Underinvested Ingenuity A spatial analysis of immigrant entrepreneurship at the Elephant & Castle Shopping Centre

Underinvested Ingenuity

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A spatial analysis of immigrant entrepreneurship at the Elephant & Castle Shopping Centre

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Page 1: Underinvested Ingenuity

UnderinvestedIngenuity A spatial analysis of immigrant entrepreneurship

at the Elephant & Castle Shopping Centre

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A special thanks to Suzanne Hall, an exceptional dissertation advisor, for the support and inspiration you

provided during my studies at the LSE Cities Programme.

Savitri Lopez Negrete, 2011Cities ProgrammeThe London School of Economics and Political Science

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On Thursday May 26th 2011, the first iterations of renderings for the future redevelopment of the Elephant & Castle Shopping Centre were revealed. The renderings displayed a pristine glass façade, one option with three towers growing out of the glass structure proposed to be office buildings, residential housing and a hotel (figure 1). The images show little resemblance to the current life of the Elephant & Castle Shopping Centre, and perhaps the image eludes to the perception of the Centre at its grand opening in 1965, when the area was still called “the Piccadilly Circus of the South,” renown for its theatres, entertainment and the first indoor Shopping Centre in Europe. Much has changed since then, not only in its physical appearance but most pronounced in its occupations and appropriations of space. While the area slowly degraded since its heyday at the beginning of the 20th century, it was devastated by bombings during the London Blitz and then received large-scale redevelopment through the ideology of Modernism. Large slab-block housing and a gyratory traffic system began to dominate the terraced streets. However, just as the Shopping Centre, the area remained resilient, even in the face of underinvestment, ethnic communities grew in the area and began occupying the vacant spaces of the Shopping Centre transforming it into a hub of entrepreneurship and culture. This dissertation will argue that the presence of entrepreneurship at the Shopping Centre is not solely due to the common perception of ethnic inclination towards self-employment, rather it has manifested in large part due to specific spatial characteristics present at the Centre. These dynamics allow the building to continually re-invent itself into new iterations through its diverse inhabitants and their appropriations of space.

There is a wide array of literature covering the topic of migration, transnationalism and growing ethnic enclaves in cities fueled by globalization (Barrett, 2001; Kloosterman, 1999; Portes, 2002). The relationship between immigrants and their inclination towards business start-ups and entrepreneurship has also been cited repeated times, often attributed to exclusion from the formal employment sector in market-based post-industrial economies (Barrett, 2001; Kloosterman,1999). Additionally, the impact of migrant communities in their settlement countries has been explored showing how immigrants are able to revitalize neighborhoods, introduce new products and create niche markets while maintaining links with transnational economies. The spatial implications of immigrant entrepreneurship is an area yet to be investigated in detail, which will be the focus of this dissertation. Revealed through a fine-grained analysis, spatial intricacies and particularities associated with immigrant entrepreneurship will be uncovered through a case study of London’s Elephant & Castle Shopping Centre.

Various studies have demonstrated shopping centers and particularly shopping malls in the United States as spaces void of social capital, accessible only through private automobiles, usually located in the suburbs and consisting of a series of chain stores that can be valued in purely economic terms (Crawford, 1992). However, the Shopping Centre at the Elephant & Castle differs dramatically from the common stereotype. The objective of this paper is to uncover the basis of such disparate realities, focusing on the Shopping Centre’s particular urban form and

spatial attributes that allow it to stand apart from its sterile counterparts. The dissertation will address three core questions:

In what ways does the cultural and ethnic diversity of the Elephant & Castle neighborhood shape the occupations of space in the Shopping Centre?

How do the opportunities and constraints of entrepreneurship manifest spatially in the forms and distributions of small businesses in the Shopping Centre?

What are the policy implications at city, borough and Shopping Centre level that effect the spatial manifestation?

The first question addresses the wider literature on the changing landscapes of cities as immigrants integrate themselves economically, socially and in policy terms within their countries of settlement. Attention will be given to the persistent connection between immigrant communities and self-employment. Specifically how ethnic minority businesses compete in saturated spatial markets and are concentrated in economically vulnerable sectors while depending heavily on the surrounding local demographic (Barrett, 2001). Also, the types of businesses that ethnic minorities start-up including wholesale, retail and restaurants will be explored in terms of their low barriers to entry and the fierce competition that accompanies these dynamics (Kloosterman, 1999).

The second question will deliver an ethnographic study through methods of sustained observation, in-depth interviews and relevant literature to deliver a spatial analysis of the Shopping Centre. There will be a focus on the ethnicity of groups that inhabit the space and the particularities of their trade. The second question will provide a spatial overview of the Centre, and additionally present an in-depth analysis of the nuances of a specific section of the building.

Thirdly, relevant policy documents dealing with town center retail strategy such as the PPS4, and borough-wide policy will be analyzed against the case study findings. The future redevelopment plans thus far for the Shopping Centre will be scrutinized, exposing how regulatory and planning frameworks can either aid or inhibit the role of entrepreneurship as a means of upward mobility. Contrary to widely held principles on functioning urban design, the spatial and policy analysis delivered through this dissertation will unveil that the Shopping Centre, as other similar retail sites, does not comply by the ordinary rules of “effective management, a good laid-out site and access” (Watson, 2006: 51), rather it functions as an organic, spontaneous and often chaotic system whose vitality depends on a certain degree of de-regulation.

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Figure 1Source: St. Modwen, 2011The top image shows the Elephant & Castle Shopping Centre in its current appearance. The renderings are concept images showing the design possibilities of the Centre’s future redevelopment.


On-site research was carried out pertaining to this dissertation during a two month period where the Elephant & Castle Shopping Centre was frequented three to six times per week during a variety of times of day to exercise observation techniques, conduct interviews and engage with the vendors, consumers, products and spaces of the Shopping Centre. In addition, the research was also informed by a one year period of living in proximity to the Shopping Centre. Therefore the Centre was investigated in both a research and consumer capacity, by using the site as a retail amenity and part of everyday routine. Information on the evolution of the Shopping Centre and its current iteration was obtained primarily from vendors that have traded within and outside the Centre ranging from ten to thirty years. Additional information was gained from local residents of the Elephant & Castle, and through personal observations of the activities occurring during the relatively short period of one year. The management of the Shopping Centre was generous in allowing the undertaking of research during a two-month time period, unfortunately they were unable to actively contribute their knowledge of the Centre since they were unable to provide an interview. Literature relevant to the topic is used to provide a theoretical platform to support the dissertation’s on-site approach, ethnographic basis and pragmatic spatial focus in

addition to including relevant literary studies that supplement the dissertation’s findings. Information on the regeneration of the area and the preliminary stages of redevelopment of the Shopping Centre was obtained by interviews with the Elephant & Castle’s main developer, architects, local authorities, the Shopping Centre’s property owner and the attendance of community forums involving various stakeholders. Customary with sociological practice all individuals, establishments, organizations and firms have been renamed to protect anonymity. Please refer to the appendix for further information on interviews conducted.

“...the presence of entrepreneurship at the Shopping Centre is not solely due to the common perception of ethnic inclination towards self-employment, rather it has manifested in large part due to specific spatial characteristics present at the Centre.”

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Immigrants are often associated with business start-ups and entrepreneurship in their countries of settlement and overall have a higher frequency of self-employment compared with total populations (Barrett, 2001: 244; Kloosterman, 1999: 3; Portes, 2002: 279; Drinkwater, 2010: 189). According to Kloosterman, immigrants’ propensity towards entrepreneurship heavily depends on the “interplay between socio-economic and ethno-social characteristics of the group in question and the opportunity structure” (Kloosterman, 1999: 3), which he illustrates through the term “mixed embeddedness” (Kloosterman, 1999:2). The opportunity structure that Kloosterman refers to is a complex mix of economic and political conditions that would direct an immigrant to select a certain type of business and have the necessary tools to ‘open shop’. These include conditions such as technology, cost of production, demand for products, institutional framework and availability of cheap commercial premises (Kloosterman, 1999: 3). In addition to this being an economic and political process it is also a highly spatial process depending upon the geographical location that would allow for cheap commercial premises as well as the local demand for products or services that an immigrant entrepreneur could offer. As Kloosterman explains, immigrant entrepreneurs in most cases lack access to sufficient financial capital and educational qualifications, therefore the opportunity structure is geared towards economic activities that have low barriers of entry, which in European welfare states would be concentrated in the sectors of wholesale, retail and restaurants (Kloosterman, 1999: 4). It is recognized that in contrast to North American countries, European countries do not perceive themselves as immigrant nations, and it was only during the period of 1945 where the United Kingdom solicited post-war economic recovery from former colonies (Barrett, 2001: 243). Therefore the opposition towards immigration coupled with a strong welfare state that actively participates in the economy would lead one to predict less immigration and thus lower levels of immigrant business start-ups, however Barrett reveals that there have been “parallel developments in Europe” as in North America with waves of ethnic migrant groups ranging from Africans, Black-Caribbeans, South Asians, Chinese, Middle Eastern and more recently Eastern Europeans under their EU member state status (Barrett, 2001: 243; Drinkwater, 2010: 190). In addition to immigration policies, the UK government has played a role in both encouraging and constraining an enterprise economy. An example of support towards small businesses is illustrated through the approach of the conservative Thatcher administration encouraging the opening of small businesses during the 1980’s when high unemployment and urban decline dominated the country. The government was aware of the connection between ethnic minority businesses and revitalization of derelict areas indicated through the large number of success stories of small businesses among the South Asian population serving the role of an ‘urban regenerator’ through business enterprise (Barrett, 2001: 242; Kloosterman, 1999: 1; Drinkwater, 2010: 192). Keeping in line with the evidence of small ethnic enterprises embodying the qualities necessary to revitalize urban areas, Barrett also points out that within the South East region, urban centers such as London

account for 45 per cent of ethnic minorities, demonstrating that ethnic diversity and immigrant entrepreneurship is mainly an urban issue that manifests under conditions created in a city (Barrett, 2001: 245). Immigrant entrepreneurship as an urban condition also means that it has spatial characteristics determined by the local geography and dependent on specific spatial circumstances for its success or failure. These conditions can be understood through a fine-grained analysis of a specific urban site, leading to the first question of the dissertation:

In what ways does the cultural and ethnic diversity of the Elephant & Castle neighborhood shape the occupations of space in the Shopping Centre?

Urban conditions for immigrant businesses

Much of the Shopping Centre’s vitality is reliant on its urban context. Elephant & Castle historically and presently has sat between two villages, Walworth and Newington, and has been considered a transport hub since the 18th century (Elephant & Castle, 2011) (Figure 2). With 40 million public transport trips and 19 million private cars passing through the area per year, Elephant & Castle is positioned in a very strategic location. In addition, Elephant & Castle is home to a density of 137 people per hectare, much higher than the borough’s density at 84.8 people per hectare and the London average at 45.6 people per hectare, providing the critical mass necessary to support retail in the area (Office for National Statistics, 2001). The proximity of densely occupied residential areas and a well-connected public transport system allows for sufficient ‘footfall or high pedestrian flows’ to sustain the small businesses in the area (Hall, 2009: 230) (figure 3 & 4). These factors combined with cheap commercial premises creates the conditions for low barriers of entry for immigrant entrepreneurs, illustrated by Kloosterman’s concept of opportunity structure. But just as Kloosterman explains, “markets with low barriers of entry in terms of capital outlays and required educational qualifications” also generate markets of fierce competition (Kloosterman, 1999: 4). This is evident at the Shopping Centre by the sheer amount of small independent businesses that are able to set up shop without the limitation of letting a vacant shop. Rather with seemingly easy approval from the management, an entrepreneur can select a kiosk present in the interior spaces of the Centre or a stand present at the outdoor market and begin selling immediately with minimal costs. The saturation of small businesses means that there will be a certain degree of repetition among product offering, creating competition among proprietors that will need to contend through price, quality or production costs.

Elephant & Castle also reflects the heterogeneity of the immigrant population in the London region. The Office for National Statistics indicates that the ethnic composition of the Elephant & Castle is 56 per cent White, 28 per cent Black Minority Ethnic (BME), 9 per cent Asian and 2 per cent Chinese in 2001 (the most recent Census). The data reveals that two ethnicities dominate the landscape at the Elephant & Castle, those being White and BME, however the fact that more than

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100 languages are spoken in the area argues that there is much more ethnic heterogeneity than the statistics are able to encompass (Elephant & Castle, 2011). A survey conducted on the ethnicities of independent business proprietors at the Shopping Centre shows that 14 different countries were represented out of 27 independent businesses interviewed, including Turkey, Nigeria, Portugal, India, Pakistan, Hong Kong, Iran, Greece, Colombia, Latvia, Russia and Great Britain. The discrepancy between the Census information and the perceived ethnic heterogeneity at the Elephant & Castle could be due to reasons of residential population versus daytime population and also the limited scope of ethnicities available on the Census form. For example, the option for a “Latin” ethnicity is not available, therefore one could speculate whether the Latin population may categorize themselves as “Other White” accounting for 8 per cent of the Elephant & Castle population, however this category is commonly perceived as a White European ethnicity. Although the Latin population is not accounted for in the official statistics, they are an evident part of the Elephant & Castle, having a constant presence in the neighborhood not only through enterprise but also through cultural festivals and through daily activities that are reflective of a resident population. The Elephant & Castle has the qualities of an “immigrant neighborhood” rather than “ethnic neighborhood” without one dominating ethnicity and therefore providing the market for a variety of ethnically-specific businesses (Kloosterman, 1999: 10).

Figure 2LeftSource: Bing MapsLocation of the Elephant & Castle Shopping Centre in relation to London landmarks.

Figure 3Left CenterSource: Bing MapsAerial view of immediate surroundings of the Elephant & Castle Shopping Centre.

Figure 4BelowSource: Bing MapsAerial view of immediate transport links around Shopping Centre and its outdoor market.

Underground Station

Market at Shopping Centre

Shopping Centre

National Rail

Bus interchange

Elephant & CastleShopping Centre

London Eye

Houses of Parliament

St. James’sPark

London Bridge

Tower of London

Terrace housing

Shopping Centre


Heygate Estate(vacant)

Northern Roundabout

Walworth Rd.

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The businesses at the Shopping Centre

Ethnic neighborhoods present the opportunities for various immigrant groups to set up shop catering to their specific cultures with the knowledge that a local clientele exists with similar tastes and preferences. In the case of the Shopping Centre, 58.5 per cent of businesses (excluding the exterior market) are independently-run, while 31 per cent of them cater to a specific ethnic demand (Figure 5). More than half of the businesses that sell ethnic-specific products cater to the African population ranging from hair and nail shops, beauty products, and traditional clothing. This contrasts with evidence derived by Barrett on the notion that “African and Caribbean migrants…have a particularly low level of engagement in business of any type,” especially in comparison with South Asian populations (Barrett, 2001: 243). In the case of the Shopping Centre, the African and Caribbean populations run the majority of independent businesses. However it is important to acknowledge that although the Black communities have a propensity for business at the Centre they do cater to a “protected market or ethnic niche,” nevertheless the local demographic lends itself to the success of these “limited” businesses (Barrett, 2001: 247).

“In the case of the Shopping Centre, 58.5 per cent of businesses are independently-run, while 31 per cent of them cater to a specific ethnic demand.”

In terms of other ethnic-specific businesses, about 25 per cent cater to a Latin consumer almost entirely consisting of food retail and food services such as restaurants and cafes. The next category following closely behind were businesses that catered to a mix of ethnicities, for example a clothing and accessories shop for the European and ethnic consumer, or a food stand that sells fruits, vegetables and spices common to Asian, Latin and Afro-Caribbean cultures. Only 2 out of 20 ethnically-based businesses catered to the Eastern European market, both in food retail and food services, however it is important to note that both businesses were opened during the short two-month period that the research for this dissertation was conducted, and along with information from several interviews with proprietors, the Eastern European population is growing at the Elephant & Castle. In the case of Asian proprietors at the Shopping Centre, in all but one case, this group did not sell products that were specific to their ethnic backgrounds, rather they sold a variety of home ware and fashion products that would have appeal across cultures. In addition to the sensibilities that immigrant entrepreneurs have in recognizing consumer markets for their products, another essential component to the success of immigrant enterprise, and other small businesses, is their ability to socially engage with their customers. This concept will be explored in detail within the second question addressed in this dissertation, identifying familiarity, regularity and cultural bonds as practices that encourage a steady client base and a means of survival within saturated markets.

There are a total of 84 independent and chain businesses within the walls of the Shopping Centre, this does not only include typical shops but also a variety of free standing shop spaces, stands, and kiosks that flood the interior walkways. Out of these 84 businesses, 25 per cent of them sell clothing and accessories followed by food services, food retail, home ware and cash transfers and loans, each category making up approximately 10 per cent of the total retail and service offering respectively (figure 6). Kloosterman’s findings apply to the majority of immigrant businesses found at the Centre geared towards retail, wholesale and restaurants (Kloosterman, 1999: 9). However there are a few exceptions in the case of the Shopping Centre, where some immigrant entrepreneurs gravitate towards services. Barber shops, Hair & Nail shops, and Alterations & Dry Cleaners account for 12 per cent of the Shopping Centre’s offerings. Only 2 out of 10 businesses in this service category were run by a native-born proprietor, showing that the popularity of these types of businesses are significant among immigrant entrepreneurs. Other less significant categories (less than 10 per cent of the total offering) included mobile phones & electronics, professional services, betting shops & pawnbrokers, pharmacy products and gifts & supplies.

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Independent business

Chain business

To Let67% independent

Independent business

Chain business

To Let

50% independentProfessional/Council Services


Ground Floor

First Floor

Figure 5AboveSource: AuthorPlan view of ground floor and first floor at Shopping Centre, showing that more than half of businesses are run by independent proprietors of which approximately one-third sell ethnic-specific products or services.

30% ethnic-specific businesses

27% ethnic-specific businesses

Ethnic-specific independent business

Ethnic-specific independent business


Residual space shop



Indoor stand

Residual space shop


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Food Services


Cash Transfers/Banks

Food Retail

Barber/Beauty Shops







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Betting Shops/ Pawnbrokers



Professional/Council Services



Figure 6Opposite & AboveSource: AuthorRetail mix at the Shopping Centre with clothing & accessories, food services and home ware as the leading retail categories.







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A variety of constraints exist for entrepreneurs where they utilize coping strategies to survive and remain successful, however in the context of the Shopping Centre these coping mechanisms translate into an array of business innovations. As discussed previously, entrepreneurs face fierce competition due to the nature of the low-barrier markets in which they operate. This is also the case at the Shopping Centre where small businesses compete not only amongst each other but also with large chain retailers such as Tesco, Iceland, WH Smith, Boots, Superdrug and Peacocks. In addition, businesses also need to comply with policies implemented by the Shopping Centre management and owner. Nevertheless, the adaptive capacity of entrepreneurs often responds in very innovative ways to not only navigate these dynamics but also capitalize on consumer behaviors and shopping habits. This section will respond to the second question posed by this dissertation:

How do the opportunities and constraints of entrepreneurship manifest spatially in the forms and distributions of small businesses in the Shopping Centre?

In contrast to the previous question, this section will present a fine-grained analysis of the ground floor of the Shopping Centre to illustrate the particularities of entrepreneurship in this space. Spectators and locals alike agree that the ground floor of the Shopping Centre embodies the most vitality and diversity of uses and users compared with the rest of the building. The purpose of this section is not to uncover the reasons behind these disparities although speculations can be made about the lack of retail diversity and abundance of vacant units on the first floor that make this the case, nevertheless, the research question will be addressed by analyzing a section of the interior ground floor that contains the most varied entrepreneurial activity within the environment.

Scales of mobility

The Shopping Centre has always had a focus on independent retailers and very few “anchor” chains such as Tesco and retailer Woolworths. Long-time residents, Richard and Betty, recall, “The Centre had mostly independent shops in the ‘60’s, boutiques and coffee bars. Now the vendors are global and products from all over the world are sold. Now it’s mainly African, Spanish and Colombian, and Eastern Europeans residing in the Centre…there are more market stalls than shops…its turned into a multicultural Shopping Centre, but so have the population” (Fieldwork interview, 2011). One significant constraint to independent boutiques trading at the time of the Shopping Centre’s opening was the high rents for retail units. As a member of the development team at a world-renowned property and infrastructure group explained, the Shopping Centre was vastly expensive to build and resulted in incredibly high rents for tenants (Fieldwork interview, 2011). Early proprietors at the Centre were unable to adapt to such conditions and therefore only a handful remained long-standing tenants, and according to local resident, Nancy, the greater part of the Centre was left

People and spaces in and around the Shopping Centre.Source: Author

vacant by the 1980’s (Fieldwork interview, 2001). A variety of factors began changing the desolate conditions at the Shopping Centre that can be attributed to a relaxation of the Centre’s regulatory framework, a change in the local demographic, and entrepreneurial novelties. One significant feature of the Centre’s subsequent transformation into a vibrant entrepreneurial hub is illustrated by Nancy’s observations of the changing demographic in the area, “not until the ‘80’s [the area] was still mainly White British and Irish, but then it started to change.” She recalled three Jamaican families in the whole area until there was a large influx of migrants. This coincides with national figures between the 1980’s and 1990’s where the arrival of working-age immigrant populations doubled (Drinkwater, 2010: 190). Several vendors recall that during the 1990’s the Shopping Centre opened up its immediate exterior for a Market, delivering small-scale business opportunities. Rents for shops within the Centre remained high pushing entrepreneurs towards the easy entry Market. The prospect created a flood of new businesses surrounding the Centre and currently more than 47 stalls inhabit

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the exterior space (figure 7). The constraints of high rents at the Shopping Centre have been met by a multitude of business typologies that have survived in such conditions beyond the exterior market stalls, and according to the property owner these smaller units are in high demand (Fieldwork interview, 2011). Ranging from the more permanent shop structures constructed under escalators to the self-assembled food stands; the kiosks sprinkled across the interior walkways and the occasional business that appropriates the back wall of a café to display his products, the entrepreneurs at the Shopping Centre use a multitude of scales to accommodate their businesses in an inventive and unexpected manner (figure 8). Adaptive business typologies comprise a large percentage of businesses on the ground floor of the Shopping Centre, accounting for 39 per cent of the total retail offering compared to “formal” shop units. The smallest business typology at the Centre is the kiosk, approximately 3 meters wide by 2 meters deep, which has gained tremendous popularity since they were first available to let approximately 10 years ago. Their attractiveness stems from the relatively low rent of approximately £130 per week, compared with the letting price of a small shop approximately costing a tenant £6000 per quarter plus a £3000 service fee. The design of the kiosk is also very adaptive as proprietors have managed to accommodate a range of products on one single typology such as clothing, jewelry, handbags and suitcases, electronics and beauty products. Entrepreneurs are both resourceful and creative in their displays as this is the main selling point for their products, and they utilize both the kiosk and their immediate surroundings to set up a display that will showcase their full retail offering. The variety of business scales is also a crucial component of upward mobility at the Shopping Centre. Several interviews revealed that vendors move up in business scale over time. Emre, a vendor currently selling clothing and accessories at a kiosk stand said that he used to have a market stall in the exterior market 10 years ago, but he

now prefers the interior location that guarantees him more footfall as well as protection from the elements (Fieldwork interview, 2011). Aabheer, a manager at a larger unit selling home and repair goods, said that they were initially located in a smaller unit 30 years ago. They then relocated to their current larger unit and are considering letting out an additional vacant unit on the first floor to expand their product offering to include furniture (Fieldwork interview, 2011). It is evident that as vendors become more successful in their businesses they take advantage of the opportunity to increase scales while still retaining the clientele they have gathered over time by remaining in a proximate location.

“Ranging from the more permanent shop structures constructed under escalators to the self-assembled food stands; the kiosks sprinkled across the interior walkways and the occasional business that appropriates the back wall of a café to display his products, the entrepreneurs at the Shopping Centre use a multitude of scales to accommodate their businesses in an inventive and unexpected manner.”

Inclusive privatized space

In addition to the entrepreneurial benefits derived from the range of scales and typologies, certain spatial attributes of the Shopping Centre have made it easier for the inclusion of women entrepreneurs. For all ethnic groups in the UK, self-employment is much higher for men than for women (Drinkwater, 2010: 193). The highest percentage of self-employed are Chinese women at 15.9 per cent between 2003 and 2006, however still much lower than Chinese men at 26.7 per cent during the same time period (Drinkwater, 2010: 193). All other ethnicities, including White women have a self-employment percentage of 8 per cent or less, with the lowest incidence of self-employment among Black African and Black Caribbean women at 3.8 per cent (Drinkwater, 2010: 193). These figures are starkly different to the findings at the Elephant & Castle Shopping Centre, with 38 per cent of independent businesses on the ground floor run by women. Even more incongruent with national figures, 9 out of 13 women-led businesses at the Shopping Centre are run by Black African and Black Caribbean women. These manifestations are not due to the characteristics of the neighborhood since self-employment among women in the Elephant & Castle area does not exceed 3 per cent (Office for National Statistics, 2001). What is it then about the Shopping Centre that produces an inclusionary environment for a commonly excluded group in terms of entrepreneurship? A survey undertaken of the immediate spaces outside the Shopping Centre indicate that instances of women-led businesses steadily decrease from the

Figure 7Source: AuthorImage of outdoor market at the Shopping Centre.

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Typical Shop

Residual Space Shop



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interior space of the Centre to the exterior market and to street level. Only 10 per cent of market stalls, residing immediately outside the Shopping Centre, appeared to have female tenants. The five street level independent businesses immediately outside the market, appeared to be completely operated by men (figure 9 & 10). The survey eludes to the hypothesis that the more “public” the space becomes, in this case the street represents the most public of spaces, the less probability of female-led businesses to form. It is a rare and counterintuitive assertion to declare privately-owned spaces such as shopping centers having superior spatial characteristics that encourage inclusionary practices over public spaces, however the findings of this dissertation argue that there is much to be learned from the qualities that a privatized space is able to deliver.

Another survey of independent businesses on an East London street revealed that although women have an active “behind-the-scenes” role in establishing small business, cultural and religious factors prevent them from taking a front of house role. For these reasons, from a sample of 55 independent shops on the high street, approximately 95 per cent were run by men (LSE Cities Programme, 2011). A survey on the nearby Walworth Road demonstrated similar findings with very few women partaking in business endeavors (Hall, 2009). Although interviews with female vendors at the Shopping Centre did not provide any evidence of their choice to locate in the Centre versus any other location, their occupations of space may provide an indication for these occurrences.

The first finding is that women often occupied smaller sized businesses in the Shopping Centre ranging from kiosks to small shop units. Female-run businesses did not show dominance of a specific size of retail space, rather there was an even distribution among the various business sizes. Nonetheless, women did not run any of the larger sized shops in the Centre. An interesting component of female-run businesses evident at the outdoor market was that most occupied an enclosed, caravan-type space where they would sell ethnic foods, rather than the common self-assembled stands present at the market. The two women who occupied self-assembled market stands were often seen accompanied by men, who perhaps would set up the stand for the women. The vast majority of women proprietors at the Shopping Centre, approximately 89 per cent, set up their business in an enclosed or interior space that was protected from the weather and had seating. Another component of these retail typologies, in all but the two market stand cases, was that they had available storage that could be locked and left overnight, without the hassle of transporting the retail products on a daily basis (figure 11). The final observation, not exclusively applying

to women, was that they would equip their businesses with additional seating so friends and family members could pop in for a chat during the day. Women proprietors were often seen chatting, watching soap operas and eating with others at their retail spaces (figure 12). The proprietor’s children were also sometimes present at their place of business. In addition to spatial components focused on comfort and convenience such as an enclosed area, storage space and seating there is also a strong social component to foreign-born female entrepreneurship that combine in a way that encourage greater participation among a commonly excluded group.


Although the Shopping Centre embodies the characteristics of similar spaces designed for the purpose of consumerism including privately operated security, maintenance and the determination of rents and leases, the activities of the Shopping Centre resemble a more public space with equally social exchanges as economic ones. Unlike typical shopping centers that deliver a “safe, clean and controlled form,” (Crawford, 1992: 23) usually accessed by a private vehicle in the suburbs, the Elephant & Castle Shopping Centre is used as a public space, alive with languages ranging from Hindi to Arabic to Spanish, smells of British and foreign cuisine, and a diversity of people ranging in age, social class and ethnic background. The current occupations of space are in large part due to a form of de-regulation by the Shopping Centre management. Unlike most shopping centers that are constantly adjusting their retail mix, establishing economic relationships between shops and continuously mediating between consumer behaviors and commodities, the management at the Elephant & Castle have allowed the Centre to take on a life of its own to a certain extent.

“The current occupations of space are in large part due to a form of de-regulation by the Shopping Centre management.”

The global retail property developer, Westfield, boasts its £26 billion pound portfolio which now includes a shopping center in London’s Shephard’s Bush neighborhood and soon in Stratford. As would be expected the developer follows the common shopping center formula for success through the careful arrangement of five anchor stores and 265 other retailers. Westfield has even designed six ‘precincts’ that are clusters of similar stores “appealing to different types of customers and for different shopping patterns” (Westfield, 2011: 5). It is apparent that a large investment is made on investigating consumption patterns which are then translated in the spatial design of the shopping center.

According to vendors at the Elephant & Castle Shopping Centre, the management is predominantly concerned with filling the units with tenants to pay the rent, without considering the retail mix or duplication of businesses (Fieldwork interview, 2011). Aabheer described it as an ‘open competition’ strategy, and expressed concern over the entry of similar shops into

Figure 8OppositeSource: AuthorThis diagram shows the four main business typologies present at the Shopping Centre which allow for easy entry of new entrepreneurs through a variety of scales. Proprietors are able to ‘scale-up’ as their business becomes more successful.

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Female-led businesses

Shopping Centre


Shopping Centre outdoor market

Street level

Female-led business

Male-led business





Market stand

Caravan shop

Indoor stand

Residual space shop

Images of female-led businesses

Figure 9AboveSource: AuthorDiagramatic plan view of the Shopping Centre’s ground floor showing male and female tenants of retail units.

Figure 10Left CenterSource: AuthorPie charts showing the highest percentage of female-led businesses present within the Shopping Centre, reducing at the outdoor market and non-existent at street level.

Figure 11Left Source: AuthorImages of various female-led businesses including a food caravan at the outdoor market, kiosk, typical shop unit and residual space shop. Most typologies share the common charactersitics of ‘interior’ space, storage and seating.


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Figure 12LeftSource: AuthorImage of women watching soap operas at their kiosk while engaging a passer-by, demostrating the social dimension of inherent to immigrant businesses.

the Centre interfering with the steady clientele that particular businesses had built over time. It is evident that similar businesses in the Shopping Centre are multiplying, for example there are currently five money transfers and four pawnbrokers within the Centre, one that opened during the course of this research. Also, as mentioned previously the dynamics of immigrant competition often make it so the retail offering is ethnic specific, catering to a protected niche market and not offering a diversity of retail options (Barrett, 2001: 247). From a commercial perspective, typical shopping centers are aware that “branches of national chains are the most reliable money-makers,” and “individually-owned stores are admitted only with shorter leases and higher rents,” (Crawford, 1992: 9) however the dominance of independent retailers at the Elephant & Castle may be due to a lack of confidence by investors in the area, since it would be logical that the Shopping Centre would jump at the chance to fill their units with money-making chains. Whether ‘open competition’ is a deliberate strategy by the management or it has manifested as a mechanism of income generation under the conditions of the uncertainty around the future of Shopping Centre, the lack of supervision has created the opportunity for vendors to craft their own strategies to survive under such conditions.

Interdependencies between chains and independents

The findings of this dissertation show that independent business proprietors use a variety of spatial and social strategies to encourage sales including display, linked trips, flexibility of price and product offering as well as building customer relationships. There is an interesting relationship that exists between chain stores and independent businesses at the Shopping Centre. Contrary to claims from the New Economics Foundation in

its Clone Towns Report (NEF, 2005) stating that London is losing its retail diversity and small independent shops due to the opening of larger retail chain stores, the scenario at the Shopping Centre is quite a distinct reality. For example, chains such as Boots, Superdrug, WH Smith, Iceland and most prominently Tesco draw in the most footfall into the Centre, positively impacting the small independent businesses. The situation at the Shopping Centre reflects similar findings as studies undertaken by the Competition Commission and South Hampton University on the relationship between entry and exit patterns of independent shops and large retailers across the UK. The studies found that exit and entry conditions operate differently in London and Prospering Southern England than in the rest of the UK. The study shows that out of 11 independent retailer categories ranging from fishmongers, music and video stores and convenience stores, 8 were positively impacted by the competitive opening of a supermarket sized at 15,000 sq. ft. or below (Wrigley, 2009: 2076). Meaning that the majority of independent retailers had ‘accelerated’ net entry or ‘restrained’ net exit with the added competition of a chain retailer (Wrigley, 2009: 2076). In the case of the Shopping Centre, independent vendors capitalize on their proximity to the large supermarket retailer, Tesco. Businesses that do not directly compete in their product offering with Tesco utilize creative ways of displaying their products in the hope of catching a potential consumer’s eye. Vendors are very well aware of the concept of ‘linked trips,’ knowing that potential buyers most likely come to the Shopping Centre with Tesco or Superdrug as their prime destination, therefore attempting to entice potential customers by visibly displaying their products on these shopping trips. Kiosk vendor, Ming, said that she makes sure to have her entire product selection displayed and visible for potential customers that pass by her kiosk. Vendor Emre, sells clothing and accessories creatively through his displays, not only using the space of

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the kiosk but utilizing his immediate surroundings including a staircase railing to showcase his items (figure 13). Most of the independent businesses at the Shopping Centre use similar strategies of display including the larger retail units. Proprietors of typical retail units, such as Aabheer, use the outside of their shops to display their products, making them more accessible for the passer-by (figure, 14). These techniques are quite sophisticated, as they show that vendors understand their clientele. Vendors are aware of the behaviors of ‘linked trip’ consumers, who do not necessarily come to the Centre to shop at their store, but the accessibility of products with their prices on display at the shop’s façade may motivate the consumer to pass the threshold into their store and make a purchase. Not only do proprietors display consistent ‘sale’ prices on their products, they also allow flexibility on the purchase price, unlike the set prices found at national chains. This is evident for businesses that directly compete with large chain retailers such as Tesco, not necessarily providing lower prices, but offering higher quantities for the same price. For example, a fruit & veg stand inside the Shopping Centre competes directly with Tesco’s product offerings. While Tesco sells lime at 30 pence each, this stand will sell 5 limes for £1, resulting in 50 pence saved by buying a larger quantity. In addition to providing competitive prices, the independent business also provides a wider range of fruits and vegetables that are not available at the Shopping Centre’s Tesco Metro, making the adjacent stand more appealing to shoppers. A short study revealed that Tesco shoppers at the Centre would often buy the majority of their groceries at the chain store and then stop by the fruit & veg stand to pick up some additional items (figure 15). This is consistent with previous findings recognized by the PPS6 that “larger retail stores can strengthen a centre’s retail offer and perform an important anchor role, increasing linked trips and pedestrian activity” (Wrigley, 2009: 2084). Vendors that do not compete directly with the chain stores present at the Centre are also well aware of the benefits they derive from the clout of larger retailers. Ming admitted “we need more chains to bring people, so they can have more choices. People always ask me if we have a River Island store here, we need a River Island! There are no big stores to bring people” (Fieldwork interview, 2011). Although these studies show that out-of-town retailers do seem to have a positive effect on small independent businesses, there is also a balance that should be sought in terms of size and amount of chain retailers, as the mismanagement of this can have detrimental effects on the survival of small businesses. One can imagine that the strategies employed by the fruit & veg stand would have little effect if the current Tesco Metro, (less than 15,000 sq. ft.) were replaced by a Tesco Superstore or Tesco Extra, (25,000 sq. ft. to 70,000 sq. ft.) equipped with an insurmountable range of products that the stand would not be able to differentiate against.

Social dimensions of business

An incredibly significant component to entrepreneurship at the Shopping Centre is the ability to connect with customers and build relationships. In addition to responding to the local market and offering a range of products, the entrepreneur’s

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ability to socially engage with consumers can set one apart from out-of-town retailers. This aspect is the best ‘selling point’ of independent businesses as chains simply cannot compete on this level since chain store owners do not reside at their businesses regularly. The most successful vendors at the Shopping Centre recognize this additional business dimension and by employing such strategies have managed business longevity, in some cases operating at the Shopping Centre for 20, 30 or even 40 years. Aabheer described his store’s success over the years by the amount of hardware products they offer compared to other DIY shops in the area and also because of loyal customers that they have retained since the store’s opening 30 years ago (Fieldwork interview, 2011). The Shopping Centre provides the local space for social interactions to take place during everyday practices of convenience and regularity, and proprietors can build their businesses through these daily routines. Hall’s research recognizes the pivotal role the proprietor plays in these everyday spaces. She argues that “local place and local spaces are one crucial aspect of participation, since they offer the ease of regularity, convenience and spontaneity, which underpin much of social life” (Hall, 2009: 206). Although these spaces are designed to be places of consumption and economic exchange they additionally function as social institutions with proprietors often knowing their ‘regulars’ by name. It is the relationships that are formed through regularity and familiarity between customers and proprietors that are key to longevity for small businesses in the landscape of competition.

“The Shopping Centre provides the local space for social interactions to take place during everyday practices of convenience and regularity, and proprietors can build their businesses through these daily routines.”

Figure 13Opposite aboveSource: AuthorImage showing inventive forms of display not only using the designated retail space but also utilizing surrounding architecture such as the staircase to showcase products.

Figure 14Opposite centerSource: AuthorImage of larger independent retailer using

the façade of the shop to display products.

Figure 15Opposite Source: AuthorImage of shopper making some additional purchases at the fruit & veg stand after doing her main shopping at Tesco.


Referred to as the ‘Southern gateway to central London,’ the Elephant & Castle has been targeted as an Area of Opportunity and Intensification, Area of Regeneration and currently classified as a ‘District’ Town Centre but having the potential of a ‘Major’ Town Centre indicating high growth during the regeneration period for the next 15 to 20 years (The London Plan, 2011: 286). A Major Town Centre will include approximately “50,000 sq.m. of retail floor space with a relatively high proportion of comparison goods relative to convenience goods. [Major Town Centres] may also have significant employment, leisure, service and civic functions” (The London Plan, 2011: 278). The London Plan indicates that the 88 hectare regeneration area of the Elephant & Castle has an employment capacity of 5,000 additional jobs and greater residential density through an additional 4,000 new homes (The London Plan, 2011: 284). The Elephant & Castle currently accommodates 26,431 sq.m. of retail floor space, of that 18% is comparison goods, meaning that this sector will need to grow considerably to reach the UK average of 39% comparison goods (London Borough of Southwark, 2011: 24). Additionally, retail floor space will need to almost double in order to obtain “Major” Town Centre status. The regional and borough-wide strategies will have substantial implications for the small immigrant businesses that currently occupy the Shopping Centre. These will be analyzed through the third and final question of this dissertation:

What are the policy implications at city, borough and Shopping Centre level that effect the spatial manifestation?

The retail and housing targets for the Elephant & Castle could be an opportunity for entrepreneurs with additional retail spaces as well as an increasing residential density that would provide more consumers in the catchment area. However, without a nuanced understanding of the immigrant businesses operating from the Shopping Centre, policies could have a detrimental effect on the vibrant entrepreneurial community.

City-wide economic strategy: PPS4

The Planning Policy Statement 4 (PPS4) outlines the city-wide policies for sustainable economic growth across town centers and applies directly to retail development, leisure, entertainment facilities, recreational uses, offices, culture and tourism (PPS4, 2009: 3). One of the PPS4’s overarching objectives is to ‘promote the vitality and viability of town centres,’ and specifically pertaining to retail it recommends greater competition to enhance consumer choice (PPS4, 2009: 10). The document specifically highlights the importance of supporting diverse uses that would appeal to a range of social groups, and recognizes the significance of smaller shops enhancing the character and vibrancy of town centers (PPS4, 2009: 10). These recommendations to local authorities paint a promising scenario for the small businesses at the Elephant & Castle Shopping Centre and the proposed diversification of businesses although posing new competition for entrepreneurs could also serve to diversify some of the more limited markets currently operating at the Centre. Local authorities are encouraged to support and retain small businesses by promoting

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the new development to be ‘of the right scale in the right place and at the right time’ (PPS4 Practice Guide, 2009: 5). This acknowledges the spatial implications that new developments pose to current independent businesses through design and location. However, the policy document also limits the local authority to a certain extent in these spatial considerations. For example, the document states that the local authority may exercise their controls in terms of unit sizes and types of use, yet they cannot be partial to one retailer over another or restrict competition through rents or prices of goods (PPS4 Practice Guide, 2009: 16). The interpretation of this document can vary from one local authority to another, in the case of the Elephant & Castle, the borough of Southwark is responsible for assuring these policies be adhered to. Although they are responsible to retain the vitality and character of the neighborhood, which at the Elephant & Castle is strongly intertwined with its immigrant entrepreneurial spirit, the local authority is limited in their interference on commercial matters such as implementation of affordable retail units. As discussed previously, immigrant entrepreneurs are able to thrive in low barriers to entry, one of which is the availability of cheap commercial premises (Kloosterman, 1999: 3). Without this crucial ingredient it is difficult to determine whether the redevelopment will be successful in retaining the current global character of the area.

Borough-wide policies: SPD/OAPF & SA

Southwark Council is currently compiling a Supplementary Planning Document and Opportunity Area Planning Framework (SPD/OAPF) for developers to follow, to be released in October 2011. Thus far the Sustainability Appraisal Scoping Report (SA) has been released acknowledging the specific characteristics of the Elephant & Castle, yet the SPD/OAPF will provide detailed guidelines that developers must follow in their plans for the area. The SA document seems to paint a hopeful scenario for entrepreneurship in the area acknowledging the necessary ‘provision and support for small businesses’ (Southwark Council, 2011: 8). Policy 4.2.2 in the SA document also recognizes that small businesses account for ‘84.1% of all companies registered in the borough and 19.3% of the workforce,’ they claim that the SPD/OAPF will ‘consider the needs of small businesses to ensure that they can continue to thrive and make a positive contribution to the area’ (Southwark Council, 2011: 19). The document also states that although the main agglomeration of comparison shopping exists at the Shopping Centre, including Peacocks and Clarks, it is still very low compared to other centrally located boroughs and lacks department stores and a larger variety of comparison goods (London Borough of Southwark, 2011: 25). The Southwark Retail Capacity Study in 2009 is also in accordance with these findings stating that ‘although Southwark residents generally do their food shopping in the borough, most people do not shop for comparison goods (items such as clothes, shoes, music and books) within Southwark’ (London Borough of Southwark, 2011: 23). These dynamics make retailer demand very low at the Elephant & Castle, and the lack of retail investment at the Shopping Centre is partly responsible for creating the current conditions where immigrant entrepreneurs can occupy such commercial spaces. Therefore, the attention to

attracting comparison goods, most of which are national chains, poses a threat to the small businesses at the Shopping Centre without the proper policy controls.

“If the availability of alternative retail spaces is retained in the redevelopment plans, current independent proprietors have a chance of survival at the Shopping Centre.”

The findings of this dissertation have demonstrated the advantages the Shopping Centre has created for immigrant entrepreneurs, however in the face of redevelopment these same advantages pose significant disadvantages. The most prominent one being that the building is privately-owned and therefore less subject to planning controls. A member of the Elephant & Castle team at the local authority made the point very specifically that they have very little control in regards to imposing social measures such as affordable retail rents on a private commercial property such as the Shopping Centre (Fieldwork interview, 2011). The Council’s powers are more pronounced on the 23 acres of land that the Elephant & Castle’s prime developer is responsible for, requiring that 1850 sq.m. of the 15,000 sq.m. retail space is affordable (Fieldwork interview, 2011) along with 35 per cent affordable housing (London Borough of Southwark, 2011: 57). Even though 1850 sq.m. is only 12 per cent of the total retail space to be developed in the regeneration area, it is more than the Council plans on requiring of the Shopping Centre’s owner. While there is a limit on the Council’s ability to interfere on commercial property, they did state that if the owners were to build the proposed residential tower on top of the Shopping Centre, the Council would most definitely impose affordable housing on the development (Fieldwork interview, 2011). Additionally, the area’s prime developer, the Shopping Centre’s owner will be subject to contribution on several public realm and transportation improvements in the area (Fieldwork interview, 2011). Southwark’s SA document states that ‘significant developer contributions will be needed for the [transport interchange] project in partnership with London Underground’ (London Borough of Southwark, 2011: 61). The Council’s reluctance in applying Section 106 in relation to affordable retail space is inexplicable as they do not hesitate in applying planning gain to residential, public realm or transport improvements. Although one may hope for the Centre’s owner to implement small business retention strategies during the redevelopment, it is the Council’s obligation to ensure that proprietors livelihoods are secured in commercial endeavors. According to the property owner, they will aim to achieve market values across all uses at the Shopping Centre and will be “looking to attract the type of retailers who would trade from a modern city-centre shopping centre.” Unfortunately these plans, although realistic of a commercial property owner, will threaten the small businesses currently operating at the Centre.

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During a community forum, the property owner did acknowledge that the Shopping Centre is currently viable and popular, most units are full and many locals have great affection for space, this does not negate the fact that the plans for the redevelopment of the Centre will create the more generic national retailer offering, thus displacing several immigrant businesses (Fieldwork interview, 2011). Without planning controls, affordable retail units within the Shopping Centre are simply not a realistic solution. One measure the local authority is able to take based on the PPS4 and SA document is to determine unit sizes. This is one way to make rents more viable for small businesses. Therefore, commercial threats should not underestimate entrepreneurial adaptability. Current rents at the Shopping Centre are considerably high and immigrant businesses have managed to craft unconventional retail spaces demonstrated through the market stands, kiosks and added units within and outside the Centre. If the availability of alternative retail spaces is retained in the redevelopment plans, current independent proprietors have a chance of survival at the Shopping Centre.


It is probable that at least some businesses at the Shopping Centre will be displaced through the process of redevelopment. In spite of this it is possible to create thriving conditions for these businesses in an alternative location within the regeneration area of the Elephant & Castle. The findings of this dissertation provide an outline of the specific forms and distributions of immigrant businesses at the Shopping Centre, yet the findings are also meant to provide a template for policy to understand the workings of such manifestations in a variety of localities, realizing that each neighborhood will also have its particular characteristics that need to be investigated.

The small independent businesses at the Shopping Centre are dependent on specific spatial conditions for their success. One essential component, especially in the absence of affordable rents, are multiple sizes and typologies that enable both easy entry and the ability to ‘scale-up’ as the business grows. Entrepreneurs are inventive in acquiring spaces, therefore the design of retail units need not be prescriptive, rather retail spaces should be flexible enough to be appropriated and re-adapted for the entrepreneur’s needs. As seen in the Shopping Centre, entrepreneurs not only set up shop in designated retail spaces, they create retail spaces on blank walls, niches and residual areas. Equally essential is the policy framework that allows for such flexibility and appropriations of space. The de-regulation at the Shopping Centre allows for entrepreneurs to not only inhabit these spaces but adapt them to their particular business needs, revealing innovative ways of product marketing as well as exposing the social dimensions of independent proprietorship. For entrepreneurship to thrive, spaces need plasticity in both design and policy terms as well as the aptitude to append new components into the landscape that aid proprietors in their business. This could include additional retail space or multiple seating to accommodate the social nature of these establishments. Considerations should be made to create the spatial circumstances for inclusion of diverse groups in these spaces. The findings of this dissertation show that women, a commonly excluded group in terms of self-employment, succeed in a privatized space such as the Shopping Centre. The Centre provides an interior space with multiple retail sizes as well as easy set-up and storage of products creating a setting of comfort and convenience for women, where they are able to be self-sufficient in their businesses. Although the majority of female-led businesses reside within the interior spaces of the Shopping Centre, the ‘caravan’ typology present at the outdoor market also provides similar spatial characteristics to the Centre’s interior space, showing that various retail designs could provide a comfortable environment for women to be self-reliant. The new retail spaces proposed at the Elephant & Castle need not only respond to the inclusion of women in business start-ups but also incorporate typologies that would encourage other groups in self-employment, for example the younger generation. The social dimension of independent businesses also needs to be recognized in the redevelopment of the Elephant & Castle not only in terms of retail but also in terms of the local demographic. The businesses at the Shopping Centre are heavily dependent on a steady clientele of local consumers which are responsible for the longevity of many long-standing businesses. Proprietors

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state that their businesses were negatively impacted by the relocation of the residents of the soon to be demolished Heygate Estate adjacent to the Shopping Centre (Fieldwork interview, 2011). It is key that these establishments are able to maintain relationships with their ‘regulars,’ as the social interaction between proprietors and customers are an essential component to the success of small businesses, and a differentiating factor between chains and independents. This does not necessarily mean that the demographic composition cannot change, as small businesses at the Shopping Centre even acknowledge that the so-called ‘gentrifying’ residents from the new Strata residential tower have started to also become steady clients (Fieldwork interview, 2011). If some businesses from the Shopping Centre are relocated into new retail units in the neighborhood, developers and planners should be sensitive to the fact that independent retailers are dependent on client relationships that have been created over time.

“For entrepreneurship to thrive, spaces need plasticity in both design and policy terms as well as the aptitude to append new components into the landscape that aid proprietors in their business.”

Lastly, the interdependencies between chain retailers and independent businesses should be recognized in new retail schemes. Along with national studies, this dissertation shows that independent businesses rely on larger retailer’s influence for increased footfall and linked-trips. It is key to mix independent and chain retailers in order to maximize benefits not only for small businesses but also to increase diversity of retail and to retain and enhance the character of the neighborhood. The size and amount of national retailers should be kept in balance with independent businesses in order to maintain this healthy competition. As shown in the case study of the Shopping Centre, small retailers will be resourceful in their responses to competition through price and variation of products, however developers and planners should keep in mind that these resources are not infinite, and when faced with the magnitude of national retailers, even entrepreneurial quick-wittedness is unable to subsist.


The Elephant & Castle Shopping Centre is not the most attractive, well-designed piece of urban fabric, yet the lack of these qualities have in a way enabled it to gain what is sometimes difficult to achieve in built form: flexibility, adaptability and the aptitude for its users to appropriate the space in creative ways. It has been an unintended design outcome that has created the space for immigrant entrepreneurs to direct the forms and distributions apparent at the Shopping Centre.

The entrepreneur’s journey is not without its challenges as shown in the findings of this dissertation. It is a landscape of easy entry and fierce competition relying on cheap commercial premises, local demand for products and the ability to compete with duplicate businesses and national chains. The dissertation has shown that immigrant entrepreneurship is mainly an urban issue, manifesting in cities, and thus dependent on specific spatial conditions including connectivity, residential density and a demographic demand for ethnically-specific products. However, the fine-grained analysis of this case study reveals that in the flexible conditions of the Shopping Centre, spatial forms are essential ingredients for independent proprietors to secure upward mobility. These adaptive forms provide the tools for entrepreneurs to respond to change thus becoming resilient in the unpredictable conditions inherent to self-employment. The constraints of entrepreneurship are resolved through the availability of these spatial platforms combined with the ingenuity of proprietors. For example, the high rents of typical shop units at the Shopping Centre are remedied through the availability of multiple scales of alternate retail space such as kiosks, market stands and residual spaces that are more affordable through their size. The physical attributes of these spaces and objects also enable frequently excluded groups, such as women to partake in entrepreneurial activities. It is a nuanced approach that exposes how interior spaces, seating, easy assemblage and storage combine to create an inclusive environment for women at the Shopping Centre. Similarly, independent proprietors respond to fierce competition through the sophisticated understanding of larger retailers clout, thus arranging themselves accordingly to these forces.

The findings of this dissertation conclude that the Shopping Centre provides the spatial form and flexible regulation for immigrant entrepreneurs to organically manifest the economic and social exchanges that are intrinsic to upward mobility. The Shopping Centre, regardless of its physical appearance, is an esteemed part of the Elephant & Castle landscape. Not only because of its familiarity but mostly because of its endurance to withstand the changes that have become an integral part of the neighborhood. Its current iteration exemplifies the vibrancy of immigrant populations that have in fact appropriated the building not only for the purpose of economic exchanges but as a living and breathing social establishment. Perhaps what is most remarkable about the Shopping Centre is that it embodies the essence of the neighborhood, not only in its current life but as an ever-changing, continually adaptive piece of urban fabric. It can only be hoped that the impending design and management of this structure can retain its adaptive and flexible nature for its future occupations of space.

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Barrett, G., Jones, T., McEvoy, D., 2001. Socio-economic and policy dimensions of the mixed embeddedness of ethnic minority business in Britain. Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, 27/2: 241-258. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/13691830125088 [Accessed 9 May 2011].

Communities and Local Government, 2009. Planning Policy Statement 4: Planning for Sustainable Economic Growth. London: TSO. Available at: http://www.communities.gov.uk/publications/planningandbuilding/planningpolicystatement4 [Accessed 5 August 2010].

Communities and Local Government, 2009. Planning for Town Centres: Practice Guidance on need, impact and the sequential approach. London: TSO. Available at: http://www.communities.gov.uk/publications/planningandbuilding/towncentresguide [Accessed 5 August 2010].

Crawford, M., 1992. The World in a Shopping Mall. In M. Sorkin, ed. 1992. Variations on a Theme Park. New York: Hill and Wang, pp. 3-30.

Drinkwater, S., 2010. Self-employment amongst ethnic and migrant groups in the United Kingdom. In OECD. 2010. Open for Business: Migrant Entrepreneurship in OECD Countries. OECD Publishing, Chapter 7. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/9789264095830-en [Accessed 19 July 2011].

Elephant & Castle, 2011. Elephant & Caste. Available at: http://www.elephantandcastle.org.uk [Accessed on 1 July 2011].

Greater London Authority, 2011. The London Plan: Spatial Development Strategy for Greater London. London: GLA. Available at: http://www.london.gov.uk/thelondonplan [Accessed 10 August 2011].

Hall, S., 2009. A Mile of Mixed Blessings: An Ethnography of Boundaries and Belonging on a South London Street. Ph.D. The London School of Economics and Political Science.

Kloosterman, J., van der Leun, J., Rath, J., 1999. Mixed Embeddedness. (In)formal economic activities and immigrant business in the Netherlands. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, 23/2: 253-267.

London Borough of Southwark, 2011. Elephant & Castle Supplementary Planning Document/ Opportunity Area Planning Framework: Sustainability Appraisal Scoping Report (draft for consultation). London: London Borough of Southwark. Available at: http://www.southwark.gov.uk/downloads/download/2604/elephant_and_castle_sustainability_appraisal_scoping_report [Accessed 10 August 2011].

LSE Cities Programme, Lopez Negrete, S., Chatterjee, N., Moser, E., Broderick, J., 2011. Mile End: Stepping Stone Street. In Cities Programme, 2011.City Street. MSc. The London School of Economics and Political Science.

NEF, 2005. Clone Town Britain. Available at: http://www.neweconomics.org/sites/neweconomics.org/files/Clone_Town_Britain_1.pdf [Accessed 12 July 2011].

Office for National Statistics, 2001. Neighborhood Statistics. Available at: http://neighbourhood.statistics.gov.uk [Accessed 10 July 2011].

Portes, A., Guarnizo, L., Haller, W., 2002. Transnational Entrepreneurs: An Alternative Form of Immigrant Economic Adaptation. American Sociological Review, 67/2: 278-298. Available at: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3088896 [Accessed 14 January 2011].

Watson, S., 2006. Markets as Sites for Social Interaction: Spaces of Diversity. Bristol: The Joseph Rowntree Foundation. Available at: http://www.jrf.org.uk/sites/files/jrf/1940-markets-social-interaction.pdf [Accessed 9 May 2011].

Westfield London, 2011. Take a Closer Look: The Future of Retail is Now. Available at: http://uk.westfield.com/london/ [Accessed 1 July 2011].

Wrigley, N., Branson, J., Murdock, A., Clarke, G., 2009. Extending the Competition Commission’s findings on entry and exit of small stores in British high street: implications for competition and planning policy. Environment and Planning, 41: 2063-2085. Available at: http://www.envplan.com/abstract.cgi?id=a41326 [Accessed 19 November 2010].


Figure 1St. Modwen, 2011. Press Release. St. Modwen properties PLC.

Figure 2, 3 & 4Bing Maps, 2011. Elephant & Castle. Available at:http://www.bing.com/maps [Accessed 20 August 2011].

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Interviews and conversations conducted as fieldwork research.








Community Forum

Prime developer of Elephant & Castle

Local authority


Richard & Betty

Shopping Centre owner


Shopping Centre

Shopping Centre

Shopping Centre

Shopping Centre

Shopping Centre

Shopping Centre

Elephant & Castle

Developer’s Offices

Local authority’s offices

Written statement

Written statement

Written statement


5 July 2011

5 July 2011

16 July 2011

25 July 2011

25 July 2011

25 July 2011

28 Jul7 2011

3 August 2011

3 August 2011

10 August 2011

10 August 2011

24 August 2011