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Retail store image : a conceptual study Becker, Wilfred

Abstract

The concern of this paper is to conceptualize a better understanding of the term "image" as it appears in marketing literature especially in relation to products, brands, corporations and retail stores. The primary emphasis is upon retail store image; how it forms, why it forms, what shape it takes and how it may be changed. The need for clarification of the term "image" is vital if marketers are to evolve strategies which will enhance the sale of their goods. The concept of retail store "image" is developed by introducing the formal theory of attitudes as formulated in social psychology, in an effort to show that attitudes give rise to images and that by understanding the nature of attitudes, retail store management might better understand the forces which determine and change the store image. Two propositions are forwarded which serve to provide the theoretical framework for the discussion. The first proposition states that retail store "image" can best be explained in terms of attitude theory and that images are but simplified attitude summations and provide the consumer with a ready preference map of stores arranged in a hierarchical scale. The second proposition theorizes that specified groups tend to form similar "image" maps of preference in a relatively uniform way and with relatively uniform salience. The determinants of store attitudes and therefore images are analyzed carefully. Firstly, the functional, qualities of store location and parking, store hours, layout and display, price and quality relationships, depth and width of assortment and store services are presented as being fully controllable by the retailer. Psychological attributes such as the character of sales personnel, packaging, advertising tone and style of merchandise are also analyzed as controllable determinants. Finally, the uncontrollable determinants of group influences and status connotations are dealt with as they intervene between the store's actions and the perception of these actions by consumers. The study concludes with an attempt to relate the propositions presented with theories of consumer behaviour as presented by other writers in the field of marketing. The model of buyer behaviour evolved by John Howard appears to reinforce the image model presented in this paper. Irving Crisp, dealing with attitude theory in marketing, also adds weight to the formulation of "image" theory upon the base of attitude formation and change. Finally, the theoretical model of Victor Vroom is presented to emphasize the concepts of instrumentality and expectancy as prime factors influencing attitude and image formation.

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