Series 14 Vol 3 Special Issue (2020)

Retail Trade Restructuring Paths on the Fringes of a Strong Region: the Case of Lower Lombardy, Italy (2001-2019)

Maria Antonietta Clerici
Dipartimento di Architettura e Studi Urbani (DAStU), Politecnico di Milano

Published 2021-06-21


  • retail trade,
  • liberalisation,
  • rural areas,
  • urban hierarchy,
  • food deserts


The “commercial revolution” driven by the spread of large-scale retail is always spatially differentiated. Even within an economically developed region, such as Lombardy, significant differences can be seen between territories with regard to the structure and evolution of the distribution network. The paper considers the case of Lower Lombardy, a vast rural area which includes 424 municipalities split into 4 provinces (Pavia, Lodi, Cremona and Mantua). An eccentric outlook is adopted compared to trade geography studies, which are usually focused on large urban areas, overlooking what occurs in peripheral contexts. The restructuring of the distribution network between 2001 and 2019 is investigated, highlighting how the municipalities of the southern part of Lombardy witnessed different evolutionary trajectories in relation to their demographic size and their position in the urban network. The image of trade decline, often associated with rural areas, is too simplistic and conceals different processes, which restructure the relationships internal to those areas. The paper also highlights a concerning process of weakening of the proximity commercial supply: are we moving towards the formation of food deserts?