Over the past 15 to 20 years, changes such as retail concentration (fewer, larger stores owned by fewer corporations), technological innovation, and new labor practices have transformed the retail industry. These broad changes affect rural communities where the retail sector still employs a large portion of the workforce. When combined with the declining population of many rural areas in regions like the Great Plains, the impact of retail change is even more significant. Explored in this paper is how restructuring in the retail sector is accelerating the loss of retail firms in many rural parts of the Great Plains, a region already suffering retail losses from depopulation processes and increased accessibility to larger urban retail centers. The analysis presented will show the changes in retail that took place between 1988 and 1999, and investigate how retail restructuring and demographic change interact at the county level to produce new rural economic landscapes for people in the Great Plains, a situation that is likely to be found in other rural areas with similar demographic structures.

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