The Shopping Mall as Consumer Habitat
PETER H. BLOCH
University of Missouri
NANCY M. RIDGWAY
University of Colorado
SCOTT A. DAWSON*
Portland State University
Although large enclosed shopping malls represent signt$icant institutions in modem Western culture, consumers’ activities within malls have been surprisingly underresearched. In the present study, consumers’ interrelationships with malls as consumption sites are explored using the concept of a habitat drawn from the ecological sciences. An empirical study of consumer activity within multiple mall habitats is then discussed. Specifically, this research explores drrerences in mall habitat activity patterns and identifies mall related shopping orientations that are useful in explaining these differences. Habitat: the natural place of a specimen is found
occurrenceof a species...the special locality, station, or spot in which -Oxford
English Dictionary 1987, p. 995
Scientists from many disciplines agree that the behaviors of organisms are profitably studied within the environmental context or habitat in which they are found (Ehrlich and Roughgarden 1987; Kormondy 1984; Mehrabian and Russell 1974; Rappoport 1982; Whittaker 1974). Therefore, zoologists wishing to study a particular species typically collect data in the habitat where that species is found in abundance. In adapting a similar perspective to the study of consumer behavior, researchers may profit from studying habitats where consumers throng. Consumers, like wildlife, are likely to gravitate to a setting offering a favorable climate, a high potential for social interaction, a perceived freedom from safety concerns, and a large
Direct all correspondence to: Peter H. Bloch, University 65211. *Peter H. Bloch is associate professor, Department Missouri 65211. Nancy M. Ridgway is assistant professor Business and Administration, Boulder, Colorado 80309. Marketing at Portland State University, Portland, Oregon
of Missouri, Department of Marketing, Columbia, MO of Marketing at the University of Missouri, Columbia, of marketing at the University of Colorado, College of Scott A. Dawson is associate professor, Department of 97207.
Journal of Retailing, Volume 70, Number 1, pp. 23-42, ISSN 0022-4359 Copyright Q 1994 by New York University. All rights of reproduction in any form reserved.
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selection of consumable goods and experiences. The premise here is that in North America the large, enclosed shopping mall is a premier habitat for consumers. After discussing the cultural significance of malls and applying the concept of habitat to mall settings, an empirical study is described. The study first examines the behaviors occurring in malts and then groups inhabitant into niches based on patterns of behavior. Because consumer behavior in malls is increasingly diverse, this reseat+& focuses needed attention on the experiential consumption of a setting as well as the consumption of goods within a setting. The present study also investigates shopping orientations or benefits that bring consumers to malls. Because of the unique position of the shopping mall in our cutture, spe&Ic rna~~-relatedo~en~tion items are developed rather than borrowed from past storefocused research. These orientation items are then used to explain differences in inhabitant activity patterns. Finally, the implications of study results to future research and retail practice are discussed.
The Mall and kocidy Despite the significance of mafls in our culture, Feinberg and Meoli (1991, p. 426) note that one would be “hard pressed to find a scholarly treatment of malls” in the academic journals. Even within the field of retail resarch, the emphasis has primariiy been upon the store rather than the mall as the unit of analysis. Surveys indicate that 75% of Americans go to a mall at least once a month, and time budget analysis shows that we spend more time in shopping...
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