How Do Consumers Define Retail Centre Convenience?


The 1980s and 1990s have been labelled the 'decades of convenience'. In spite of this, retail research has often indicated that when compared with other shopping motives, consumers assign relatively less importance to the convenience of a retail centre when deciding where to shop. Such counter-intuitive findings could be due to the way in which academics have defined retail centre convenience. This study develops and tests an alternative definition. Comprising 16 attributes, it represents a fourfold increase over any existing definition. Subsequent empirical analysis provides strong support for the alternative definition, with respondents indicating that 14 of the test attributes serve as convenience attributes. The failure of existing definitions to incorporate so many of these attributes is a likely explanation behind the counter-intuitive proposition that convenience often serves as a less-than-salient determinant of retail centre patronage.

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How Do Consumers Define Retail Centre Convenience?

1. Introduction

It is claimed that a fundamental role of retailing is to provide convenience (Merrilees and Miller, 1996) and this is set down in the basic set of services that retailers provide to their customers. Retailers provide convenience in the form of temporal and spatial utility in order to facilitate possession utility. Because consumers' time and effort are finite resources, retail environments must be designed accordingly if they are to secure patronage. This accounts for the inception of such retail innovations as home delivery, Internet shopping, EFTPOS. automatic vending machines, drive-through windows and self-checkout counters (Liebeck, 1996). The nature and purpose of such innovations led to both the 1980s (Gehrt and Yale. 1993) and 1990s (Rubel. 1995) being dubbed the 'decades of convenience'.

In spite of this notion, academic research continues to report that consumers assign less importance to convenience than other shopping motives (McEnally and Brown, 1998). Such counter-intuitive findings may be due to the poor way in which academics have defined convenience rather than the importance consumers actually assign to it (Seiders et al., 2000; Berry et al., 2002). The purpose of this study is to redress this problem by developing a definition of retail centre convenience based on consumer beliefs about its meaning. The rest of this paper is structured as follows: first, a review of literature examines existing definitions and serves as the basis for developing an alternative conceptual definition. The methodology for this study is then described, followed by an empirical analysis of the proposed alternative definition and then conclusions.

2. Review of literature

Somewhat surprisingly, given the number of studies that have reported on its importance, no pre-determined effort has ever been made to define retail centre convenience. This review of literature t...

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