Atmosphere in fashion stores: do you need to change?

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Abstract:

Purpose ‐ The aims of this paper are to establish: a typical women's apparel store environment as a realistic base for measuring the effects of changes; effective environmental stimuli levels; and the effect of repeated exposure on affect. Design/methodology/approach ‐ A schema of typical stimuli is developed through literature, observing 212 stores, and surveying 39 women's fashion retail GMs. An experiment (n=489) establishes the set of stimuli and effective levels for creating affect for a women's fashion store. Shoppers (n=62) were repeatedly exposed to combinations of the two sets (industry standard and "ideal") to examine whether decay in affect occurs, and whether changes can mitigate this. Findings ‐ Interactions between sensory stimuli have a significant effect on fashion shoppers' affect for a store. Fashion retailers are less differentiated in their use of sensory stimuli than they could be to achieve the responses they expect. Stagnation from repeated exposure can diminish affect for the store whereas small changes in stimuli levels can revitalise and increase affect. Research limitations/implications ‐ A model of sensory stimuli-based relationships with shopper affect should incorporate interactions. Empirically, different stimuli can easily be added or substituted within a dimension to test its effect within a factorial design. A model of fashion store atmosphere is likely to require a mediating influence of repeated exposure. Practical implications ‐ It is worthwhile getting the "correct" package of stimuli for a fashion store's atmosphere. This does not necessarily require wholesale changes; rather small changes in stimuli level can enhance a store. Originality/value ‐ The paper presents the only study to use a holistic approach to store atmosphere and base effectiveness measures against the fashion industry norm, and consider the effect of repeated exposure.
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