Michael Jary: Driverless cars will change everything about retail hot spots

Michael Jary

In his autobiography, Sam Walton described why he preferred a small propeller plane to a jet. The Walmart founder could fly closer to the ground and see how America’s towns and cities were growing.

Having scouted out the traffic flows and selected the ideal location, he would often land and strike an immediate deal with the local farmer.

Former Tesco boss Ian MacLaurin saw from the late 1980s how the car-owning family was likely to prefer shopping out of town. At the time, Tesco was heavily criticised by analysts for ramping up debt to acquire new superstore sites, but it built the platform for two decades of market leadership. Taking the long view on property has always been central to successful retail strategy.

So much of the development of urban landscape is determined by the motor car. Since the 1950s it has driven sprawling suburbanisation and out-of-town development.

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