‘You are where you shop’: Examining stereotypes about town center shoppers

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The future role of the town center as a retail hub is uncertain. Despite being a historical meeting place, town centers have been struggling for decades to attract customers and retain retailers after the development of out-of-town centers and advancement of online shopping. Previous retail research has mostly used rational explanations and strategies like improved access, pricing, and retail mix to deal with this situation; but this study uses the stereotyping framework that traditionally examined user imagery associations. Town centers have historical charms, cultural establishments, and high streets, which may give rise to certain stereotypical judgments of consumers who prefer or dismiss town centers over other channels, such as more mass consumption-oriented out-of-town centers or online retailers. Could stereotyping be an alternative way to generate alternative strategies to cope with the decline of town center retailing? In two experiments with representative samples (total N = 703), we found that town center shoppers were perceived to be more likable, cultured, and moral, but less frugal than out-of-town and online shoppers. We further observed that status and polarization were central to our postulation as the results were moderated by income type such that only employed, but not welfare-recipient, town center shoppers were perceived positively. These findings not only support the role of symbolic consumption and stereotypes in retail channels, but also provide strategic marketing implications for town centers where retailing activities are in decline.
Sidor (från-till)242-252
TidskriftJournal of Retailing and Consumer Services
StatusPublished - 2019

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