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Consumer spatial behaviour and its relation to social class and family status in metropolitan Vancouver, Canada Gayler, Hugh James


This study is concerned with the relationship between consumers' social class and family status characteristics and some spatial aspects of their shopping behaviour. In the past much of our understanding of how consumers behave spatially has been derived from studies of retail structure, and thus it has to be assumed that consumers behave in the same fashion; and where studies have looked at variations in behaviour they have concentrated on differences in retail demands or differences in the single, personal attributes (e.g. income or ethnic origin) which influence behaviour. Many of these personal attributes are interrelated, and in this study two such interrelationships are identified - social class and family status. A sample survey of consumers was undertaken in Metropolitan Vancouver, Canada; and using factor analysis it is possible to identify, and measure consumers according to, three dimensions (or interrelationships) among the socio-economic and demographic attributes asked for in the survey - social class and older and younger family status (two similar dimensions result from respondents being asked to identify their children by age group). Social class and family status are then related to two aspects of consumer spatial behaviour - travel behaviour, and in particular the distance and frequency travelled to shop for various goods and secondly the specific department store and its location chosen by the consumer. It is found that the higher the social class group, the greater the frequency shopping goods were purchased and the greater the distance travelled for groceries and dress. But for goods required less frequently and/or lacking a specialty nature (furniture, appliances and footwear) the differences in distance are not significant. On the family status dimension the low group (small families, invariably older and without children) often travel significantly shorter distances than other groups; the former reside mostly in the older areas, close to major shopping centres, and/or tend to shop at the nearest centre. Department-store preference is found to vary according to area. A significant polarisation of preference by social class is seen in downtown Vancouver, but in the outer suburbs, where the same firm has decentralised to widely differing social areas, similar allegiances are not found. Different department-store firms do not attract one particular family status group more than another. Differences are, however, related to geographic location with the downtown Vancouver and suburban stores attracting a significantly higher proportion of low and medium-high group consumers respectively.

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