A Shopping Experience Deconstructed
People develop complex emotional responses to changes in the immediate environment. Shopping is no exception to this rule, and thousands of people use shopping as an easy way to diversify their emotional experiences. The emotional basis and results of shopping have been widely recognized. Not surprisingly, in retail settings, everything is designed to ensure that customers achieve satisfying shopping results and contribute to the stores’ favorable market image. The most interesting, however, are the shopping experiences during trips. Very often, shopping becomes a major incentive for travelling. The goal of this paper is to reconstruct a shopping experience from my short but very productive tour to a different city and provide recommendations for future researchers.
Tourism provides vast opportunities for shopping. My recent journey to the neighboring city has opened new venues for exploring and analyzing my shopping experiences. Yuksel (2004) may be correct, when saying that shopping is rarely considered as the central motive for traveling. However, many buyers plan their trips, taking into consideration the shopping opportunities provided, along with their direct traveling experiences. Every time during my trips around the country I try to find at least two hours for retail shopping. I choose big malls that offer a unique combination of shopping and entertainment experiences. The main reason for shopping in my latest trip was to find a Halloween costume. I have used to the thought that I cannot find unusual things in the place where I live. Thus, an unusual Halloween costume has become the main product wanted during the trip. The store I chose for shopping was called simply “The Store”, and I do not think it belonged to any large network. I chose “The Store” because I was looking for unique shopping experiences, and I also expected that its prices would be lower than in big city malls.
Many Halloween stores today are located within large malls. The latter represent huge half-theatrical half-shopping projects, designed mostly to make the lives and shopping experiences of consumers more convenient (Csaba & Askegaard, 1999). I perceive malls as one of the chief signs of civilized shopping and retail urbanism, where every consumer can find what he (she) is looking for. Many consumers choose big city malls for their atmospherics: wandering around the long corridors with dozens of small stores can sometimes be much more pleasant than making a purchase. Shopping malls in big cities are truly multifunctional, and they are becoming more popular because “the merchant has always been and will always be most successful where his activity is integrated with the widest possible palette of human experiences and urban expressions” (Csaba & Askegaard, 1999, p.36). However, it is never too late to turn to smaller stores, with their unique atmosphere. This is why I decided to focus on a small store, while looking for a Halloween costume.
It should be noted, that the image and atmospherics of the store was very simple. The store was designed in ways that had to make shopping much more convenient and pleasant. Only two sales professionals were present there, and customers were free to watch, touch, choose, and try everything they would like to buy. The range of products was very diverse, and the prices were very attractive. As a result, many customers could leave with products they had not even planned to buy. I spent about 40 minutes in the store, but that was enough to find what I wanted and even more. I was very pleased with the help provided by the sales consultant, as well as with the cashier’s attitudes towards consumers. I was not the only customer visiting the store, but the sales person working in it was extremely professional dealing with all visitors simultaneously. Although shopping was not the primary motive of my trip (Yuksel, 2004), it helped to expand the scope of positive experiences generated by the journey.
Based on the most recent shopping experiences, I can suggest that the way sales people at the “The Store” treat newcomers does not differ from the way local consumers are treated. The discussed store does not fit in the urban atmosphere of postmodern shopping, where customers value the time and money and want to make quick shopping decisions. The store is the most suitable for consumers, who have time to enjoy the process of choosing and buying nice things. It allows customers to save their money and make additional, unplanned purchases when they see that some money from their initial budgets was left. This is exactly what happened to me when I entered “The Store”: looking at the prices and the quality of the products offered, I decided that I could buy two Halloween costumes instead of one, and some accessories for my family. It was a pleasure to see that the store was not crowded, since crowding in a retail setting had always been one of the major sources of unpleasant emotional responses among consumers (Machleit & Eroglu, 2000). The skills, knowledge, proficiency, and responsiveness of the sales person played the biggest role in creating the atmosphere of friendliness and openness within the retail outlet.
I cannot say that my experiences with “The Store” have changed my opinions and beliefs about shopping. As always, I regard malls as the most convenient and suitable environment for shopping. I truly enjoy the “theming” orientation of many shopping malls, where retail stores and outlets are located depending on their orientation, price, or the products they offer (Csaba & Askegaard, 1999). I enjoy the fact that shopping malls enable customers to make immediate and timely comparisons across individual products and product groups, their features, availability, and pricing. For those, whose shopping time is severely limited, city malls provide the widest and most reasonably priced shopping opportunities. However, it is never too late to turn to smaller shops with their unique, even cozy atmosphere. I believe that these stores could become a remarkable object for future marketing analysis.
Shopping is a unique source of pleasant emotional experiences for customers. Journeys to other places offer vast shopping opportunities. More often than not, modern customers are limited in their shopping time, and visiting city malls becomes the only and most relevant opportunity to find the most wanted products. At the same time, many buyers prefer small stores, with their unique atmosphere, and this segment of customers is likely to increase. For the reasons stated above, future researchers could focus on the analysis of the shopping motives of travelers and local customers, who prefer small stores to large city malls.
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