Journal Articles 2021

This page contains details of some of the recent journal article publications by Leigh Sparks. Pre-print versions of these articles are available online from the University of Stirling’s Depository (STORRE) in most cases, or contact the author or Leigh Sparks directly.

Maria Rybaczweska and Leigh Sparks (2021) Ageing consumers and e-commerce activities, Ageing & Society, Published online 25th January 2021, DOI:

Technology, and particularly the internet, has transformed consumer and business behaviours. An ageing population is impacted by these contextual and operational changes. Understanding these impacts within an ageing population is important for businesses, organisations and individuals, and their e-commerce activities. Our study increases understanding about the online behaviour of older consumers. Our research question is: what is the impact of age and individual and household characteristics on the online behaviour of older consumers? This is important given the increasing assumption that all consumers are digitally enabled. We use data from the first wave of an innovative longitudinal study in Scotland (HAGIS – Healthy Ageing in Scotland) to explore ageing consumers and e-commerce activities. The United Kingdom (including Scotland) is the world’s third largest e-commerce market, thus providing a suitable context. Our findings point to a shifting relationship between ageing consumers and e-commerce activities. Age is related to e-commerce activities but the ‘break-point’ for these activities is older than normally identified in academic and business practice. Sex is not a differentiator of activity but marital status is. Age and the contextual situation impact e-commerce, and have implications for access and capability, and link to questions over isolation. Important issues are raised for business and organisational practice, around service and other delivery for older people.

Phillips  J., Walford N., Hockey A and L. Sparks  (2021) Older people, town centres and the revival of the ‘high street’. Planning, Theory and Practice, DOI:

Concern for the future of town centres and their retail cores, the ‘high street’, is not new. Responses to this have often been somewhat one dimensional, focusing on their role as places of consumption, employment, leisure and heritage. We consider the potential multiple roles of older people in helping revive and rejuvenate town centres given the centrality of place for healthy supportive living, community and social participation and ‘ageing in place’. Taking an environmental gerontology perspective, we ask whether the WHO age friendly cities/communities’ framework should be considered further in approaches to reviving town centres in a post-Covid-19 world.

Leigh Sparks (2021) Towns, High Streets and Resilience in Scotland: A Question for Policy? Sustainability, 13 (10), 5631 DOI:

The “death of the high street” has become a common refrain, particularly in the United Kingdom, often accompanied by calls for action and demands for improved resilience in town centres and high streets. This paper considers the policy context for towns and town centres in Scotland and the recent review of the country’s approach to towns, town centres and places. With the adoption of National Outcomes linked to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and the declaration of a Climate Emergency, the conclusion is drawn that a more fundamental and radical shift in policy is needed, if the resilience of town centres is to have any meaning, and that a clearer and more widely understood conceptualisation of resilience needs to be developed.

Leigh Sparks (2021) Editorial – origins, reflections and ending. International Review of Retail, Distribution and Consumer Research, 31. 499-510, DOI:

This editorial (my final act as editor of IRRDCR) provides details of the origins of IRRDCR arising as it did from the break-up of the relationships behind the short-lived International Journal of Retailing and explains the particular approach we (Founding Editor Professor John Dawson and I) stood for and tried to champion, arising from a distinctive European approach to retail research and a counterpoint to the approach to academic retail research in the United States. The second section of the editorial provides two sets of reflections; first on the editorial process and then secondly on retail research itself.  The IRRDCR began in pre-email and pre-internet times and ends where everything (almost) is automated.  There are benefits and drawbacks to this, and I discuss some of them.  Retail research itself has altered as the wider pressures of academia and its management of the ‘research process’ have taken their toll.  Again, I reflect on these changes and the stresses and strains they produce (as well as the benefits).