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With centrality the degree of concentration of structural or controlling elements will abstract a system to only one ( center ), or only a few places ( polycentric hereinafter). These elements are also known as central local facilities. Centrality can be generated by central local institutions in various sectors (e.g. in the sectors of transport, trade, supply, administration, service, leisure, culture, education and health care). In this context, centrality relates to economic geography or spatial planning . The term is primarily used in studies in which economics , sociology and geography overlap, sometimes also for logistics and services . In this regard, reference is also made to the central places system, which is important for spatial planning in the Federal Republic of Germany .

The concept of centrality is of considerable importance for retail in the form of the retail centrality index (centrality index ): This expresses whether a region (e.g. city) has purchasing power or not. It can be observed, however, that the theoretical system of central locations, on which the centrality index reflects, does not largely correspond to the real shopping behavior of consumers. Consumers only partially base their supply activities on the criterion of proximity to a supply offer. The mix of offers (e.g. the combination of retail, cultural and leisure offers), cleanliness, security and convenience of the offer as well as the price and specialization of an offer ( depth of offer ) play an increasing role for consumers . Consumers are therefore prepared not only to go to the nearest center (especially when purchasing goods that do not serve to cover basic needs), but also to accept long journeys. For the most part, these trips are not based on the system of central locations. Particularly in urban agglomerations , in which the catchment areas of the centers and their central local facilities are complex and functionally divided, but hardly overlap hierarchically, the system of central locations is not suitable for accurately mapping the real supply behavior of the population.

The values ​​of a centrality index (better: retail centrality index) nevertheless provide urban planning and regional planning with certain pointers for areas in need of action. Furthermore, the retail sector (e.g. before the realization of agglomerations or shopping centers ) also checks this and other data in order to assess the economic viability of retail space.

In view of the breadth of the term centrality set out at the beginning, only limited conclusions can be drawn from the centrality index described here (which is limited to the centrality in the retail / supply sector). A comprehensive determination of the centrality of a location also requires the recording and evaluation of the centrality in the other sectors.

See also