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Title: The Specification of Store Environments: the role of store design-architecture in the consumer perception of retail brands
Author(s): Murray, John
Supervisor(s): Elms, Jonathan
Keywords: Design-Architecture
Consumer Psychology
Retail Branding
Store Environments
Structural Equations Modeling
Environmental Psychology
Issue Date: 2014
Publisher: University of Stirling
Abstract: The overall focus of this doctoral thesis is the examination of the role of store design-architecture in consumer perceptions of retail brand loyalty. More specifically, it examines how consumers’ perceptions at the store design-architecture level promote brand loyalty and attachment at the overall retail-level. This research, therefore, aims to address the underdeveloped extant knowledge of the role of the store design-architecture in retail branding. This thesis addresses two research questions: 1) is it possible to improve on the specification or measurement of the store environment beyond the novelty, complexity collative constructs proposed in traditional studies of the store environment?; and 2) what effect, if any, do these improved store environment constructs (from answering research question number one) have in explaining the role of store design-architecture in consumer perceptions of retail brand loyalty? In its examination of the role of store-level design-architecture in overall retail-level branding, the theoretical significance of this thesis is based on two activities. First, this thesis proposes a conceptual framework that draws on multiple, diverse literatures from design-architecture, psychology and marketing. The critical review of pertinent literatures from these three sources then enables the second activity: the generation of novel empirical insights based on surveys of consumer perceptions of store-level design-architecture. A research instrument is developed that compares higher and lower levels of design in two stores of Penneys, a discount fashion retailer. The responses of 145 consumers are examined in an Exploratory Factor Analysis (EFA). A separate dataset of 403 consumer responses are analysed using Confirmatory Factor Analysis (CFA) and Structural Equations Modelling (SEM). Multiple-group invariance testing is also completed on this dataset. The primary theoretical contributions of this thesis to the extant literature are five-fold. First, the principal contribution of this thesis confirms that store aesthetic preference is positively associated with retail brand loyalty. Thus, the second research question is satisfactorily addressed; I explain that there is a mild association between store aesthetic preference and the emotionally valenced retail brand attachment construct in higher-level design contexts. Instead, a store aesthetic preference association is observed with the more behaviourally valenced retail brand loyalty construct in lower-level designs. Consequently, this principal contribution to the extant literature reveals the perceptive dynamic of how consumers processing of store-level design-architecture correspond with their perceptions of retail-level brand loyalty. A host of global-attribute, objective-subjective, and cognitive-emotional perceptive processing at the store and retail levels are observed in the proposed theoretical framework. Second, to confirm the role of store design-architecture in retail brand loyalty, I develop: a new scale for retail brand product; modify scales for store prototype, store novelty, store aesthetic preference, store complexity and retail brand price; and introduce scales for brand attachment and brand loyalty from non-retail contexts into a retail context for the first time. This research, therefore, addresses research question number one by making a notable conceptual and measurement contribution to the specification of the store environment. Third, as a progression from the previous contribution, I use these improved store environments constructs to better specify the store environment, and examine the associations between store prototype, store novelty and store aesthetic preference. I demonstrate that theory such as the preference-for-prototypes literature helps to improve the extant understanding of the associations between store prototype, store novelty and store aesthetic preference. The confirmation of the existence of these associations essentially means that the proposed model is robust, credible and able to account for consumers objective-subjective, global-attribute discriminations of the store-level aesthetic. Fourth, in an effort to explain the relative visual and non-visual contributions to retail brand attachment and retail brand loyalty, I examine associations concerning retail brand product and retail brand price. Retail brand product is confirmed to have stronger associations with retail brand attachment than store aesthetic preference or store prototypicality. Thus, this research extends the extant knowledge of the relative contributions of visual and non-visual constructs to understanding retail brand loyalty. Fifth, this research contributes to the extant understanding of how non-invariance analysis can be employed in Structural Equations Modelling (SEM) to confirm differences between groups. This research examines differences in parameter values to confirm differences in perception of the higher and lower levels of store design-architecture. This type of use of non-invariance analysis is not frequently employed in SEM and I propose that this research instrument can be generalised to other retail contexts also. Finally, this thesis concludes by presenting the limitations of this research. It makes suggestions on potential future research that could be completed, and raises some pertinent implications for practitioners arising from this research.
Type: Thesis or Dissertation
Affiliation: Stirling Management School

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