Developing efficient retail and public service networks

Academics: Professor M. Clarke, Professor M. Birkin,  Professor G. Clarke and Professor P. Rees, Faculty of Environment

Models derived from University of Leeds research about population movements in cities are being widely used, informing business expansion and the development of more efficient and consumer-friendly retail and service networks.

Understanding the make-up,  distribution and mobility patterns of the current and future population is at the heart of policy and planning decisions in both the private and public sector. Linking predictions of consumer behaviour enhances demographic analysis and forecasting, providing a powerful tool for planning health care, education and transport, etc.

Leeds developed models of the flow of customers from residential neighbourhoods to retail outlets helping optimise the configuration of retail networks. The published algorithm then provided a platform for Idealised Representation Planning (IRP). Software based on IRP simulates the pattern and volume of business that can be expected from a geographical network of sales or service outlets.

Leeds led on the analysis of long-term market retail trends and further increased understanding of customer/service user networks through the development of an Output Area Classification (OAC). OAC appraises customer behaviour according to the demographic characteristics of residential neighbourhoods and has been used by the police in profiling victims of crime and anti-social behaviour.

Techniques devised by Leeds are providing retailers, service providers and local governments with opportunities to better understand their customers and communities.

Commercialising models to advise global retailers

Leeds spin-out business, GMAP Ltd, based two products on the Leeds techniques. Microvision and Retailvision bring together data about consumers, retailers and accessibility, enabling companies to maximise individual store profitability and reconfigure entire networks to fit changing market conditions. Microvision helped Adidas develop a presence in the Asia Pacific region and expand its outlets into a further 400 Chinese cities. Volkswagen Group used Microvision to plan dealer openings, relocations and closures across Europe and India.

Leeds has also worked directly with a number of clients. Activities for the Post Office led to improvements like the targeting of new products at locations with the greatest potential, resulting in better decision-making, enhanced access to products and reduced costs in a network with millions of customers every day and an annual government subsidy of £150M.

Improving public service networks

OAC codes are promoted by the Office of National Statistics and are used by public service providers, including Worcestershire County Council and Yorkshire and Humberside Public Health Observatory, in studies of the provision of services.

Funders: Economic and Social Research Council and Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council