Young households who are new to the interior goods market pertinently experience the financial implication of major purchases, such as furniture or appliances. Due to the high start-up expense of furnishing a home, younger consumers may not be able to afford all the durables they need simultaneously, and would therefore have to deliberate and prioritise their spending in terms of the different interior product categories and zones in their home. In this deliberation, households will justify their expenditures on the basis of the need they have for the perceived value or meaning a room or object has. It is proposed that consumers often evaluate and purchase objects for its symbolic meaning rather than for its pragmatic, functional value or meaning. Since individuals define themselves and others in terms of their possessions and appearance, the home serves as the ideal social environment in which to convey a desired message regarding the household's identity and values. Extant research shows that a common order of acquisition of household durables exists for different consumer groups, and that different consumer groups attach different levels of importance to the symbolic meanings of products and appearances. Consequently, this study set out to investigate and describe young households' allocation of financial and physical resources (i.e. money, effort and attention) toward specific interior product categories and different zones in their home; to investigate and describe households' justification for the allocation of their resources in terms of the functional utility, symbolic meaning (specifically status) and aesthetic appeal of interior products and zones; and to investigate and describe whether young households from different population groups (specifically White and Black) and income groups differ in their interior choices. These objectives were approached from the symbolic interactionist, cultural and multiple mental accounting perspectives. Data was collected from 277 respondents residing in Tshwane, Gauteng during May to December 2011, by means of a structured questionnaire. The sampling criteria were age (25-39 years), location (Tshwane) and home occupancy status (owning or renting a home with multiple rooms). Findings indicated that young households valued a room mostly for its perceived symbolic meaning, then its aesthetic appeal and lastly its functional purpose, but conversely valued the utilitarian purpose of an interior object the most and its symbolic meaning the least. Most resources were therefore allocated to rooms in the social zone, since this area presents more opportunities for appearance and impression management, by means of social symbols, than other, less public areas of the home. Furniture, as interior product category, was households' largest expenditure, possibly due to the role furniture's utilitarian purpose plays in making a home functional and liveable. Regardless of their level of income, Black households allocated more resources to the interiors of their homes for symbolic- and aesthetic-related reasons, than their White counterparts. There was no significant difference between population groups in terms of their tendencies to allocate resources toward the interiors of their homes for utilitarian reasons. No significant differences were observed among the three income categories regarding the allocation of their resources, except when physical resources were allocated toward the interiors of zones in their homes for aesthetic reasons. In this particular instance, households in the upper income category (> R29 000) devoted the most effort and attention to the appearance and emotional appeal of their interiors. The findings of this study have useful implications for retailers, buyers and forecasters in the household furniture, appliances and equipment sector, as well as for consumer facilitation. Retailers may incur noticeable losses if they underestimate the importance of interior goods‟ functional qualities, relative to their symbolic and aesthetic utility. In terms of visual merchandising, retailers may benefit from displaying interior goods as part of a 'room' instead of displayed as separate entities, since consumers, especially Black consumers, would pay more attention to the contextual symbolic and aesthetic meanings of interior goods. The findings also contribute to existing literature, which is dated and limited regarding households' acquisition of interior durables, as well as the functional, symbolic and aesthetic motivations that guide households' allocation of resources towards different zones and interior product categories in their homes, especially in the South African context. Copyright
Dissertation (MConsumer Science)--University of Pretoria, 2012.