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Fieldwork: Shopping habits


Love it or hate it, shopping is part of everyday life. The ways that we are now buying goods whether it be the staples such as milk (convenience goods) or those higher priced items such as clothing or household goods (comparison goods) is changing. What are the impacts on the high street, the environment and ultimately for us, the shoppers?

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Length of time

2-3 hours.


Suitable location

Local high street, Central business district, town centre, out of town retail park.


Equipment needed

Recording sheet/tablet, local maps.



  1. To observe and identify shopping habits and changes in the local area.
  2. To identify the impacts of these changes on local stakeholders.
  3. To consider how these changes can be managed.


Key skills

  • Observation techniques
  • Questionnaire design
  • Sampling strategies
  • Decision making
  • GIS
  • Environmental quality survey


Suggested delivery

Before going out discuss with the students their shopping habits – where do they go? Why? What about other members of their household? What would be their dream shopping experience?

  • Could the class create their own survey/questionnaire to capture this beforehand? Focus on the skills of question setting – closed and open questions, but also the sampling technique to ensure the views are representative of a variety of ages and backgrounds. (Do this in Survey 123 or Microsoft Forms to speed up the collation) – What does it tell you – online shopping, too many vacant shops, not enough choice or lots of national chains?

Back in the classroom

What are the impacts of this change on the stakeholders in the local area? This could be framed as a decision-making exercise or debate.

What will their high street look like in 5, 10 and 50 years? Could you look at different data presentation techniques or support numeracy  percentages, mean, mode, median, ratio.

  • Visit your local high street and consider the impact the environmental quality has on the shopping experience. Get students to design their own survey criteria and agree on the scoring system. Does the environmental quality decline as you move away from the high street? And/or Count how many vacant shops are there? Are there more national stores (clone town characteristics) than local stores (Hometown)? If you have any out of town shopping centres could you complete the exercise and compare when you next visit?

Back in the classroom

How could this be plotted on a base map or by using Survey 123 and GIS?


Potential risks to consider

  • stranger danger if visiting local shopping facilities
  • traffic
  • if looking at shopping centres or retail parks, make sure you have permission to visit
  • smaller groups are easier to manage in these environments.


Possible follow up activities

Invite a number of local speakers in to talk about the challenges and changes retail is facing – town centre managers, council officers or a local shop owner may all provide good insight.



Use the Wayback app as part of Teach with GIS – ESRI to compare aerial images of your local shopping area to identify out of town shopping centres on greenfield sites or regeneration on brown field sites. The app will show you changes over the last 10 years.


This collection of Fieldwork activities was created by the Fieldwork and Outdoor Learning Special Interest Group (FOLSIG) for the National Festival of Fieldwork, the GA invites everyone to take part during the summer term.

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