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The impact of perceived crowding on consumers' store patronage intentions: Role of optimal stimulation level and shopping motivation

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Past empirical studies leave open the question of whether perceived crowding has a positive or a negative effect on shopping outcomes (Eroglu, Machleit, & Barr, 2005; Hui & Bateson, 1991). Based on the premise that shopping is a social phenomenon involving hedonic as well as utilitarian motivation, this study hypothesizes an inverted U-shaped relationship between perceived crowding and consumers' store patronage intentions. Additionally, past research considers the mediating role of emotions in the relationship between perceived crowding and shopping outcomes. In this research, the authors argue that consumers' cognitive evaluations of the store and its merchandise also mediate the perceived crowding−patronage intention relationship. Survey results of actual shoppers (n = 201) in a hypermarket in India demonstrate that there exists an optimal level of crowding that maximises consumers' store patronage intentions. The effect of perceived crowding on patronage intention is mediated by the emotional dimension of pleasure and store evaluation. Further, the effect of perceived crowding on emotions and evaluations appears to be moderated by consumers' optimal stimulation level. In particular, the inverted U-shaped relationship of perceived crowding with pleasure and merchandise evaluation is increasingly manifested with increases in optimal stimulation level. The results also reveal that the effect of pleasure on patronage intention is stronger for individuals who score high on hedonic motivation than for individuals who score low on hedonic motivation. The article provides potential research and managerial implications of the findings.
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Keywords: arousal; crowding; patronage; retailing; stimulation; store atmospherics

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Indian Institute of Management, Calcutta, India 2: Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur, India 3: DEI, Agra, India

Publication date: 2013-05-01

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