The main objective of this study was aimed at determining whether young urban consumers' choice of interior soft furnishings is based on extrinsic characteristics with the intention of gaining social acceptance and conveying positive attributes to others. It is argued that, when consumers buy products, they in fact purchase the total product that includes everything that adds value to a seller's offering. As such, consumers may use extrinsic and\or intrinsic variables to conclude the most suitable purchase decision in terms of the outlet and brand of product. Intrinsics refer to the tangible, core characteristics of the product, such as the raw materials it consists of and are usually easy to imitate. Extrinsics on the other hand, are used and even manipulated to make products more appealing to a specific target group in a crowded market place and include differentiating features such as packaging. Since the research was focused on describing and understanding, qualitative methods were used for data collection. Focus group discussions, projective techniques and product comparison tests were included for the purpose of triangulation. Participants were allowed to respond spontaneously to various tasks and intrinsic features were accommodated to objectively reflect on the collective influence of both intrinsic as well as extrinsic variables and whether extrinsic characteristics dominate choice or not. Intrinsic characteristics were found to seldom form the basis of differentiation and extrinsic characteristics seem to playa determining role in young urban consumers' choice and use of soft furnishings such as towels and sheets. The evidence suggests that several retailers have succeeded in not only value engineering their product offerings to satisfy buyers' and users' minimum requirements for expected extrinsic attributes, but that they have also succeeded in augmenting their offerings through the addition of further extrinsic benefits. The findings strongly suggest the use of potential extrinsic attributes such as brand names, especially retail brands, to differentiate products. The evidence however also suggests that the outcome of past purchase decisions can alter perspectives of these attributes and that the acquisition of consumption related knowledge is a lifelong learning process. A conclusion drawn from the data collected, is that retailers have succeeded in creating store images that reflect the relationship between consumers and reference groups to which they (want to) belong. These findings underpin the importance of social acceptance and the relevance of the social dimension of brands. The relevance of the mental dimension of brands is supported by evidence that suggests that a relationship between the young urban consumer's self-image and the image of a specific outlet of soft furnishings is likely to occur. The findings coincide with the symbolic interactionist perspective that human society demands and depends on symbolic life. It appears as if interior products are purchased from certain outlets to serve as symbols to define/ represent realities, initiate responses, provide cues and organize behaviour in terms of what is considered appropriate. The study shed some light on young urban consumer's approach to the choice of interior soft furnishings, which could be extended to other product categories and consumer groups for use by the marketing sector in terms of consumer facilitation as well as the evaluation and development of marketing strategies.
Dissertation (MSc (Interior Merchandise Management))--University of Pretoria, 2005.