The development of a scale for the measurement of the perceived importance of the dimensions of apparel store image

Janse van Noordwyk, H. S. (2008-03)

Thesis (PhD (Consumer Science. Clothing and Textiles))--University of Stellenbosch, 2008.


The current apparel retail environment is marked by intense competitive activity. The key to survival is the implementation of effective differentiation strategies. Corporate and retail branding provides retailers with a powerful tool to differentiate themselves in the marketplace and store image is a vital component of this branding strategy. This exploratory study set out to investigate the underlying theoretical structure of store image. A store image scale was developed for the measurement of the perceived importance of store image. The study adopted a five phase methodology, namely (1) construct definition and domain specification, (2) generation and judging of measurement items, (3) purification of the store image scale, (4) assessing the reliability and validity of the store image scale, and (5) assessing the perceived importance of the dimensions of store image in selected discount and specialty stores through practical implementation of the store image scale. The first two phases of the study resulted in a Model of Store Image delineating the underlying structure of store image which formed the basis for a store image definition, as well as a 232-item store image scale with established content and face validity. Phase 3 comprised two pilot studies that served to purify the store image scale. The first pilot study concluded in a 214-item scale that was deemed too lengthy for practical implementation in the apparel retail environment. The second pilot study resulted in a 55-item store image scale that was deemed acceptable for practical implementation. Correlation analysis provided support for the shortened version of the store image scale. The scale was not representative of all the sub dimensions associated with store image. This was reflected in the Revised Model of Store Image. Phase 4 employed a mall-intercept research method. The sample population (n=534) consisted of apparel consumers, both male and female, between the ages of 20 and 60. They belonged to the black, coloured or white population groups who patronised specific apparel retail outlets. Trained fieldworkers gathered the data at selected discount and specialty apparel stores. Confirmatory factor analysis was performed on the data and results provided support for the reliability of the store image scale. The Atmosphere, Convenience, Institutional, and Promotion dimensions exhibited good model fit. The Facilities and Sales personnel dimensions, as well as the Revised Model of Store Image showed evidence of acceptable model fit. The Merchandise and Service dimensions demonstrated poor fit. Only the Sales personnel dimension showed convergent validity. Support was found for marginal convergent validity of the Atmosphere, Convenience, Facilities, Promotion, and Service dimensions, as well as the Revised Model of Store Image. The Institutional and Merchandise dimensions did not exhibit convergent validity. Apart from the Convenience and Service dimensions, discriminant validity for all dimensions was established. Item analysis identified seven scale items for deletion which could potentially result in better model fit of the individual dimensions as well as the Revised Model of Store Image. The deletion of these items could contribute to increased convergent and discriminant validity. For purposes of Phase 5 the data gathered during Phase 4 was submitted to statistical analysis. Results indicated that discount and specialty apparel store consumers ranked the Atmosphere, Promotion, Merchandise, Institutional, and Sales personnel dimensions similarly in perceived importance. Discount apparel store consumers ranked the Facilities and Convenience dimensions higher, whilst specialty consumers ranked the Service dimension higher. However, the differences in ranking for all dimensions remained relatively small for both store types. Statistical differences in the perceived importance of only two dimensions, namely the Institutional and Service dimensions were found. The study culminated in revised 48-item store image scale. A Final Model of Store Image and definition of store image were proposed as point of departure for future research.. The main implications for retailers were formulated as: 􀂍 The Final Model of Store Image identified the dimensions and sub dimensions of store image. Retailers should manipulate the tangible and intangible store attributes associated with these dimensions and sub dimensions to build a favourable store image. Due to the gestalt nature of store image it is imperative that all store image dimensions are presented in a cohesive and consistent manner. 􀂍 The store image scale will enable retailers to ascertain which dimensions are salient to their target consumers. These dimensions should be incorporated in the retail strategy.

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