Consumer Contextual Learning: The Case of Fast Fashion Consumption

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis (monograph)

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Consumers are dedicated and committed to figuring out ways and creating investigative activities to keep up with a fast-moving retail market. These ways and activities are in this study seen as learning activities, which focus on getting to know the marketplace. The context is the fast fashion marketplace in which offerings are desirable because of their limited availability. This temporary character appeals to the study of consumer learning since it continually offers new reoccurring opportunities for learning.

The aim of the study is to advance understanding of consumer learning by developing the concept: consumer contextual learning. In contrast to previous work in consumer research, which understands consumer learning by experiments in labs, this concept goes beyond cognition and highlights the notion of marketplace participation. It puts the context of learning activities at the centre, while understanding learning as social and taking place in interaction with people and the marketplace. In more detail, this approach allows for identifying and exploring the characteristics of learning activities and how consumers engage in these activities. The methods employed to explore consumer contextual learning consist of group interviews with fast fashion consumers, and observations of fast fashion retail stores.

The concept consumer contextual learning is built on Aspers’ contextual knowledge concept, Lave and Wenger’s work on situated learning and communities of practice, and it is divided into three dimensions: collective participation in the context, contextual sources of inspiration, and being present and close to the context. To address what consumers do as they learn in the marketplace these three dimensions focuses on everyday consumption practices, and the findings show a spectrum of learning activities, such as spotting, timing, tracking and imagination. These findings demonstrate how the fast fashion context encourages a strategic-oriented behaviour among consumers. Consumers further employ fast and slow learning activities to get a sense of control of the fast-moving marketplace, and use the logic of speed and efficiency to get instant gratification from the newly acquired items.

This dissertation contributes to existing consumer research by identifying how consumers learn as participants in social and cultural contexts. Specifically it points out how consumer learning is situated, it is a constant connection and presence in the marketplace. It contributes to the growing literature on time and shopping by showing how consumers learn the rhythm of the marketplace, and a new type of shopping emerges: fast shopping. It shows how the value of the object is transformed; it is not about the item in itself but about having the competence to acquire the latest items faster. Finally it contributes to work on consumption meanings, meaning is tied to the knowledge one has and the capability to learn.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Department of Service Management and Service Studies
  • Kastberg, Gustaf , Supervisor, External person
  • Andersson Cederholm, Erika, Supervisor
  • Bardhi, Fleura, Supervisor
Award date2017 Jun 8
Place of PublicationLund
ISBN (Print)978-91-7753-252-1
ISBN (electronic) 978-91-7753-253-8
Publication statusPublished - 2017 Jun 8

Bibliographical note

Defence details
Date: 2017-06-08
Time: 13:15
Place: U203, Campus Helsingborg
External reviewer(s)
Name: Parmentier, Marie-Agnès
Title: Associate Professor
Affiliation: HEC Montréal Business School

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Social Sciences Interdisciplinary


  • learning
  • consumer learning
  • participation
  • context
  • group interviews
  • time perception
  • time work
  • shopping
  • fast shopping
  • newness
  • fast fashion


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