An unplanned commercial district in a fast-growing city : a case study of Shenzhen, China

Research output: Journal Publications and Reviews (RGC: 21, 22, 62)21_Publication in refereed journalNot applicablepeer-review

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)317-326
Journal / PublicationJournal of Retailing and Consumer Services
Issue number6
Early online date19 Feb 2002
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2002
Externally publishedYes


From a planning perspective, this paper addresses a new format of retail found in China through a case study of Shenzhen City. The city has grown very fast in the last two decades from a small township of 60,000 people to a city of over 6 million. Dramatic economic growth and urbanization left planners behind, and a former industrial district turned into a commercial district within a few years of time in the late 1990s. This unplanned development pushed by market forces has shown some features commonly found in the evolution of 'high-street' in the West, while there are some unique features that are typically represented by a group of theme shopping complexes (TSC) in the district of Hua Qiang Bei (HQB). We argue that TSC as a special format of retail appeared in the world fastest growing city has its own reasons. They include (1) the lack of matured shopping center developers, (2) the lack of matured retail chains, (3) the uncertainty of government policy and regulations that resulted in short-term and fragmented leasing of space to small retail tenants, and (4) large and continuing demands from newly immigrated low-to-middle income working class. It is yet to be seen that this TSC format would continue and diffuse to other fast growing but less developed cities in China, or would be replaced by shopping malls soon when retain chains dominate.

Research Area(s)

  • China, Commercial district, Retail location, Shenzhen, Theme shopping complex