This study aimed to provide empirical evidence of factors that would enhance consumers internal evaluations of the retail environment and shopping experience in an interior retail outlet, as well as their subsequent purchase-and patronage intentions, as an indication of the effort and the expertise that is required to attract and retain consumers in a highly competitive market. To understand consumer purchase- and patronage intentions towards retail environments of interior retail outlets in a South African context, the Stimulus-Organism-Response (S-O-R) model as proposed by environmental psychologists Mehrabian and Russell (1974) was used as the theoretical framework for this investigation. Willing respondents (consumers) were recruited by the researcher and trained assistant through a store intercept method at a selected interior retail outlet located in a trendy shopping destination in Pretoria (Tshwane), South Africa. Only a real-time setting, i.e. an actual interior retail outlet, could provide a scenario that incorporated both atmospheric- and merchandise cues needed to form perceptions of the overall benefits (hedonic- and utilitarian value) provided by the shopping experience. The unit of analysis included willing consumers irrespective of their gender, age, ethnicity and income, who entered the selected interior retail outlet during the specific time frame. A total of 272 useful questionnaires were retrieved upon completion of the data collection process.
Data analysis involved descriptive statistics, exploratory factor analysis, confirmatory factor analysis, t-tests, ANOVAs and the relevant post-hoc tests. In terms of consumers internal evaluations of selected in-store stimuli as presented in the retail environment of an interior retail outlet, three factors emerged through exploratory factor analysis which indicated the factors perceived by customers when in the store. These factors merged several more specific factors that are described in literature and were labelled in accordance with their content, namely: General store image cues (Factor 1), Social cues (Factor 2) and Accessibility cues (Factor 3). This study confirms that consumers internally evaluate in-store stimuli, comprising atmospheric- and merchandise cues in the retail environment in a more holistic way to construct a general store image. This study also confirms that positive (favourable) atmospheric- and merchandise cues as presented in the retail environment are pertinent drivers of General store image cues (Factor 1). Accessibility cues encompassed space planning and navigation (layout), in-store information and signage (functionality), as well as consumer crowdedness. Findings indicate that positive (favourable) General store image cues and positive (favourable) Accessibility cues in the retail environment of an interior retail outlet are prominent to enhance consumers internal evaluations (perceptions) of an interior retail outlet. Social cues (similarity, physical appearance and suitability of other consumers) were perceived slightly less favourably and this could be attended to by retailers to enhance consumers overall perceptions.
Through confirmatory factor analysis, seven factors were identified to investigate consumers internal evaluations of the experiential value (hedonic- and utilitarian value) perceived when shopping in an interior retail outlet. Hedonic value perceptions were measured through four factors, namely Visual appeal (Factor 1), Entertainment value (Factor 2), Escapism (Factor 3) and Intrinsic enjoyment (Factor 4). This study confirmed highly positive perceptions of experiential value provided by visual appeal and intrinsic enjoyment in the interior retail outlet and positive perceptions of entertainment value and escapism. Results showed significant differences in the perceptions of males and females as well as among population groups. In terms of all the factors, females perceptions were significantly more positive. The white population group was also significantly more positive compared to the black population group, which means that more effort should be made to excite men and customers from the black population group even though their perceptions were fundamentally positive.
Consumers perceptions of utilitarian value were measured through three factors, namely Efficiency (Factor 1), Economic value (Factor 2) and Excellence (Factor 3). Again females perceptions were significantly more positive for all the dimensions of utilitarian value. Similarly, the black respondents perceptions were less favourable compared to the perceptions of white consumers and other population groups. This study confirms that positive perceptions of efficiency, economic value, as well as excellence would enhance consumers experiential value perceptions of the shopping experience in an interior retail outlet. An investigation of consumers response behaviour towards interior retail outlets showed that two factors are relevant as identified through exploratory factor analysis, namely Patronage- (Factor 1) and Purchase intentions (Factor 2). Patronage intentions were strongly positive while purchase intentions were favourable but less pertinent than patronage intentions. Significant differences for Purchase intentions (Factor 2) were confirmed for gender and population group categories, with females and white consumers significantly more positive. In conclusion, more effort should be made to enhance men s perceptions and patronage as well as purchase intentions and to impress black consumers who are increasingly forming a more noteworthy part of the consumption scape in South Africa.