analysis of the economic history of the development of the town”, says Oana.

Aim
The aim of the project is to study the role and significance of the retail and tourism industries in the creation of an attractive urban environment in small towns.

Collaborators
Oana Mihaescu, PhD, the Swedish Institute for Retail Research (HFI), Niklas Rudholm, professor, HFI and Dalarna University, Jan Jörnmark, docent, University of Gothenburg

Partners
Swedish Trade Federation, Visita, KTH, Chalmers, Lund University, the Swedish Entrepreneurship Forum, Svenska Stadskärnor, Agora, Tyréns, Ica and Coop.

Publications from the project

Title Year Image
En perfekt plats 2020
Småstadens kamp: Vad gör en stadskärna attraktiv och levande?, slutrapport 2020

Project facts

Project:
The attractiveness of the small town: What roll and significance do the retail and tourism industries have?
Research organization:
Swedish Institute for Retail Research (HFI)
Project Manager:
Oana Mihaescu
Members:
Niklas Rudholm, Jan Jörnmark, Tobias Rönnberg
Period:
2017 – 2019
Amount:
SEK 3,647,880