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Ola Thufvesson.

Ola Thufvesson


Ola Thufvesson.

The role of retail establishments for perceived safety in deprived urban environments


  • Carin Rehncrona
  • Cecilia Cassinger
  • Ola Thufvesson

Summary, in English

Safety, perceived and real, is essential for the attractiveness of urban environments (Avraham & Ketter, 2008, Coaffee & van Ham, 2008, Avraham, 2009). A high degree of perceived safety of a place plays a large role in attracting retail businesses, personnel, and customers. However, perceived safety is not an isolated issue, but related to many aspects, such as the planning of city space, retail establishments, and marketing communication. Therefore, fostering perceived safety among visitors and residents demands the co-operation of many different actors and stakeholders. Retail research have mostly focused on how to increase safety in retail environments and how to prevent crime (Kajalo & Lindblom 2010, 2015, 2016, Foster et al. 2013, Ceccato & Armitage 2018). Less is known of the role of retail businesses in creating a perceived safe urban environment. Early classical work in urban development emphasised that the shop windows of retail establishments contributed to safe environments by creating footfall and slowing down visitors’ tempo (Jacobs, 1961). Other researchers in city planning have further developed these ideas in stressing that retail should not be placed far away from “natural” passages, as has been the case in many modern developments (Sennet, 1994; Gehl, 2010).
The research aim of this study is to investigate the role of different stakeholders in creating a socially resilient urban environment. In particular, we focus on the prerequisites for establishing retail in so-called deprived areas that have a low degree of perceived safety, and how retail businesses contribute to the perceived safety of these places. The research question we pose in the study concerns retail’s role in affecting people’s perceptions of safe and attractive city centres and neighbourhoods. The study follows different regeneration projects that aim to heighten the safety in deprived urban environments, which enabled us to gain unique insight into working with and planning for safety. Geographically, nine deprived areas of interest were chosen in five cities in Sweden. These areas were classified as deprived by the Swedish police authority, all together there are 61 such areas in Sweden. The empirical material was collected by means of a combination of qualitative methods of in-depth interviews, participant observations and news media compilation. Interviews were conducted with retail store managers, retail store employees, property managers and city planners.
Participant observations of meetings between property managers, city planners and retailers on how to develop perceived safety in urban areas. News media concerning the chosen areas and safety issues were collected to establish a background knowledge before field work. The study demonstrates that co-operation between different actors are important in planning for safety in deprived urban environments. Retail businesses are an important aspect of increasing the level of perceived safety, but cannot “do the job” on its own. The study provides examples of what such cooperation may entail and which actors that are involved. Moreover, the findings of the study underscore that it is important to proceed from the characteristics of the place when deciding on the combination of different measures, rather than apply universal solutions. Perceived safety is a situated phenomenon and entails many different aspects. Engaging with people that work in and have knowledge of the area is therefore necessary to gain insights into what safety means in a particular place.


  • Institutionen för strategisk kommunikation
  • Institutionen för tjänstevetenskap








Konferensbidrag: abstract


  • Social and Economic Geography
  • Economics and Business


  • Retail
  • Urban regeneration
  • Social sustainability
  • Deprivation

Conference name

Recent Advances in Retailing and Consumer Science<br/>

Conference date

2022-07-23 - 2022-07-26

Conference place

Baveno, Italy




  • New forms of cooperation for the promotion of safe trade in vulnerable urban environments