Quality is a multi-dimensional concept and can be viewed from different perspectives (Fiore &Kimle, 1997:5). From the professional women’s (consumer) perspective career wear quality can be measured on both tangible (functional or sensory) and non-tangible (emotional, cognitive and importance of the self and others) levels. From the retailer’s perspective quality is measured mostly based on intrinsic product features (durability), thus relating to one component of career wear quality of professional women. The discrepancy between the two may result in consumer dissatisfaction and impacts negatively on return sales to the retailer. Quality evaluation occurs at two stages during the consumer decision making process. Firstly, quality is evaluated in-store, during the decision-making stage, and secondly during product use. The quality indicators that professional women use during these stages may not be the same. In this study an exploration was thus done on the tangible and non-tangible quality indicators that professional women use to evaluate career wear quality both during the purchase decision-making stage and during product use. Each of these was measured according to its importance to the respondents during the decision-making stage and during product use and subsequently compared, since the importance of quality indicators may differ between the two stages. The systems theory approach was used to compile the conceptual framework for this study. The systems perspective acknowledges the sequence, relationship and interdependency of the individual indicators that are used to evaluate clothing products. These indicators are considered as so-called inputs and are transformed in terms of outputs, which are interpreted in terms of customer satisfaction or dissatisfaction. The respondents were full-time employed professional women in the legal, financial, engineering and medical industries, as these women require the suitable qualification and registration with the appropriate professional body. This group has spending power and their third largest household expenditure is clothing products. A snowball technique was used to recruit participants/respondents for both the qualitative phase, during which a focus group was held, and for the quantitative data collection (questionnaire) phase. The qualitative technique (focus group) was used to gain insight into the exact quality indicators and specific terminology the target population uses when evaluating career wear quality during the purchase decision making stage and during product use. The questionnaire was compiled against the theoretical background and the information gained from the focus group. Through the use of t-tests and the Pearson’s correlation coefficient it was found that respondents used similar quality indicators to evaluate career wear quality both during the decision-making stage and during product use. Tangible quality indicators were seen as significantly more important than non-tangible quality indicators to respondents during both stages of quality evaluation. Appropriate and adequate information regarding tangible quality indicators must thus be made available by retailers to professional women at the point of purchase. This may ensure consumer satisfaction during product use and facilitate return sales for the retailer.
Dissertation (MConsumer Science)--University of Pretoria, 2011.