have attempted any detailed analysis of this feature. Perhaps one notable exception is the work of Kilingender (1951) on the business characteristics of small shop-keepers in post-war Hull. In addition, the sociological nature of this study served to underline the difficult working hours that the shop owner had to endure; while much earlier work by Parker (1932) on Merseyside had already drawn some attention to the 'poverty-line' conditions under which many small businessmen operated. The purpose of this paper is to examine some of the ownership and employment characteristics of small shops operating within an established and relatively stable urban community. It is hoped that a detailed study of the past business experience of small shopkeepers will aid in the assessment of their future business potential, given that other factors affecting their performances are also taken into consideration. Significantly, this research was prompted initially by the interest shown by local planning authorities in the contribution that small businesses make to local employment within the Swansea area. Survey analysis and the study area As an initial part of a longer term study on employment to be under- taken by the local planning authorities, questionnaires were circul- ated to all the shops in a part of east Swansea (see fig. 1). Of the shops contacted 63 responded with information concerning types of employment, previous business experience and number of hours worked. It was hoped to define small shops on the basis of turnover per annum but the overall response to this question was extremely low. As a valid alternative employment levels were used and a small shop was defined as an establishment which employs up to three full-time or six part-time employees (Beechofer, Elliott and Rush- worth, 1971). The area of study lies one mile North of Swansea's central shopping area and consists of a few scattered industrial hamlets that gradually coalesced as the city expanded during the nineteenth century (fig. 1). The retail pattern of this area is essentially a mixture of nucleated and 'ribbon-type' growth, the former being the remains of the old village centres. Perhaps the clearest example of such relic features is to be found at Brynhyfryd, where the shops form a tight cluster around what was once the village square. In contrast there is a considerable amount of ribbon development of shops, dating from the late nineteenth century, along Llangyfelach