In this study the objective is firstly to determine which quality cues adult female consumers use when purchasing apparel for formal and casual daywear. The second objective is to use this information to develop an online guide for apparel consumers. As no South African apparel retail website currently supplies more than sizing and care related information, this study could fill the need for more textile information that could serve as a guide when consumers purchase garments on the Internet. Although studies concerning the Internet as new shopping environment and the Internet consumer are on the increase, only a few studies have been specifically aimed at the problems that online apparel consumers encounter regarding the disadvantages of not being able to actually see, touch / handle or try on the garment before making the decision to buy (Beck, 2002; Fiore&Jin, 2003, Sasaki, Ikeda& Shimizu, 2004). A need also exists for empirical research on the South African Internet apparel consumer as, with one exception (Jacobs, 2003), the studies referred to were planned and executed in America, Asia and, to a lesser extent, in a European context. Another important issue in the South African context is that very little textile information is supplied in any retail environment. Consumers often have only a very limited textile knowledge, which is usually based on experience. By developing and implementing a consumer guide, consumers could be educated to demand more accurate and informative textile labelling to help them when making purchase decisions. This research is descriptive as an attempt is made to describe and understand behaviour, tendencies, and situations. It is exploratory as it aims to obtain insight into a relatively new area of study, namely the online consumer of textile products. The last phase of the study can be seen as applied evaluation research as the testing of the effectiveness of the quality assessment guide is the ultimate goal of the research. A social-cognitive perspective was used in the study. Consumer decision-making theory and script theory are both used to explain consumer behaviour in the new Internet environment. Career women took part in the study. A quantitative research style was used. For both the first and final phases of the study structured questionnaires were used and the snowball sampling technique was used as primary sampling method. The responses to the questionnaires were coded, captured and analysed. From the results it is apparent that South African career women lack general textile knowledge and seldom have the ability to relate physical fibre and fabric properties to performance properties. They therefore often act on their emotions during apparel assessment and purchasing. The results underline the importance of supplying textile information to facilitate decision-making. Results from the final phase of the study indicate that by supplying information the online consumer is able to make more confident decisions. The study makes a valuable contribution to understanding consumer behaviour, especially in a South African context. The results contribute to the body of knowledge regarding the Internet apparel consumer.
Thesis (PhD (Consumer Science))--University of Pretoria, 2007.