Leuphana College Study shows: Village Residents do not feel underserved

People in the Lüchow-Dannenberg area do not consider shopping a difficulty, even if there are no stores in their immediate vicinity. This is the result of a new Leuphana College study. Five Bachelor students of Leuphana University Lüneburg spoke with about 200 residents in seven villages, whose nearest shopping opportunities are between 11 and 15 kilometers away.
 
 “We were surprised that the residents were in large part not unsatisfied,” said the political science student, Julia Radoske. “They have worked out a solution to their situation and have found a practical way to provide for their daily needs.” Ninety-six percent of those questioned carried out their shopping while driving to work. About a third said they would like to have more shopping options close by. However, only ten percent were prepared to pay more money for a mobile provider or delivery service. Only two percent of non-mobile residents relied on provisions provided by relatives or neighbors. The response rate for the questionnaires was just below fifty percent. “For this kind of survey, that is an unusually high response rate which demonstrates the general interest in the topic of daily shopping,” Julia Radoske explained.
 
Rural shopping opportunities are considered a problem across Germany. Estimates indicate that of the approximately 160,000 villages that existed in 1970, only a quarter survived. Up to eight million rural inhabitants are thus considered to be “underserved.” “We asked ourselves whether there are residents in the most remote areas, who might be having difficulty providing for their daily needs,” said Jürgen Schwarz from the rural district of Lüchow-Dannenberg. In April the students presented him and 20 other interested parties from city government, the media, and social services with their results in Lüchow.  They also pointed out that the residents of the villages they studied were highly mobile.

In light of recent demographic changes, the students are convinced that one can anticipate a decline in the mobility of the rural population. Looking to the future, they recommended an increase in additional shopping options, such as: supermarkets on wheels with a complete range of goods, open for business outside the usual working hours; markets in a central plaza, where suppliers such as bakers, butchers, grocers and frozen foods distributors could sell their wares during regularly established hours; cooperative stores. In order for these options to work, popular interest needs to be raised and their market viability tested. 

Students surveyed the villages of Grippel, Laase, Pretzetze, Siemen, Zadrau and Dünsche. Their study received support from Dr. Stefano Panebianco from the Lüneburg office of regional rural development and from representatives from the rural districts of Lüchow-Dannenberg, Uelzen, Harburg and Lüneburg. Also included in the survey was Thorsten Hensel, who operates a health food store in Lüchow.

The study, under the direction of Prof. Dr. Peter Pe, is one of almost fifty College studies carried out by Leuphana University Lüneburg. This semester, as part of the regional development project, Innovation Incubator, Bachelor students are carrying out a research project with businesses, organizations and other stakeholders in the region.