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Challenging market conventions: Supermarket diversification and consumer resistance in children's apparel purchases

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Purpose ‐ In the UK, while fashion apparel purchasing is available to the majority of consumers, the main supermarkets seem ‐ rather against the odds and market conventions ‐ to have created a new, socially-acceptable and legitimate, apparel market offer for young children. This study aims to explore parental purchasing decisions on apparel for young children (below ten years old) focusing on supermarket diversification into apparel and consumer resistance against other traditional brands. Design/methodology/approach ‐ Data collection adopted a qualitative research mode: using semi-structured interviews in two locations (Cornwall Please correct and check againand Glasgow), each with a Tesco and ASDA located outside towns. A total of 59 parents participated in the study. Interviews took place in the stores, with parents seen buying children fashion apparel. Findings ‐ The findings suggest that decisions are based not only on functionality (e.g. convenience, value for money, refund policy), but also on intuitive factors (e.g. style, image, quality) as well as broader processes of consumption from parental boundary setting (e.g. curbing premature adultness). Positive consumer resistance is leading to a re-drawing of the cultural boundaries of fashion. In some cases, concerns are expressed regarding items that seem too adult-like or otherwise not as children's apparel should be. Practical implications ‐ The paper highlights the increasing importance of browsing as a modern choice practice (e.g. planned impulse buying, sanctuary of social activity). Particular attention is given to explaining why consumers positively resist buying from traditional label providers and voluntarily choose supermarket clothing ranges without any concerns over their children wearing such garments. Originality/value ‐ The paper shows that supermarket shopping for children's apparel is now firmly part of UK consumption habits and choice. The findings provide theoretical insights into the significance of challenging market conventions, parental cultural boundary setting and positive resistance behaviour.
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Keywords: Children (age groups); Clothing; Conventions; Decision making; Parental decision making; Resistance; Shopping; Supermarket apparel; United Kingdom

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2011-09-20

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