Spatial morphology of an Australian high street: a century of retail change in Subiaco town centre

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This paper describes an empirical case study of the Subiaco town centre in Western Australia. The research method employs geospatial mapping of archival and contemporary data sources to explore the town centre's changing spatial structure and high street morphology at the micro-scale over the past century. Once a thriving retail and business centre, Subiaco's (and possibly the state's), premier retail high street destination is now being compromised as the disruptive influence of online retailing gains further traction in the marketplace. Retail disruption provides the paper's conceptual foundation. Agents of disruption include the processes of creative destruction and innovation diffusion, which together with macro-economic factors help to explain the centre's evolution over time and space. The paper examines changes in the town centre's morphological character including residential gentrification, a growing dominance of fast food outlets, an overabundance of comparison stores and a more gendered offering in retail and personal services establishments. The paper also refers to the potential of the town centre to regain its past residential status as a means of fostering economic growth and renewal and suggests that this will only be achieved with radical intervention at the policy and planning level.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)105-124
Number of pages20
JournalAustralian Geographer
Issue number1
Early online date5 Nov 2019
Publication statusPublished - 2 Jan 2020


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