Gaining competitive advantage in retailing requires knowledge of the attributes consumers use to discriminate between stores and an understanding of why these attributes are important. Although a number of store-image studies (e.g., Kelly and Stephenson 1967; Lindquist 1974; Hallsworth 1987) have identified discriminant attributes, no study has related its findings to any buyer-behaviour theory and the links between store attributes and buyer behaviour remain largely speculative. In addition, evidence suggests that these attributes vary by store type (Tigert 1983) and over time (Davies 1992); thus existing studies are rarely useful to new situations, e.g. UK grocery retailers. The article explores the prima facie case for using perceived-risk theory in analysing store perceptions and sets out definitions of store risks in this context. We propose Kelly's repertory-grid methodology as the most useful method of assessing store image and attempt to relate store attributes to customers' patronage preferences using perceived-risk theory, which no other study has done. In-store interviews revealed Tesco was perceived as having high financial, but low time risk; Kwik Save had low financial, but very high time risk; and Aldi had low financial and low time risk. Implications for retail positioning strategies are discussed.