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Business Performance in Walkable Shopping Areas

Posted by Content Coordinator on Tuesday, December 10th, 2013


Executive Summary

Walkable commercial districts are a key component of communities that promote active living. Walking has great health benefits, including helping people maintain a healthy weight. This report examines whether there are also economic benefits to businesses in walkable communities. The study consisted of a meta-analysis of 70 studies and articles. However, there have been few studies that address economic performance directly and the author conducted an exploratory study of 15 walkable shopping areas judged as successful to examine the sources of success.

Key Findings

  • There is great enthusiasm for walkable shopping areas among retail experts, developers and many residents of urban and suburban areas;
  • Walking shopping areas have a potential to prosper as a result of demographics, increased gas prices, public policies encouraging higher densities and changing life style preferences;
  • Businesses can be successful if such areas reach a critical mass, cater to diverse needs, are located in higher density areas or have good mass transit service, and have a supermarket as an anchor;
  • With success, enterprises in walkable shopping areas are able to pay higher rents for their space, and housing near walkable commercial areas commonly sells for higher prices than in more distant areas.


While the economic performance of walkable shopping areas is worthy of continued empirical research, including interviewing merchants, all the evidence seems to suggest that walkable retail is on the upswing, and likely to grow over the next several decades. Since 45% of daily trips, on average, are made for shopping and running errands, encouraging walking is an important strategy in reducing obesity and improving health. It is also important to reducing energy usage and carbon emissions.

Pedestrian-Friendly Neighborhoods: Germantown Avenue, Philadelphia & Upper West Side, NYCDownload full version (PDF): Business Performance in Walkable Shopping Areas

About the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
“For more than 40 years the Foundation has brought experience, commitment, and a rigorous, balanced approach to the problems that affect the health and health care of those it serves. When it comes to helping Americans lead healthier lives and get the care they need, the Foundation expects to make a difference in your lifetime.”

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