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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Spatial perspectives at the consumer-store interface Taylor , Stuart Martin

Abstract

The understanding of consumer spatial behaviour, and of the forces influencing the spatial organisation of urban retail activity, can be advanced through an analysis of the processes operating at the consumer-store interface. Such an analysis can contribute to the development of models of consumer spatial behaviour which combine predictive accuracy and theoretical adequacy. A review of the literature indicates that this combination has not characterised the models previously developed in the course of retail geographic research. A model formulated in the field of consumer behaviour theory serves as the conceptual framework for analysing the process whereby a consumer forms preferences for particular stores. This process involves complex interactions at the consumer-store interface between two basic variable sets comprising consumer characteristics and store characteristics. In essence, preferences are formed as the outcome of the consumer comparing perceived store characteristics with a set of predetermined evaluative criteria. These preferences relate to the set of store characteristics which the consumer interprets as sources of satisfaction in the course of shopping experience. The measurement of consumer attitudes towards salient store characteristics provides the basis for operationalising the conceptual model of store preference formation. An empirical study was conducted to identify the structure of consumer preferences for clothing stores and to derive consumer groups consisting of individuals with relatively similar attitude profiles. Unstructured interviews with consumers served to determine a set of salient attitudinal items. These items were then incorporated within a modified Likert attitude scaling instrument, which was administered to a convenience sample group comprising undergraduate students and their parents. The data obtained was factor analysed to identify attitudinal dimensions. Ten factors were extracted which indicated that concepts such as "boutiqueness", "cheapness", "security", "convenience", "exclusiveness" and "reliability" were appropriate to describe the structure of the clothing store preferences of the sample group. Factor scores were computed for each of the respondents and a hierarchical grouping technique was used to derive six consumer groups. Interpretation of the "representative group profiles' showed that the groups could be equated with recognisable shopper types, including the 'teenage boutique' shopper, the 'bargain store' shopper, and the high class 'specialty store' shopper. The findings of this empirical study require further validation and extension in the course of additional research; nevertheless, they indicate the potential utility of attitude measurement as a basis for explaining the spatial preferences of consumers in the retail environment. This is a step towards the development of models which can adequately explain and accurately predict consumer spatial behaviour.

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