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Discover the wood and the trees

By [email protected] - 20th December 2007 - 10:11

In the ever changing world of retail location planning James Nolan explores some of the available data, and points the way toward the future of GEO-DEMOGRAPHIC.
Catchment profile and Satelite image mapping and OAC show how the neighbourhoodsâ city living, prospering suburbs and countryside radiate away from the town.BRICKS AND CLICKS The line between competition and complementary retailers is increasingly being blurred as retail floor space is flexed around products and new store concepts increase availability and choice.How destinations are being shopped is also changing â the internet, home delivery and catalogue purchases are popular methods along with traditional means. The data generated by multi channel retailing provides new insight for location planning. Location based data of users caught during a transaction can provide a better understanding of existing catchment areas, overlapping operations and an understanding of the distance consumers are willing to travel to stores. Gaps in retail store networks can be identified through visualisation, while proximity of proposed stores can be used to estimate sales deflection.Consumers are increasingly being offered exciting practical shopping destinations. Property developers are aware of the importance of getting the correct tenant line up within schemes â and architects provide attractive functional environments for both shoppers and traders. This extends to standalone buildings increasingly being built with energy efficiency and environmental considerations in mind. THINKING LOCAL - USING GLOBALPlanners concerned with convenience and local shopping provision can now apply technologies created for wider earth observations; satellite imagery and GPS receivers are used for both navigation and co-ordinate data capture. Across retail sectors, GPS receivers provide a âfree lunchâ in terms of deriving co-ordinate statistics, and they can be used as alternatives to expensive digital products. Accurate co-ordinates and complete retail offer information is paramount when classifying local shopping destinations. In the UK, the recent publication of street traders plans for smaller retail centres has highlighted this trend and defined boundaries around âtownâ centres allow statistics to be aggregated and locations classified according to retail presence.DOT GOV COMWhile it is true that large volumes of transactional data is generated by retail companies, it is easy to forget some of the biggest decisions are made using data collected and distributed by the government. The UK governments geo-demographic Output Area Classification (OAC) for example, is derived from census data and can be used in conjunction with other geographically referenced information. The data is constructed using small area geography that can be nested into larger administrative areas; this can be aggregated into postal boundaries which are often used in commercial applications. The cluster descriptions provide a recognisable view of the main population characteristics which are comparable across the UK.Here is one example of how the data was incorporated in location planning. A GIS database was used to aggregate the output area centroid data file into postal sector boundaries. The resulting lookup file - with the appended OAC code - was then applied within a gravity model. This summed the counts of OAC Super Groups (7 neighbourhood types) for the catchments for several hundred shopping destinations in the UK. Once counts had been summed for each centre, percentage figures were indexed to compare with the national average. The results are used to identify comparable locations, provide qualitative descriptions of households and assist in targeting locations for investment.A thematic representation of the classification can be produced by linking it to the census output area boundary file. The results can be displayed in a GIS package or combined (mashup) using a web-based satellite image viewer. This method of presenting geo-demographic information can prove to be cost effective as there is no charge for the OAC data file.LOSING TO PLOT?With the advances of mobile communications, of maps on dedicated web sites and of retailers own web pages â together with downloadable viewers of satellite images, one might think traditional mapping products would be used less in location planning. This is not the case. There remains a requirement for hard copy detailed maps to assist network planning, particularly in urban areas, street level plans for use in pitch assessment and plans for legally defining property demises. What is changing is the method of sourcing these products. Web page interfaces now provide advantages of speed and cost savings for both supplier and end user.The future will be free to explore â and expensive to ignore â but increasing volumes of data are certain to be applied in market analysis, and the benefits will be seen in effective returns from well planned operations. There remains a price to pay for some of these products, but it is not as high as that of ill-informed location based decisions.Further information about the future of geo-demographics and new methods of classifying areas and individuals will shortly be unearthed at a one-day conference in London. The conference will bring together experts from all sides of the information industry to give their perspectives about the future of geo-demographics. A series of interlinked themes will include how the industry has developed specific classifications of areas, households and individuals and the role for neighbourhood classifications. The conference will take place at the Society of Chemical Industry, London SW1 on the 6th March 2008.Further details and online registration are available at:

Author: James Nolan - Location Analyst Woolworths Plc

Bio.: [email protected]

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