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Evolving perceptions of assortments, image and customer experiences in retail environments

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posted on 15.11.2016, 10:25 by Cathryn A. Hart
Consumers perceptions of retail stores, the assortment of products and the locations in which they are situated, all influence consumers decisions about where, when and how to shop. In the highly competitive arena of retailing, this knowledge greatly affects retailer performance and marketing strategy. Despite this strategic importance, the literature lacks empirical research into the assortment of categories offered in retail stores and their influence on store image. Moreover, image conceptualisation for different retail contexts is fragmented and the consumer image perceptions of categories are unexplored. Recent attention has shifted to customer experience research, yet this literature refers to the consumers interaction with one retailer, when consumer shopping journeys may include many retail interactions. The research presented in this thesis addresses the above gaps, contributing to theory and knowledge in the area of retail marketing. The thesis comprises eight papers published over a 17-year period. It examines the perceptions and roles of retail assortments; category perceptions and management in retail stores; customer perceptions of image and experiences of town centres. The thesis draws from a range of empirical studies documented within the eight papers. These include: a comparative study of ten major retailers assortment strategies; a survey of 504 consumers perceptions of supermarket assortments; a qualitative study involving six national focus groups of apparel consumers; and a survey of 536 consumers across five regional city centres. The studies are informed by two literature reviews documenting retail assortment research and town centre research. Collectively, the thesis delivers a significant research contribution to knowledge and theory. The first four thesis papers clarify the strategic relationships between retail assortment and image. The following two papers identify new perspectives of image congruence and relationships between category and store image. The final two papers consolidate all previous contexts in a multi-faceted retail image construct, emphasising the previously neglected psychological image elements. Fundamentally, consumers experiences in town centre retail environments contribute to the ongoing process of holistic image creation. The findings demonstrate that as retail environments change, consumers perceptions are also evolving from a functional, static image perspective to a dynamic, experience driven concept. The research commentary concludes by outlining future research agenda.



  • Business and Economics


  • Business


© Cathy Hart

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A Doctoral Thesis. Submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the award of Doctor of Philosophy of Loughborough University.