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Capturing loyalty across garment ranges: the case of supermarket children’s clothing in the UK
In recent years, the UK clothing and fashion industry has undergone some major changes. While the demise of traditional high street brands such as C&A have been widely heralded in the media, a new phenomenon has dramatically Phone : +90 216 483-9704 Email:email@example.com changed the children’s garment landscape with the emergence of supermarkets as viable alternative providers. In a world where fashion is the prerogative of a substantial majority of D. Selcen O. Aykac the population, image, social status, personality, identity and self expression are so crucial and modelled around key top Sabanci University brands, the main UK supermarket chains seem - rather Faculty of Management against the odds – to have created a new, socially- acceptable Orhanlı, Tuzla, stanbul, 34956 type of fashion consumption. Have supermarkets own label Turkey brands really moved from ‘me too’ to suitable everyday prestige alternatives? In addition, while parents control Phone : +90 216 483-9675 Email:firstname.lastname@example.org purchases for the smallest children, are they convinced to stay loyal across the age ranges - without somehow stigmatizing themselves or their children? Our exploratory research Alan Hallsworth encompasses supermarket stores that are located on the outskirts of town - not accessible by walking from city Surrey University centres - as a reflection of current spatial change in shopping The School of Management patterns in the UK. Fifty nine interviews conducted in two Guildford ASDA and two TESCO stores in Devon and in Glasgow were Surrey. GU2 7XH. UK analyzed. Our theoretical perspective draws on a body of research covering areas such as intra-household economy and Phone : +44 (0) 1483 686357 relationships, children and childhood imagery, the consumer Email : email@example.com decision making process, and retailing. We surmise that, due to the nature of the products/services, clothing shopping is, in Catherine Canning effect, bringing new complexities for consumers which have yet to be addressed by most retailers’ marketing strategies. Glasgow Caledonian University While ease of access (through linked grocery shopping) price Fashion, Marketing & Retailing Glasgow Caledonian Business School and quality are perceived as the main decision factors, we reveal that style and design, commendation by word of Glasgow, G4 OBA, Scotland, UK. mouth, refund policies and assortment/variety also linked to multiplicity of usage are greatly influencing parental choice. Phone: +44 (0) 41 331 8268 We highlight the increasing importance of browsing as a Email: C.Canning@gcal.ac.uk modern improvisation choice practice (planned impulse buying). We then provide a re-definition of ‘taste and style’ and another view of what it could be to be a good parent. Supermarket clothing ranges are perceived as a way to help in grounding, forming and assessing future clothing consumptions. Key words: Supermarket clothing, parental decision making, sustainable loyalty, own label fashion
Capturing loyalty across garment ranges: the case of supermarket children’s clothing in the UK
Ronan de Kervenoael, Sabanci University, Faculty of Management, Istanbul, Turkey and Aston Business School, UK firstname.lastname@example.org / 90 (216) 483-9704 D. Selcen O. Aykac, Sabanci University, Faculty of Management, Istanbul, Turkey email@example.com / 90 (216) 483-9675 Alan Hallsworth, Surrey University, The School of Management, Guildford, UK firstname.lastname@example.org / +44 1483 686357 Catherine Canning, Glasgow Caledonian University, Caledonian Business School, Scotland C.Canning@gcal.ac.uk / +44 141 331 8268
Acknowledgements: We are grateful to Dr Steve Wood and particularly to Rebecca Hall, former student at Aston Business School UK, for her help in collecting some of the data in partial fulfilment of her MSc dissertation, and to Louise Morgan, research assistant at GCU for her assistance in collection of Scottish data. Introduction Over the last decade the UK clothing and fashion industry has undergone some major changes. Radical shifts include the entry of the main supermarkets and their growing recognition as viable clothing and brand alternatives. The UK has also seen the expansion of the leading international players, including GAP, Hennes and Mauritz (H&M) and Zara; the emergence of strong discounting companies such as New Look, Matalan and TKMaxx; and a wave of merger and acquisition within the high street, leaving entrepreneurs such as Philip Green and the Arcadia group with many traditional brands under one umbrella (Pretious and Love, 2006). At an international level, the clothing industry has suffered many setbacks including poor labour conditions in the country of production, generic environmental concerns and further delocalization of production (Klein 2002). From a marketing perspective, the ethos of fast fashion has become the norm with strenuous attempts made to secure ‘just-in-time’ production methods using ‘total quality management’ techniques. From a management perspective, the increases in the amount and range of affordable clothing along with the demise of quotas, mainly from China, have created a retail environment where product life cycles have become much shorter, to the point of clothing being perceived as disposable. Indeed, the cost of dry cleaning is now often more expensive than purchasing an equivalent new item (Rigby 2006). From a consumer behaviour perspective, fashion has become the prerogative of a substantial majority of the population, no longer seen just as a necessity and yet still retaining a strong discretionary value. Fashion consumption seems to have gained important ground as a clear way to define one’s lifestyle. Conversely, high-end clothing fashion seems to have become over-influenced by trends such as the ‘size zero syndrome’, an image that does not represent many actual consumers. The psychology of clothes shopping is not a new area of research (McNeal 1987; Zelizer 2002; Ross and Harradine 2004). In the case of children, it has been shown that immediate perception by others has a great influence on issues such as confidence, manners, self-respect but also on power, leadership and expression abilities as well as self-confidence, resourcefulness and inventiveness (Gunter and Furnham 1998; Hogg, Bruce et al. 1998). In today’s modern society where the number of children per household has significantly
decreased and they are often arriving later in the family life-cycle, the difficulties of parenthood related to children’s clothing choice seem to be exacerbated. This is portrayed in the media with the imagery of perfect children and childhood, often creating parental behaviour close to mass psychosis as a means to conform. A counter weight is also at work here, whereby many new parents who did not themselves have access to brands and consumerism culture when they were young may be overcompensating through their children’s consumption (Cook 1995; Martens, Southerton et al. 2004). Against that background, major supermarket chains in the UK have successfully established themselves as sustainable providers of garments for children with more than 20% of clothing, in volume terms, now being sold by them (Key Note 2000; Datamonitor Research 2006; Key Note 2006). Have supermarkets’ own label brands and the variety of selections really moved from barely acceptable ‘me too’ to suitable everyday prestige and value-liberated alternatives? In addition, while parents control purchases for the smallest children, are they convinced to stay loyal across the age ranges - without somehow stigmatizing themselves or their children? Our exploratory research encompasses two supermarket brands, ASDA and Tesco, and initially uses a series of fifty nine semi-structured interviews with parents (mothers) in two times three locations (Devon and Glasgow). Stores are paired and located within a ten mile radius - allowing for inter-supermarket brand insights (within and between) and perspectives across the garment ranges. This paper is organised as follows. In the second section, we provide a review of the literature on supermarket clothing and brand image. In the third section, we propose a wider conceptualisation of children’s garments as an own label and childhood. We introduce, in the fourth section, the concept of loyalty and decision making mechanism in the case of children clothing within households context and practices. In the fifth section, we describe the methodology. This is followed by a discussion of the emerging salient themes which are mapped through the empirical analysis of the data, provided in the sixth section. In the last section, we offer our concluding remarks and managerial implications.
Consumer Attitudes: Supermarket clothing and brand image Furness (2002) stated that supermarket own-label brands had moved from cheap ‘me-too’ alternatives to established brands. Within these brands, supermarkets now offer a diverse range of own-label sub-brands from entry level to premium clothing, reflecting success previously achieved in the food category. Tesco has developed a large number of sub-brands, Cherokee (2002), Florence and Fred (2001), Value, Organic Cotton Baby and Toddler brand Green Baby (2004) and Collection range (2006). Niche areas such as baby or sportswear (e.g. replica football shirts) are not overlooked, making Tesco a truly one-stop clothing shop and putting the chain in direct competition with many small high street independents. Barnes (2004) also noted that Tesco was perceived to be less worried about creating a distinction between food and clothing as its entry-level clothing range ‘Value’ had the same ‘title’ as its grocery brands. Yet, the future organic clothing by designer Katharine Hamnett and Collection ranges suggest that Tesco is also promoting a premium image. This is indeed reinforced by the new F&F Collection, designed by Lee Rees-Oliviere, which is Tesco’s most high-end clothing range to date. Tesco’s head of marketing for clothing Sean Murray justified the move thus: ‘Because customers trust Tesco for clothing, we want to offer them a full range of products. Customers, who had to shop elsewhere for something to wear to a wedding
or a job interview will now be able to buy those items from us too’. The range is being positioned as "DKNY meets Hugo Boss". A Tesco spokeswoman for the Cherokee label reported that: ‘The clothes are inspired in the same way as all the most popular labels. The quality speaks for itself though - it's on a par with Gap, or even better, because the supermarket is able to source the best materials’ and is supported though the usual celebrity endorsement with Supermodel Naomi Campbell starring in a new ad campaign for Tesco (www.tesco.com). In addition, Tesco is currently test trying their online channel for the clothing category with already early success in what can be considered as subdued market conditions (www.clothingattesco.com). Regarding Asda, its George range, created in the early 1990s, is now a brand in more than 10 countries with a turnover of GPB 2 billion in 2007. Following the fast fashion business model, 20% of stocks in the George range are turned round in just four to six weeks. Further initiatives ranging from ‘produced in the UK’ where manufacturers can present their idea to an Asda panel to the new ‘must have’ collection modelled by Wayne Rooney’s fiancée Coleen McLoughlin are also being pursued. These strategies have created a market in which everyone can afford to participate. The clothing must be good enough to appear in glossy magazines while becoming a budget ‘must have’ for the season. Long gone are the days where supermarket labels may have been cut out or hidden. Fashion democracy has led to two trends, no price exclusion and the mixing of supermarket bought clothes with more expensive labels. It is now seen as good fashion shopping practice to have bought something that looks so good for so little and that mixes so well (Winterman 2006). Asda has also already ventured in the accessories sector with over 150 in-store jewellery outlets including watches and wedding rings (Poulter 2005). ‘It blurs the line between what we need and what we want and increases the accessibility of clothes to an extent where we are faced with no rational explanation to refuse purchase’(Famarkis 2007). For many income-constrained shoppers it would not be possible to indulge in each season’s fickle trends without access to supermarketpriced clothing. The supermarkets clothing effort has to be located within the wider directions of the marketing imagery of the mainstream fashion industry. When discussing fashion and fashion brands, names come to mind from Channel, Dior, Louis-Vuitton, Moet Hennessy (LVMH), to Yves Saint Laurent etc. Yet, over the last 20 years new aspects of fashion have emerged, with brands like Jean Paul Gautier, Tuerry Mugler, Kenzo , Yohji Yamamoto, Karl Lagerfeld to Gap, Diesel, CAT, Monsoon and Ralf Lauren. While the elitist stance seems to be fading, one common impression made by many commentators is that “it’s not enough to look fashionable – one wishes to appear intelligent as well” Picart in (Tungate 2004, p.40). Accessories have also become the latest fad within the mix of brands and styles. Accessories seem to have no limits from traditional jewellery and sunglasses to furniture, music and the absolute necessity of a perfume range. No brands are immune from partnerships (Y-3 Yamamoto and Adidas) or the need for ‘massluxe’ or ‘masstige’. Mixing style and accessories has become the ultimate in good shopping and demonstration of taste. Diesel has often been portrayed as anti-fashion fashion. This led the path to brands such as H&M and Zara and, to a certain extent, the supermarket own brands. In the same spirit many brands have moved away from catwalk models and even traditional glossy advertisements to just rely on point of sale differentiation and word of mouth to create their own definition of exclusivity and brand meaning. “Customers expect shopping to be the brand experience” Gianluca Brozzetti in (Tungate 2004, p.70). But fashion seems to be extremely fickle and does require certain types of risk that many major corporate brands have difficulty in explaining to third parties such as
the stock exchange. All these reflect a recognition that customers relate to products and services in ways that go beyond their perception of the purely functional value of those offerings. It is also attached to a notion of enduring competitive advantage that cannot be simply based on novelty. Retail brand meaning and retail format: The case of children’s garments as an own label It is important to remember that we are studying the strategic development of the clothingsector own label - we are not modelling their performance once adopted. Whilst purchasing patterns for own label products can be modelled (even across nationalities, (Ehrenberg 1968), we argue it is important to recognize that both the nature of the offer and consumer behaviour (hence loyalty) have evolved. This, we believe, adds detail to work such as that by Corstjens and Lal (2000) who demonstrated the positive performance of high value-added own brands. That performance, however, whilst clearly demonstrating benefit, does not explain the adoption of such products in the first place (Richardson and Jain 1996; RussellWagner and Kamakura 1997; Grewal 1998). In Britain, retailer own labels (give or take some sub-sector trends) have been steadily growing in the last two decades and have now stabilized at around 40%. It is important to note that, if not universally recognized by consumers, it was always known by those involved in retail that many reputable manufacturers did indeed produce own label. Markets and brands are socially constructed and the patronage of stores may also demonstrate loyalty to a specific social context (Granovetter 1992) . Hughes’ (1996) work stresses the significance of retailers such as Marks & Spencer (historically an own-label-only retailer) in pioneering high added value items for an emergent ‘yuppie’ market. Marks and Spencer, it should be recalled, dominantly retailed non-food and with an all-own-label "St Michael" retailer brand offer until the turn of the millennium. In respect of groceries, Burt (2000) has contended that many own labels are now superior to manufacturer brands. Own label has now reached a critical mass in Europe both in terms of profit and management but also in both the consumer shopping basket and their ‘mindspace’. In fact, Asda in 2002 had 8,500 own label food lines and 3,500 non-food. This represented about half of the sales in its 256 UK stores (Land 2002). We argue, therefore, that there has been a remarkable rise in the scale and scope of own label products in Britain – especially in the Asda chain (Kirby 2000). As a result they have become part of the everyday retail consumer experience and are earning more and more loyalty. Another important aspect of own label development in the UK is the technological revolution that has occurred in retailing, particularly in the last decade. As researchers such as Fernie and Sparks have made clear, a logistics revolution led by Tesco directly re-configured the supply chain in Britain (Sparks 1993; Fernie, Pfab et al. 2000). Driven by point-of-sale data and an emergent emphasis on own label, the market leaders through the 1980s and 1990s developed regional distribution centers (RDCs) (France and Garnsey 1996; Hopping 2000; Bonney 2002). Large volume own label fits better with new logistic models than layer-picking using mixed product tote bins and partly full pallets. The main problem for leading supermarkets is that they are faced with challenge of managing multiple brands and own label. They obviously do not control the image of all of the merchandise that they sell – indeed it is precisely the product mix of a given retailer that represents their overall ‘utility’ to the consumer (Helman and de-Chernatony 1999; Dall'Olmo-Riley and de-Chernatony 2000). To reverse the point, British market leaders such as Tesco and Asda/Wal-Mart themselves offer an added value shopping experience. They themselves create the differentiation from which their consumers benefit by their "value added" offer of enhanced service, price and convenience. Now, it may be that the phenomenon we are recording is merely spatial contingency and constrained choice. Just
because we see that shoppers regularly visit stores such as Tesco and regularly return week after week does not of necessity equate to conscious ‘loyalty’. Yet own label development may be a less expensive way to get consumer loyalty to a product: often one that cannot be replicated by the competition. We should note that the overall success of retailer own label in Britain, viewed strategically, has been credited to several wider factors in addition to these particular issues of positioning that we wish to pursue. These wider factors include: (a) perceived excessive price premiums of leading brands; (b) the need to supply basic commodity products to which it is difficult to add value; (c) higher prices being no longer seen by the consumer as synonymous with higher quality; (d) ease of comparison with branded goods (to which they often bear an uncanny resemblance); (e) advertising cost, design and packaging costs supported by brand leaders. Is it, then, reasonable to claim that the leading British retailers have achieved the status of a brand and perhaps even a corporate brand? (Ind 1997; Burt and Sparks 2002; de-Chernatony 2002; Schultz and de-Chernatony 2002). Finally the rise in British own label performance has been linked to spatial shifts in the locations of the major players. Led by Asda in the mid-1960’s – and followed later in the 1970s primarily by Tesco – there was soon a retail revolution in store location with the arrival of the British Superstore format. These larger, car-accessible, stores epitomise multiple consumption divides in the UK – between haves and have-nots – in terms of income, housing and car-ownership. Such divides increase the appeal of low-cost fashion to incomeconstrained households. Indeed, time-constrained higher-income households may sometimes be found browsing newly-arrived items; though they might claim that they are “not really here” in such stores. However, a good own label range is not of itself enough to ensure the loyalty of those who can access the stores. Cheaper own labels are often perceived as a low risk purchase – so trying out an item is considered to be easy. Long-term adoption is, however, another matter and often depends on the acceptability to the intended end-recipients (here primarily children). Acceptability is closely related to the concept of practice and reveals the crux of the argument. Practice, is defined as practitioners (people actually using / experiencing / creating), practices as defined by Jarzabkowski et al. (2007) as ‘the social, symbolic and material tools through which […] work is done’ and praxis that embraces the flow and timing of activities. The concept of practice is complemented by the notion of context that includes shopping orientation context, user context and physical context. Context refers not only to the mundane nature of garment shopping but also the wider social context before and after purchase when considering the child who will wear the garment. Attraction has switched from features to overall wider benefits: hence a clear need to understand the practice surrounding garment consumption as a way of sharing customer understanding throughout the organizational offering. The growing expectations of an experience that allows within the weekly ‘one stop shop’ to cover most household demands in a cohesive, consistent yet with familiar practices and within the allocated tempo was needed to deliver a meaningful experience. From the practitioner aspect, grocery shopping is conducted by a wide range of individuals within the household who will not necessarily visit the same high street shops. Supermarkets allow common standards to be established and discussed. While postures and conducts differ from store to store especially regarding the gender-association (if any) of the garment, supermarkets seem to also offer a more accessible and democratic environment for learning or consuming. Lastly, the sheer number of customers at any given point also allow for a certain level of anonymity. From a practice perspective, the ordinary grocery shopping experience with the commoditization of many products and the usual functional re-purchase phase can now be complemented not only by higher value added products but more emotional, lifestyle-related activities. Taken at the basic level, browsing the supermarkets’
children’s garment ranges can be viewed as a comparison activity allowing for different brand, price range, design, innovation and quality expectations. The perception of oneself as a better shopper starts with the ability to compare and remain open-minded about new purchasing opportunities. Lastly the praxis here is yet again favourable to the supermarket. If no extra products beyond grocery are bought (the main purpose/action) the status quo of satisfaction/expectation has still been maintained. In a lifestyle where multitasking has become a priority and where no particular time is assigned for specific tasks, supermarkets are again making the right offer at the right time and with the usual level of convenience. We contend that, as a result, it is also within such everyday practice that the triggers for switching are found and, by extension, the company gains the credibility to become a fully-fledged player in any of the product lines carried. Early brand loyalty vs. level of involvement for buying children’s clothing Though clothes in general may once have been considered as relatively high involvement products, mainly due to their low frequency of buying, many such items can nowadays be considered as low involvement (Cook 1999). Low-cost (purchase price) “throwaway” clothing items are now available to the masses through mass imports mainly from the Far East. Different degrees of importance attached to varying evaluative criteria have also evolved over time. Whereas in the past fewer, but more polyvalent, garments were required it can now be said that in most categories the lure of fast fashion has usurped traditional evaluative criteria such as thermal level, fibre type, country of origin, cleaning requirements, durability, reliability and price. Other generic categories such as work clothing, leisure, sport or special occasions/gifts, though still present in traditional settings still have to be fully tested in supermarket settings.
Differences in gender are also important and seem to be driven both by society as a whole and by marketers. Environmental sex-typed clothes and motifs for children are clear with many fewer unisex items than for the older age groups. Though recently contested as culturallydetermined, in the UK, stereotypically, girls wore or carried pink (75%), yellow, ruffles, puffed sleeves, and/or dresses. Boys wore blue (79%) and/or red (Stern 1989; Etaugh 1990; Karraker 1995; Nelson 2000). Similarly, sports equipment, tools, robots and miniature cars are the usual stereotype gifts for boys while girls tend to receive more dolls, fictional characters and utensils (house, kitchen). Girls also tend to receive more jewellery and room accessories (curtain, beddings), and grooming equipment including perfume. From the very beginning of life different environments are experiences within everyday activities leading to varied preferences, evaluation criteria and expectation during the decision making process well before the external influence of peer pressure (Pomerleau, Bolduc et al. 1990). Overall societal forces are also putting more emphasis on women’s physical appearance making them better at decoding the communicative language of fashion statements (McCracken and Roth 1989; Bakewell and Mitchell 2003). In addition, a study by Hogg et al. (1998). on fashion brand preferences of consumers in the 7-10 age group, it was discovered that clothing was a product category where children had strong and clear views about the images associated with different brands (Hogg, Bruce et al. 1998). At that age it has been demonstrated that children are able to form categories of functional attributes rather than simply analyzing perceptual cues (Roedder John and Lakshmi-Ratan 1992).
Intra household decision making: Reflection of children garment’s brand choice on parents “Children stand as a ubiquitous fixture in public life” (Cook 2004, p.1), “the market culture of childhood represents a monumental achievement of 20th century capitalism” (Cook 2004, p.2). Long gone are the days of indifference to children’s voices and perspectives at least in developed economies. Children are no longer the passive recipients of adult culture but are competent social actors; social beings in their own rights (Martens, Southerton et al. 2004). Children are actively making meaning of the world that surrounds them, often in ways unanticipated by adults and with a long term impact on the self development. In effect they are pre-embedded within the society and culture in which they are developing. While their personal purchasing power is very limited, morally- mediated consumption is taking place within the sentimental aura of childhood and self- centred parents. Overall, acquisitions of beneficial products that are linked to child development are now perceived as a prerequisite for parents’ own accession to the status of good parents’ or to such social aspiration. Parents also enjoy consuming through their children (Darian 1998). The mother is traditionally positioned between the child and external market forces - shaping in effect the moral value over consumption of their children. In turn, mothers have been recognized as consuming on behalf of their children: in our case, garments, such purchases may be seen as having psychological healing power in some cases. From this process it may be derived the legitimate right that children now have to consume. While, from an early age till around seven years old, children have a low influence with respect to price, influence is still present regarding colour and style (Jenkins 1979; Foxman, Tansuhaj et al. 1989). In time, tensions and incompatibilities will be revealed when children shop by themselves and start offering resistance to others definition of appropriateness and their own characterization of ‘mother’s concerns’. At this point, the sacred aura of childhood is often disregarded and marketing techniques overtly using sexuality, genders and guns for example become the norm within the social encounter context (McNeal 1990; John 1999; Nicholls and Cullen 2004; Wang, Hsiehb et al. 2004). Previously, many sub-categories were created to allow at each level the development of specific characteristics and appropriately elaborated ranges (Figure 1).
Maternity New Born Baby Infancy Toddler Urban Kids ? Pre-school Grade school Teens ?
Figure 1. Typical garment clothing cycle
Furthermore, from a wider perspective, other influences are shaping children’s garment acquisition trends. The modern conception of the household integrates further dynamic trends that are impacting shopping behaviour and choice (Giddens 1992; Seltzer 2000; Lewis 2001; Vogler 2005). A wider range of preferences are now present in the majority of cases and not always linked to congruent interests (Horney and McElroy 1988; Lundberg and Pollak 1993). Whilst different traditional roles are often still allocated to household members, dramatic changes have occurred over the last few decades. We define a "household" and "family" as closely related terms. “A household includes all the people who occupy a housing unit. A housing unit is a house, an apartment, a mobile home, a group of rooms, or a single room that is occupied (or if vacant, is intended for occupancy) as separate living quarters. Separate living quarters are those in which the occupants live separately from any other people in the
building and which have direct access from the outside of the building or through a common hall. The occupants may be a single family, one person living alone, two or more families living together, or any other group of related or unrelated people who share living arrangements.”1 Moreover, “A family consists of a householder and one or more other people living in the same household who are related to the householder by birth, marriage, or adoption. All people in a household who are related to the householder are regarded as members of his or her family.”2 The distinction between family and household is important as it defines the nature of the relationships between members “living together” and how this affects the shopping processes for the group. Implications are forthcoming in four distinct areas. Firstly, resources available such as time, energy, financial means and access have tended to polarize towards time poor/cash rich household or vice versa. Secondly, with the emergence of the m-society, allocation rules have decentralised allowing multiple, and very often conflicting, decisions to be taken: plus a greater share of service outsourcing. Thirdly, each individual as a decision making centre has tended to think more individualistically as new lifestyle requirements and sequencing prevent traditional meetings and communications among individuals within the household. These trends include a generic emancipation of women in areas such as higher education, employment and financial independence. Other aspects such as rising divorce rate, single occupancy households, declining birth rate and a higher ratio of older citizens have also changed many practices. Household are viewed from social and spatial perspectives allowing concurrent as well as coincident interaction opportunities, where each individual member has his / her own set of experiences and reference points (Szybillo and Sosanie 1977; Lackman and Lanasa 1993). Past experience, and the fact that many household members will have participated in more than one previous household, contribute to a greater diversity in experiences and to multiple preferences. More work needs to be undertaken on the meaning of aggregate demand in a social science setting that does not just follow micro-economic utility modelling (Dauphin 2001). Micro-economic utility is often related to the capability approach that takes into account individual’s social characteristics and their ability to transform willingness into action (utility). This however remains insensitive to distributional concerns among the household members (Rawls 1971; Iversen 2003). Multiple everyday roles are undertaken by many individuals. This mainly opportunistic behaviour, mediated by access to m-technology sets the practices and expectations within many households (Lane 1991). A reflexive cooperative and collaborative consumption and acquisition framework does not exist naturally and nor is it fostered by all stakeholders (Chiappori 1992). Individuals can increase or decrease their own value to the household as a result of other members’ constraints. Specialisation strategies can be sought as way to save resources and/or as bargaining tools for the future. External personal resources through individuals’ extended social network can also bias the game: resulting in un-expected role allocation (Lise and Seitz 2004). The concept of context including individuals shopping orientation, user role within the household and physical context including the set of particular circumstances surrounding each household make the analysis of the house as a spatial unit relevant (Agarwal 1997). This includes the basic organisation and sharing of responsibilities, time and effort. The resulting set of rules, objectives and outcomes being used as a proxy for intra-household relational sustainability. Some households have incorporated global fashion into the organization and maintenance of their households, while giving them a local interpretation. Families have made their homes a place to display their culture through exhibitions and performances (hand made carpets, arts and sculpture). Such displays are indicative of the strategies increasingly being
http://www.umanitoba.ca/anthropology/tutor/residence/defining.html US Census 2003
used when private household / domestic spheres become public and global. The power gender relationship has also been reversed in many households with some women earning as much as or more than men or because of men losing their job and not being able to find another one. In that situation women may even have two or more low-level part time jobs but have still become the main earner (Kremmer, Anderson et al. 1998). Following this argument, the concept of intra-household social cohesion and the influence it has on the activities and household members’ roles remains important. While a consensus should be reached, many vital decisions are undertaken by a benevolent dictator (bonding vs bridging social capital ties) (Narayan 2002). In the context of repeat purchase, bargaining positions, willingness and abilities in the medium-to-long term alteration of practices may be eliminated (Mc Neal 2000; Harper, Dewar et al. 2003). The extent of social network interactions can heavily influence any decision and provide a controlling safety net.
Methodology This exploratory research uses a series of semi-structured open ended questions through face to face interviews in two locations, Devon and Glasgow. Fifty nine self selected mothers with children acted as respondents (Table 1). Themes of questions asked were: (1) clothing shopping consumption for their children in general, (2) clothing brand image, (3) loyalty to supermarket garments range (4) children influences and relationship: towards developing an appropriate clothing consumption. Following the relevance of Jones’ experience of analysing unsolicited accounts and routine experiences with ‘framework analysis’ (Jones 2000), the same key stages involved in this type of qualitative data analysis were applied in this study (Ritchie and Spencer 1994). Firstly, we started reading the interviews’ transcripts and familiarized ourselves with the data. Secondly, the key issues in the data were identified (our own observations) and we tried to compare them with more abstract concepts in the literature in order to construct a final thematic framework for analysis. Thirdly, the indexing process in which the thematic framework was systematically applied to the data was initiated. We constructed a table for each category and classified the data. Fourthly, a picture of the data as a whole was built, and finally mapping and interpretation were done. The final analysis to decode the main themes of the research followed the methodology of the grounded theory (Strauss and Corbin 1990). Using the general categories and subcategories assigned to the data, we tried to make the best possible connections to interpret the data as a whole and visualized organically emerging constellations. Re-reading the data and re-working on the categories was a process of agreement achieved among authors. It was a way to address the reliability of our data (Goodwin and Goodwin 1984; Silverman 1993; Punch 1998). The characteristics of the respondents are summarized in Table 2. We have used id numbers to protect the identity of the interviewees as we agreed with them during the interviews. The findings presented below encompass the main salient themes from the analysis of the transcripts. Results and Discussion Respondent were first classify into six groups following their demographic characteristics. These groups are related to Aaker’s (1997) and Rowley’s (2005) loyalty models with the groups named as:
Table 1. Respondent Demographics GROUP RESPONDENT AGE 1 20No. OF CHILDREN 2 MARITAL STATUS Married JOB Part-time sales ACCOMODATION Rented
2 Committed Loyals 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 Fence Sitters 13 14 15 16 17 18 Price Switchers/ Convenience Seekers 19 20 21 22 23
25 2025 3135 3135 3135 2025 2025 3135 60+ 3640 2025 3135 3640 3640 5660 3135 3640 3640 3640 4145 4145 4145 4145 4145 45 + 4145 2025 2630 3540 3540 20-
2 3 3 3 1 1 1 2 2 3 2 2 2 1 2 2 2 3 2 2 3 3
Married Married Married Married Married Married Married Married Married Divorced Single Married Married Married Divorced Married Married Married Married Married Married Married
assistant Chef Housewife Classroom assistant Self-employed sales rep Housewife Working Professional Retired Working Housewife Housewife Housewife Part-time secretary Senior clerical Housewife Housewife Nursery Carer Housewife Primary school teacher Housewife Housewife Self-employed owner of holiday flats Housewife Housewife Working Housewife Housewife Housewife Housewife Unemployed
Owned Owned Rented Owned Owned Owned Owned Owned Owned Rented Rented Owned Owned Owned Rented Owned Owned Owned Owned Owned Owned Owned
24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31
2 2 2 2 1 2 2 2
Married Married Married Living with Partner Married Married Married Married
Rented Owned Owned Owned Rented Owned Owned Rented
32 33 Passively Loyal 34
25 2025 2630 4145 4145 3135 3640 3135 3640 3645 5155 4145 3135 2630 3135 3640 3640 3640 4145 4145 4145 5155 2630 4145 4145 4145 2630 3135 3640
2 2 2
Living with partner Living with partner Married
Sales assistant School teacher Self-employed financial planner Assistant manager in shop
Owned Owned Owned
36 37 38 Contented 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 Non-Loyals 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58 59
2 3 2 3 2 2 2 2 2 3 4 2 2 2 2 2 3 1 2 1 2 2 2 1
Married Married Married Married Married Married Married Single Married Married Married Married Married Married Married Living with partner Divorced Single Married Married Married Married Married Single Housewife Librarian Hotelier Clerical Nursery nurse Clerical Working Waitress Housewife Runs own beach shop Dental hygienist Housewife Avon rep Lecturer Lecturer Classroom Assistant Teacher Lecturer Lecturer Technician IT Programmer Lecturer Environmental Consultant
Owned Owned Owned Owned Owned Owned Owned Owned Owned Owned Owned Owned Owned Owned Owned Owned Owned Owned Owned Owned Owned Owned Owned Owned
Table 2. Linked definition and characteristics Demographics Committed Loyals • Full-time workers • Married • Lower-middle socioeconomic status • Younger age group (20-35) • Minority group Fence Sitters • • Children in 0-5 age range Lower-middle socioeconomic status Majority home owners
Characteristics Use same grocery shop as chosen clothing store and purchase the clothing regularly/weekly. Shop more often in supermarkets than elsewhere and so know of all the clothing ranges. Buy all items of clothing in the store which have been bought since their children were born or toddlers. Have high degree of loyalty to the store.
Use same grocery shop as chosen clothing store but also shop in other supermarkets for clothing. Shop more often in supermarkets than elsewhere but are indifferent between two or more brands. Buy all items of clothing which have mainly been bought since their children were born. Have high degree of loyalty to the products rather than the store.
Price Switchers/Convenience Seekers
• • • •
• • • Passively Loyal • • •
Full-time workers and housewives Married Children in 6-11 age range Lower socioeconomic status Low income Home owners Majority group Full-time workers Children mainly in 0-5 age range Middle socioeconomic status Average income Home owners Full-time workers Married Children in 6-11 age range Middle socioeconomic status Average income
Shop in different supermarkets but less regularly for the clothing. Mostly shop in stores closest to them as the main requirements are for price, quality and convenience. Have bought the clothing more recently with closer supermarkets selling the products. Have no feelings of loyalty to any stores.
• • Contented • • • •
Use same grocery shop as chosen clothing store but have no real positive or negative comments about the store or products. Buy out of habit rather than reason as they continue to buy the products where they always have done. Buy all items of clothing which have been bought since their children were born. No real loyalty to the store.
Use same grocery shop as chosen clothing store but also shop in other supermarkets for clothing. Are happy with products but vulnerable to failure as they shop for most items but see some styles as inappropriate. Shop for clothing once a month-six weeks and have bought the clothing since their children were born. Less committed to the store.
• • • •
• • •
Home owners Full-time workers and housewives Married High socioeconomic status Middle-high income Home owners Mainly middle age group (31-40)
Use same grocery shop as chosen clothing store but mainly shop on high street in expensive stores rather than supermarkets. Only buy certain few items, i.e. not special occasion wear or school clothes as problem with quality and brand image. Have only bought clothing more recently with expansion of local store. No loyalty to store or products.
Figure 2. Reasons for/Benefits of buying Supermarket Clothing
Price was the primary factor in the purchase of the clothing by all six groups, especially as it seems that the main appeal is that the clothing is affordable to all (Figure 2). This was closely followed by convenience. All groups again argued that this was a real bonus and benefit of the supermarkets (regardless of whether it was the second or third most important issue), as they could do their weekly shopping at the same time. Respondent 47
I’ve got it right on my doorstep, you don’t have to make a special trip out to get it, and you don’t notice the cost so much because it all goes through with your shopping bill so I’m not spoiling them, I can just bung things in with my tomatoes! Respondent 4 You can go there like on a Thursday night when you do your shopping and get something, instead of on the weekend when it’s manic in the towns, so it frees up your weekends with the children. As discussed within the literature, convenience and multitasking has become a priority in a society of time starved consumers. Respondent 55 My whole approach to shopping when I’m out is that if I need something I buy the best option that I can get at the time, it’s not quite speed shopping, but I don’t have the luxury of browsing anymore. Quality and durability were then mentioned in a very positive manner: most respondents were very pleased with the quality, and many stated that it did last, wash and wear well. Respondent 5 You can generally pass them [the clothing] onto someone else after, they are that good. Other issues of fashionability, durability, and practicality were also emphasized. Respondent 1 had a key requirement of 100% cotton clothing for her youngest and so explained that she was pleased that she could purchase these items along with her other child’s clothing in the store. The benefit of the Tesco Clubcard as an added bonus to that specific store, as they could build their points to gain money off vouchers and coupons for the Passively Loyal and Price Switchers/Convenience Seekers. Respondent 16 It is always good [to build point on the card] when feeding a young family. A final factor is that of the refund policy. This is significant for the Committed and the Passive Loyals which one would say was, again, due to the fact that the customers in these groups shop in the stores regularly. It is more likely that these customers had exchanged or were refunded an item, as these stores had been used frequently for several years. For example, respondents 4 and 5 were very enthusiastic about the refund policy in Asda while respondents 33 and 34 suggested that it was easy to exchange items in Tesco with 34 declaring it was ‘quick, easy, [and] hassle free’. These groups are therefore more aware of the refund policy than others and are positive in their promotion of it; a clear benefit for the stores.
Relatively straightforward questions were asked such as, what the customer thought of the brand’s image and whether or not it was an issue for children. However, slightly different questions were also raised that related to these ideas, which looked at whether the stereotypical view of supermarket clothing was still a problem for some people, and whether the customers would buy the children’s clothing as presents. These questions brought about
some mixed responses as many of those customers who believed brand image was an issue for parents and/or children were quick to say that it was not a problem for them. In a way they did not want to be tarnished with the same brush as those consumers they called ‘snobs’ for example. Respondent 22 In some families I guess [brand image is an issue] but not ours, I think the world is going a bit crazy with it. Some consumers were also happy to admit that they liked supermarket brand image. Respondent 40 (Non Loyal) I think it’s really improved vastly in terms of becoming more acceptable to buy there [at Tesco]. People mix and match nowadays and supermarket clothing isn’t taboo anymore. [The] quality is great now. Respondent 42 (Contented) There’s not the same stigma attached to shopping at cheap places anymore. It’s even cool to shop at charity shops, which was certainly not the case ten years ago. When asked whether brand image was an issue for children, consumers agreed that it was as the children got older. Respondent 17 stated: ‘Yes I do with some children, I think they get it from their parents just picking at what other people’s kids are wearing’. Respondent 27 stated: ‘Yes. I would say after the age of nine or ten’. Respondent 28 stated: ‘I think so, but only as they get to about ten (years) as they start to worry about what their pals are wearing’.
In some cases the Non-Loyals also seemed to believe that brand image was an issue for children, but compared to the Price Switchers/Convenience Seekers, they felt that it was or would be an issue for their own children. They suggested that it is more of an issue as their children get older when they are more aware of brand names, although their children were quite happy to wear some of the supermarket items. This view was emphasised by respondents 44, 45 and 49 who all believed that brand image had become more of an issue for their eldest children (i.e. in the 7-11 age range) as they had some influence over these purchases. Respondent 28 I think some people don’t admit that its Tesco clothing but you can tell its Tesco because every other kid is wearing it.’ Two mothers of three year old girls mentioned that they specifically chose to ‘protect’ their kids from logos and designer brands, “…I want to keep her away from branded merchandise as long as possible” (Respondent 55) and “I don’t like paying over the odds for a [designer] label” (Respondent 59). They explained that they didn’t like logos and branded images: Respondent 55 I don’t even like some of the images, like the Bratts dolls I despise, I don’t actually like the Disney princesses, because if you go back to the stories, they are actually quite violent Most customers in the interviews (51 respondents) said they would buy the clothing as presents for their children’s friends or young relatives. Eight people said they would not, for
example: ‘it would make me look cheap’ (Respondents 47 and 48). A few consumers did affirm that they would buy gifts from supermarkets but were still uncertain that it would be their first choice for gift purchase. Respondent 36 (Passive Loyal) stated that she might buy presents from Asda but “would be more inclined to buy from Next or M&S, due to higher quality”. Also, the majority only bought certain items for everyday wear rather than special occasion wear or school clothes in some cases, as they preferred to pay more for these items where the quality was perceived to be superior. Respondent 47, for example, explained that she personally would not buy special occasion wear from the supermarkets as, ‘the quality wouldn’t be there’. However the Committed Loyals regularly buy gifts and special occasion wear from the supermarket. Respondent 7 stated for example “Yes. I would buy clothing for special occasions; I think the quality of most things is pretty good”. The majority of the Devon consumers had previously lived in cities and counties such as Cheltenham and Berkshire where they had not bought clothing from supermarkets. These customers felt that brand image was thus much more of an issue in the cities rather than in the quiet rural area of Cornwall. Respondent 46 suggested that she used to feel the same way some people do about the clothing because she used to live in Cheltenham and ‘wouldn’t think of going into Tesco to get some clothes’. Respondent 49 actually said that, because she had lived elsewhere before, it had swayed her judgment a bit in terms of ‘designer wear and more up market clothing’. This opinion was also held by others who put forward the idea that, in Cornwall it is more relaxed and laid back in terms of clothing, especially as children are more active and often outdoors on the beaches, parks or farms. When discussing the stereotypical view of supermarket clothing: Respondent 20 All the people I know are fairly down to earth and shopping down in Cornwall isn’t terribly convenient with the main shopping towns and cities being further away. I think also people have different priorities here, they spend a lot of time outdoors, they probably don’t spend a lot of time dressing up, so I don’t think anyone is really that bothered if they wear clothing from the supermarkets. (Trying to find a comparison for city living Glasgow shoppers??) Nevertheless, all the mothers had their own opinions on the brands’ images, with the overall consensus amongst all the groups being that both companies had good brand images for their clothing. They also felt that the companies had improved over more recent years with the use of celebrities and more fashionable product offerings. Here, the most commonly used names were that of Coleen McLoughlin for Asda (i.e. respondent 4) and the Florence and Fred designers from Tesco ( respondents 11, 12 and 38 for example). The majority suggested that the quality and styles had improved and that a lot more people, both adults and children, were wearing the clothing; ‘I know many people who have bought something from the supermarkets for their kids or for themselves actually’ (respondent 32). Respondent 39 stated that, although there may still be a problem for some of the adult clothes, ‘the majority of mums I know rave about the [children’s] clothes because they are such good value’. When asking consumers to define what supermarket value was to them most mentioned price and having expectations met around other areas such as style, durability and design: Respondent 52 (Tesco)
‘Fashionable items, reasonably priced and they wash well, that’s the main three things I’m looking for’ Respondent 26 (Asda) I like it (The George brand) it’s fashionable; it’s got a range for everybody. Quality and price is balanced. I’ve never had a problem washing clothes’. Respondent 59 (Tesco on good design) I particularly like the trousers for kids, they have adjustable waistbands, things like that. I think they copied the clever design from Next, like adjustable waist bands and wee tabs that can adjust the length of the trousers, that’s really clever, and the clothes last longer, and they are cheaper than Next, so that’s even better. One of the most important themes to be generated from the interviews is that of customer loyalty. The question ‘do you feel loyalty to the chosen store for the children’s clothing’ was asked to all customers, and the majority of answers were mainly, ‘No!’ Most felt that they were not loyal to any store particularly, especially the Price Switchers/Convenience Seekers who tended to shop ‘wherever is cheapest and easiest to get to at the time’ (respondent 17). These customers have no real sense of loyalty to any store because they will switch if a place is cheaper or closer to them. As a couple of consumers explained (respondent 16 and 18) they went to Asda and/or Tesco as their local supermarket (Morrisons) did not sell clothing. Those customers who were defined as Passively Loyal and Contented also did not feel any particular loyalty to the store or products. They took the view that they did not feel any loyalty because they also shopped in other stores regardless of whether it was more or less often than the supermarkets (respondents 32, 34 and 35). For the Contented, they too also shopped in other supermarkets. Although they were pleased with the products, they did have some negative comments about the offerings in terms of style. Two respondents 38 and 39 argued that some of the clothing for the older girls within this age range were too ‘high fashion’ and were not appropriate for their age. Even a Committed Loyal (Respondent 6) complained that Asda had used the ‘Playboy’ image on children’s clothing: ‘That’s very inappropriate, especially on very young kids stuff’. Price Switchers and Non Loyals also complained about this problem. Respondent 29 (Price Switcher) The little girls clothes can be too adult-like for me. They are too trendy, not like children’s clothes should be…like the strappy dresses for 5 year olds. Respondent 54 (Non Loyal) I think all children’s clothing (in Tesco) is too adult – too grown up. Especially the little girl’s clothing. Those customers who did say they were loyal to the store for the clothing belonged to the committed group. Their main reasons for this were that they also shopped there for their groceries every week or as respondent 2 said, ‘my best friend works there’. They tend to go there for the clothing only looking elsewhere if they cannot find anything they want, are very enthusiastic about the products and brands, and support the store through positive word-ofmouth exchange. Fence sitter loyalty was also evident from the fact that these customers had younger children in the 0-5 age range who they had bought clothing for from the supermarkets since they were born. As they are in the younger age group, the mother’s did feel that they would continue to
purchase the clothing from the supermarkets, especially as half were aware of the older age ranges. Respondent 11 Yes I do [know of all the ranges], I mean I do have a good look through it when I go to Tesco because I have nieces older than the kids. Respondent 12 explained that she looks at all the ranges in the store. ‘I have a regular window shop down the aisles’.
Respondents 46, 47, 48 and 49 were classified as non-loyal by asserting that they preferred the high street stores such as Marks and Spencer and specialty shops, as the clothing was of a better quality with nicer finishing. This, of course, may have a “halo effect” since these respondents were located at-store and were known to be looking at clothing. However, many said that they would continue to buy certain items in the supermarkets (e.g. underwear and hidden from final view garments), although some did not know whether their children would continue to wear it. There were mixed views here as respondent 45 felt that her eldest would wear the clothing in the future but with some branded items, while respondent 49 believed that her children wouldn’t as, it would probably not be seen as ‘cool’. Overall most respondents explained that their children regularly did influence their choices of clothing. For babies and very young children, consumers made the choice but many consumers mentioned that girls as young as 3 were assisting with clothing choice decisions. Respondent 59 (mum of three year old girl) ‘…the other day I was buying a dress and I held up two dresses, one was red and one was blue and I liked the blue one, but she picked the red one, she said blue is for boys, so I got the red one. I’ve no idea where she got this idea from, I’ve never told her blue is a boys colour, I would love her to wear blue!’ Respondent 6 (children 9 and 10) and Respondent 51 (children age 4 and 7) stated that their children had an influence over clothing with branded logos on them such as ‘Bratts’ dolls and Disney. Respondent 54 My daughter…she’s very adept at pester power. She’ll have her eye on things and come and show me them. I feel the store is safe enough to let her wander down the aisle to have a browse (9 year old girl). Conclusion While many respondents remain ambiguous as to which factors are most attracting them to children’s garments in supermarkets, a clear result is the demise of the consideration stage. Browsing and display in supermarkets have superseded more rational aspects of shopping for our sample of regular supermarket shoppers. Nearly all our respondents do believe that supermarket clothing is appropriate in nearly all circumstances and often, also, on equal terms with main brands in terms of the factors influencing self development. Loyalty across the ranges and styles is emerging rapidly. Improvisation and opportunistic browsing (whilst primarily in the store for groceries) are playing an important role. The direction of the strength of the relationship with the supermarket is on the increase both in terms of type and
range. Taste and style are redefined using opportunities and opportunistic behaviour rather than the conventional utilitarian aspect. The fluidity of being a good shopper is changing allowing parents to use the educational aspect of channel variety as self-justification for preparing their children for adulthood. The current dialectic still, as yet, seems to lack an appropriate fashionable language to fully explain and articulate the rationale. As Starbucks has done for its range of coffees, a new set of product names could be improvised to reflect the glamorous aspect of fashion. We contend that the supermarkets’ strategy may be to blame since we detect certain inertia in responding to what are clearly eager customers, especially a clear lack of advertisements other than the point-of-sale. Over reliance over the powerful word-of-mouth association is detected. Interrelations between supermarket brands and traditional high street seem to be present mainly as a result of fashion magazines that have encouraged such mixing and democratic trends. There is some opportunistic browsing and/or impatience over seasonal / fashionable garments that are, in our view, fuelling the active rate of browsing and purchase. In respect of the children’s age ranges under review in this article little or no influence is revealed. Yet, it seems that allowing them to choose remains the top priority rather than the brand or price: this is likely to be due to the very low, risk-free selling prices. Use of children’s imagery and style is thus becoming more important. This is operated through the unstructured interaction of parents and children and encouraged by the familiar self service, trolley-and-aisle-based environment of the supermarket. This paper’s limitations beyond the sample size involve the fact that sample is only representative of current customers, i.e., picked in the aisle while browsing for clothing; therefore, customers who do not consider buying supermarket garments are under-represented.
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