Australian state planning authorities, in seeking to impose order in activity centre networks, prepare high-level strategic plans to regulate the distribution, composition and size of activity centres in metropolitan areas. Typically, these plans are descendants of metropolitan plans prepared in the 1950s, which had a strong retail and master planning focus. Their intellectual foundation, however, lies in classic spatial economic theory from the 1920s and 1930s. Whilst these theoretical underpinnings may have sufficed a decade or more ago, this article argues that normal supply and demand models cannot explain the impact of changing retail consumption practices on activity centres. Accordingly, the article discusses the development of online marketing channels from the beginning of the millennium and the role experiential retailing will play in activity centre development. The article presents an integrative conceptual model highlighting the main relationships between retail consumers, retail businesses and planning regulators, and introduces utilitarian and hedonic consumption as the main drivers of retail demand. The article finally suggests how the changing nature of demand will affect retail formats and ultimately the composition and nature of activity centres.