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Street petrol station shops as an alternative to missing local food suppliers – Contribution to the German discourse on ‘Daseinsvorsorge’: A German view

Neumeier, Stefan
Applied geography 2015 v.60 pp. 150-164
food purchasing, food retailing, gasoline, geography, issues and policy, people, planning, politics, retail marketing, rural areas, sales, staple foods, supermarkets, Germany
Services of general interest fulfill people's daily needs and are important for their well-being. In Germany, interacting socioeconomic and demographic processes currently lead to a spatial concentration of such services. Rural areas are particularly affected, resulting in a deterioration of living conditions. Nevertheless, although in the media and in policy these processes are intensely discussed against the background of the German political and scientific discourse on ‘Daseinsvorsorge’, little is known about their dimensions. However, such knowledge is important for both policy and scientific policy advice, as ‘Daseinsvorsorge’ is a key concept in German spatial planning discourse, rooted in the normative political goal of guaranteeing comparable living conditions throughout Germany. This goal includes the aim of ensuring a sufficient offering of services indispensable for life throughout the country. One subject area where a spatial concentration can be observed is retail food sales. As a consequence, especially in rural areas, the network of food shopping locations becomes more wide meshed. Against this background, the German petrol-sector claims that in rural regions, petrol station shops (PSS) might replace a missing local food retailer. Based on the data from an accessibility analysis of petrol stations, supermarkets and discounters, together with considerations on the assortment of PSS, the article analyses the potential of such shops to fulfill this function in rural Germany through the lens of ‘Daseinsvorsorge’. The analysis reveals the following: (1) PSS still mainly serve impulse shopping needs, offering only a very limited assortment of staple foods; (2) in the majority of regions with no supermarket or discounter accessible by foot, PSS are also not accessible by foot; and (3) by car, the picture is very similar. Considering these points, it can be concluded that in Germany, PSS cannot at this time fully replace a missing local retail trade, especially in rural areas.