What’s in a doughnut?

  The doughnut effect is the name given to the increasing movement of retail from the C.B.D. (Central Business District) to the outskirts (rural-urban fringe) of the cities.

Obviously, cars have been the factor that have fueled this process, as well as, the attraction of an out-of-town site for retail.

This movement of retail can have positive and negative implications for the C.B.D. and the rural-urban fringe.



  • Less customers, as people shop at out-of-town locations.
  • Multiples no longer maintain their thresholds, they close or relocate.
  • A declining choice of shops for people who use the High Street, particularly those who are less affluent and less mobile.
  • Local independant stores that are ‘anchored’ by multiples and need their passing trade, lose business and close.
  • Loss of employment.
  • Shops are left vacant or replaced with those that offer ‘tacky’ or cheap products.
  • A decline in tax revenues.
  • Less local government income to spend on the environment.
  • A declining environment, litter, vandalism, results in more retailers moving away from the area.
  • Basically, the ‘Death of the High Street’.

Many of you would recognise this downward spiral as the negative multiplier effect. This is your classic case study of Dudley and Merryhill.


  • It may encourage local councils to diversify the local economy, the development of leisure and entertainment facilities (?), hopefully these will attract people back to the centre.
  • The local council may also be encouraged to develop the environment to attract back both customers and multiples, by developing the features of out-of-town shopping. (More about this later…)
  • Less congestion of the High Street, may make it pleasanter to shop and easier to access (?)

Rural-Urban Fringe.


  • Loss of greenfield land and damage to associated habitats.
  • Increased congestion and pollution.
  • May encourage associated developments, such as housing, and therefore urban-sprawl.


  • May provide much needed employment.
  • May encourage the development of public transport to outlying areas.

Any others?

The doughnut effect has been much more prominent in American cities, but as Geographers in the U.K., we can learn much about the dangers of granting planning permission on greenfield sites, without careful thought about the impact on the C.B.D. . In the U.K. planning permission has become stricter with regards to develop on greenfield sites, in order to encourage the use of brownfield sites, hopefully as a growth pole for urban regeneration.

So on balance, is out-of-town worth it?

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  1. Posted January 24, 2009 at 10:53 pm | Permalink

    Thanks, Very helpful for my DME 2009!

  2. Posted January 25, 2009 at 9:55 am | Permalink

    Excellent news, good luck with it.

  3. Joe
    Posted January 25, 2009 at 11:01 pm | Permalink

    Thanks alot, great help, got my DME tomorrow! Eeek!

    Thanks again.

  4. Posted January 26, 2009 at 8:41 pm | Permalink

    Great, hope it went well.

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