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Atmosphere in fashion stores: do you need to change?
Andrew G. Parsons

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Andrew G. Parsons, (2011),"Atmosphere in fashion stores: do you need to change?", Journal of Fashion
Marketing and Management: An International Journal, Vol. 15 Iss 4 pp. 428 - 445
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(2012),"The sensory retail environment of small fashion boutiques", Journal of Fashion
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(2013),"Impact of store environment on impulse buying behavior", European Journal of Marketing, Vol. 47
Iss 10 pp. 1711-1732 http://dx.doi.org/10.1108/EJM-03-2011-0110

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Atmosphere in fashion stores:


do you need to change?
Andrew G. Parsons

428

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Received September 2010


Revised September 2010
Accepted May 2011

Journal of Fashion Marketing and


Management
Vol. 15 No. 4, 2011
pp. 428-445
r Emerald Group Publishing Limited
1361-2026
DOI 10.1108/13612021111169933

Auckland University of Technology, Auckland, New Zealand


Abstract
Purpose The aims of this paper are to establish: a typical womens apparel store environment as a
realistic base for measuring the effects of changes; effective environmental stimuli levels; and the effect
of repeated exposure on affect.
Design/methodology/approach A schema of typical stimuli is developed through literature,
observing 212 stores, and surveying 39 womens fashion retail GMs. An experiment (n 489)
establishes the set of stimuli and effective levels for creating affect for a womens fashion store.
Shoppers (n 62) were repeatedly exposed to combinations of the two sets (industry standard and
ideal) to examine whether decay in affect occurs, and whether changes can mitigate this.
Findings Interactions between sensory stimuli have a significant effect on fashion shoppers affect
for a store. Fashion retailers are less differentiated in their use of sensory stimuli than they could be to
achieve the responses they expect. Stagnation from repeated exposure can diminish affect for the store
whereas small changes in stimuli levels can revitalise and increase affect.
Research limitations/implications A model of sensory stimuli-based relationships with shopper
affect should incorporate interactions. Empirically, different stimuli can easily be added or substituted
within a dimension to test its effect within a factorial design. A model of fashion store atmosphere is
likely to require a mediating influence of repeated exposure.
Practical implications It is worthwhile getting the correct package of stimuli for a fashion
stores atmosphere. This does not necessarily require wholesale changes; rather small changes in
stimuli level can enhance a store.
Originality/value The paper presents the only study to use a holistic approach to store atmosphere
and base effectiveness measures against the fashion industry norm, and consider the effect of repeated
exposure.
Keywords Store atmosphere, Retail environment, Shopper response, Consumer behaviour,
Marketing environment, Retail management
Paper type Research paper

1. Introduction
Store atmosphere, created by the layout and environment, is important in the fashion
sector of retail (Birtwistle and Shearer, 2001; Newman and Patel, 2004), as it is crucial
for success and a key determinant of patronage (Newman and Patel, 2004). Scarpi
(2006), for example, finds that in specialty apparel stores the environment can influence
the shopper orientation, resulting in different behaviours, while Moye and Giddings
(2002) show that components of store atmospheres can have a direct influence on
shopping behaviours in a variety of apparel stores. Paulins and Geistfeld (2003)
suggest that womens apparel retailers must be prepared to implement changes to
decor to remain competitive, but casual observation of stores suggest that many
apparel retailers rely heavily on only display fixtures to enhance the visual
merchandising without carefully considering the other elements of the store design,
such as the walls, flooring, scents, music, temperature, etc. While there are those
fashion retailers that have adopted a conceptual direction such as a residential theme, a
minimalistic concept, or a thematic approach (Diamond and Diamond, 1996) and have
therefore utilised their store environment as part of the selling strategy, many store
environments remain as functional and basic areas, with typically plain walls, flooring,

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ceilings, lighting, etc. Fashion textbooks nevertheless regularly mention the backdrop,
store environment, or atmospherics (e.g. Drake et al., 1992; Oelkers, 2004; Solomon and
Rabolt, 2009), as tools that that can be used to help influence shopper behaviour and
affect (liking) for the store.
If there is a typical functional fashion store environment, does it achieve what could
be done in terms of influencing shoppers behaviours and affect for the store, or are
there elements that could be changed to enhance the store effectiveness? And, if change
does occur, as Paulins and Geistfeld (2003) suggest it needs to, how will shoppers
respond? In our study we compare the affect responses of shoppers exposed
repeatedly to an industry standard or typical store atmosphere to those exposed to
an experimentally derived ideal atmosphere and identify the impact a change in
atmospherics has on affect. To establish the typical industry atmosphere we use store
observation based on a set of dimensions derived from the literature to then create a
survey measurement of retail managers. From the survey and observation we create
a schema of typical industry stimuli. To establish the ideal levels we conduct an
experiment to identify the levels of stimuli that elicit the greatest affect for the store.
Following this a second experiment is conducted where shoppers were repeatedly
exposed to a typical store, the ideal store, or a combination changing from one to the
other halfway through the repetitions.
Thus, the conceptual framework involves developing a construct called industry
standard, made up of items that are the typical levels of sensory stimuli found in
the marketplace. We also develop a construct called ideal standard, which are the levels
of sensory stimuli that are shown to result in the most positive affect for the store. We
then take these constructs and test whether repeated exposure to them, or a
combination of them, impacts upon the affect shoppers reveal for stores.
2. Background
Store atmospherics has generated widespread interest by academics and practitioners
since Kotler (1974), Baker (1986), and Bitner (1992) encapsulated the concept of
olfactory, aural, tactile, and visual dimensions creating an environment that affects
shoppers emotions and behaviour. The Donovan and Rossiter (1982) approachavoidance model focused much of the ensuing attention on behavioural responses to
individual or limited interactions of stimuli with less attention paid to affect or
emotional responses to the store environment. For example, Areni and Kim (1994)
establish a link between the brightness of lighting and increased examination of
merchandise, while Milliman (1982) shows that slower music encourages shoppers to
spend more time in-store. Similarly, dAstous (2000) suggests that loud music results
in less time spent in-store. The problem with these studies is that they treat the
stimuli (and resultant response) as isolated events directed solely at behaviour,
whereas the store environment provides an holistic cognitive experience.
Recent studies have begun to rectify this (e.g. Baker et al., 2002; Kottasz, 2006;
Wirtz et al., 2007; Oakes and North, 2008a), but general frameworks persist in
examining single-period responses to stimuli (e.g. Fiore and Kim, 2007; Noad and
Rogers, 2008; Soars, 2009), continuing support for the single stimulus single-period
response approach (e.g. Eroglu et al., 2005; Michon et al., 2005; Ward et al., 2007;
Oakes and North, 2008b). Babin and Attaway (2000) asked whether re-patronage is
perhaps in part a function of affect created by store atmospherics, with others looking
at the enjoyment of the shopping experience (as created by the environment)
influencing re-patronage (e.g. Ogle et al., 2004; Hart et al., 2007; Michon et al., 2008;

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Joseph-Mathews et al., 2009; Seock, 2009). In this light, it is perhaps more appropriate
to examine the effects of a store atmosphere or environment when the shopper is
presented with all the sensory stimuli, as the single stimulus approach lacks face
validity for the shopper.
What has also not been examined is whether repeated exposure to the sensory
stimuli alters the affective response of shoppers. Is there perhaps a decay effect or
is there a compound effect? The approach in the past has also been to vary levels of
stimuli to determine likely responses with little regard to industry norms for stimuli
and expected responses. In an economic era necessitating caution with expenditure,
and a shopper era demanding sustainability, it is pertinent to consider what effect
the investment in atmosphere may have over time, and whether changes are
warranted.
This study seeks to first establish what a typical environment is in a womens
apparel store, to use as a realistic base for measuring the effects of any changes to the
environment; this is done by determining the common levels of environmental
stimuli in the marketplace. Next, the study establishes the set of ideal (in terms of
retailer desired shopper responses) environmental stimuli levels. Finally the study
establishes whether repeated exposure to the same levels of environmental stimuli
affects shopper responses, or whether change stimulates the shopper.
3. Typical levels of environmental stimuli
Literature-based set of stimuli
A review of the store atmospherics literature established a set of individual sensory
stimuli that had been previously studied, ranging from scents (e.g. Bone and Jantrania,
1992; Gulas and Bloch, 1995; Mitchell et al., 1995; Spangenberg et al., 1996; Bone and
Ellen, 1999; Morrin and Ratneshwar, 2000; Mattila and Wirtz, 2001; Parsons, 2009)
through music (e.g. Grewal and Baker, 1994; Baker et al., 1995; Sharma and Stafford,
2000), colour and lighting (e.g. Crowley, 1993; Babin et al., 2003), to temperatures and
surface coverings (e.g. Kerin et al., 1992; Machleit et al., 1994; Sharma and Stafford,
2000; dAstous, 2000). This set was used as a field check for observation of stores
(n 212) throughout New Zealand.
The literature-based sensory constructs were identified as aural stimuli (music
style, volume, tempo, familiarity, and other sounds); olfactory stimuli (scent
pleasantness and congruence); tactile stimuli (temperature, flooring); and visual
stimuli (lighting sources, level, colours, and fixtures/fitting). These were then overlaid
with observed levels of the items; for example, lighting source was observed
to include natural light, exposed fluorescent, ceiling panel fluorescent, halogen,
non-halogen spotlights, etc. Note that the normal fifth sense of taste is omitted, as it is
in most atmospheric studies. This is because taste is almost invariably a functional
aspect that is product oriented, rather than a non-utilitarian element that is part of an
atmosphere. In womens apparel stores there is no expectation of taste either
functional or non-utilitarian being present.
Of major concern to any study examining the interactions that may occur between
stimuli in creating an atmosphere and having an effect on affect is the possibility that
there may be critical components of sensory stimuli that have not been identified by
the literature. Omission of these parts may adversely affect the impact the stimuli may
have in the experiment leading to false results. Furthermore, in constructing the
schema, by not having a clearer idea of what stimuli and stimuli components there are
in store atmospheres, the study would open itself to either missing crucial information

because it was not asked for, or creating greater potential for error through
interpretation of open-ended answers.

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Refinement of stimuli set through field observation


Field observation was selected as a means of gaining insights and ideas about what
other sensory stimuli components may exist in creating store atmospheres. Boote and
Mathews (1999) suggest observation is an appropriate methodology when at least one
of four criteria is met:
(1)

the phenomenon is easily observable;

(2)

the phenomenon is a social process or a mass activity;

(3)

the phenomenon occurs at a subconscious (sic) level; and

(4)

the objects under investigation are either unable or unwilling to communicate


directly with the researcher.

Sensory stimuli are by definition required to be able to be sensed. In this respect, they
are clearly observable (condition 1). Furthermore, observation allows the stimuli to be
directly recorded, rather than relying on third-party recollection of what is present.
Second, sensory stimuli can be classified into the five senses, and then into sub-groups
based on the delivery of the stimuli. Thus, patterns of presence and level (of the
phenomenon) are sought in the observation (condition 2). Whilst observation has been
regularly used in store atmosphere research because of the subconscious effects on
consumers (e.g. Milliman, 1982; Crowley, 1993; Areni and Kim, 1994; Herrington and
Capella, 1996; Yalch and Spangenberg, 2000) the stimuli themselves are not
subconscious and are in fact directly observable/measurable. Thus condition 3 is not
satisfied. Finally, in this situation, the objects under investigation are not people, but
sensory stimuli such as music, colours, construction materials, temperature, etc. and
thus are unable to communicate directly with the researcher as to their presence
(satisfying condition 4). Observation is clearly an appropriate methodology from a
technical view.
As Dodd et al. (1998) note, observation can be used as both a qualitative and a
quantitative research methodology and where the research is exploratory in nature it is
likely to be qualitative. However, unlike exploratory studies that use unstructured
observation because of the early stage they occur at in the research process (Boote and
Mathews, 1999; Churchill, 1999), the observation in this study is able to be reasonably
structured because of the clear classifications that already exist for sensory stimuli
based on the five senses and the work of Kotler (1974), Baker (1986), and Bitner (1992)
that created typologies of stimuli. Effectively therefore the objective of the observation
research is to identify gaps in the classes (e.g. are there sounds other than music that
create store atmosphere), and gaps in the measures of existing classes (e.g. does music
vary only on tempo, volume, and pitch, and what are the levels of tempo, volume, and
pitch that are employed).
Boote and Mathews (1999) list several widely used classifications for observational
research that operate in terms of dichotomies. Human vs machine observation
(e.g. Hair et al., 2003; Zikmund, 2003) is the first of these. The observation in this
study makes use of both human and machine observation. The stores were digitally
videotaped, including full audio recording. At the same time, the researcher observed
any scent and the ambient temperature. The video was used because of the
subconscious effects detailed in Boote and Mathews (1999) third condition, and shown

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to exist in store atmosphere studies (e.g. Milliman, 1982; Crowley, 1993; Areni and Kim,
1994; Herrington and Capella, 1996; Yalch and Spangenberg, 2000). Video could
capture stimuli that might otherwise not be noticed and recorded by a human observer
in the environment, and checked for later by a researcher that is not distracted by
all the stimuli. However, video can only capture visual and aural stimuli, and record
information for the haptic sense. It is unable to record scent, nor temperature or related
tactile stimuli. Thus, the researcher noted these stimuli. However, because senses are
inherently subjective, store staff were also asked about the presence of scent, and the
ambient temperature. The second dichotomy of overt vs covert (e.g. Hair et al., 2003;
Zikmund, 2003) was not relevant as the stimuli would not change in either case, and
there were no ethical issues involved with observing the stimuli (Boote and Mathews,
1999). Similarly the third dichotomy of natural vs contrived (e.g. Hair et al., 2003;
Zikmund, 2003) was not applicable as the observation had to be in the natural
environment. Finally, the dichotomy of participatory vs non-participatory observation
(e.g. Hair et al., 2003; Zikmund, 2003) is only applicable in terms of the researcher
using their own senses to observe stimuli (the scent and ambient temperature) but store
staff corroborated these.
Each store observed was selected on the basis of three criteria. The first criterion
was simply that it was an example of a womens apparel store. The second was an
evolving criterion. Once examples of stores that exhibited the stimuli suggested in
the literature had been observed (thus confirming the existence of such stimuli), the
criterion changed to being examples of stores that exhibited either unusual
combinations of stimuli (in terms of the existing literature) or presented stimuli that
had not been suggested by the literature. This was initially determined through
storefront examination (looking through the door/window, etc.) similar to Ward et al.s
(1992) proto-typicality approach, followed by entry into the store and confirmation
of the stimulus. The third of the criteria was that management would allow access for
stimuli recording.
The store was observed by video and human sense confirmed by management
interview. Video was taken of the entire store. Videoing the entire store was normally
by either walking through the store, or by centrally locating the camera and panning
around the store. The approach was determined by the layout and size of the store.
Even if there was only a single stimulus that varied in the store from other store
examples, the whole store was videoed to capture any potential interactions, by
recording the combinations of stimuli used. In some stores the layout required
positioning the camera in other spots such as part way up stairs, on balconies, and
other raised areas in order to capture the entire store. During the visit, any scent was
recorded on the observation form along with any information on ambient temperature
and any unstructured information on stimuli that may not be captured by the video.
The store was often discussed with management and any further information gleaned
also noted on the store sheet. Subsequent to the visit, the video was viewed looking and
listening for the stimuli to be recorded in the structured section of the store sheet, along
with any new stimuli identified noted in the unstructured section. Where doubt existed
as to the nature of stimuli, a second viewer was asked to observe and suggest their
interpretation. The original observer was the researcher who has a number of years
experience in this technique. If this did not resolve the issue, the store management was
contacted.
Stores were observed in four cities as coverage of retail in major centres that also
incorporate the multicultural diversity of New Zealand; four towns as examples of

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tourism-influenced retail centres; two small centres as examples of unusual period


or culturally influenced retail; and seven further towns as examples of smaller, ruralbased retail centres. It was expected that the main centre stores would reflect the
literature as these retailers are more international in character, and that the other
centres may offer insight into other possible stimuli combinations as these have unique
influences impacting on the retail environment.
Refinement of stimuli and discovery of desired outcomes through survey
To establish marketplace practice the general managers of 39 New Zealand womens
clothing retailers were surveyed using a set of fixed response questions derived from
the observation. There were three types of measurement, all designed to provide
characteristics. One type consisted of presence questions respondents were asked
to indicate whether they had such stimuli present in-store and were simple, pre-coded
lists that were mutually exclusive and collectively exhaustive, using descriptors that
discussions with retailers in the observation stage had suggested. These descriptors
were in laymens terms rather than precise measures (e.g. bright light rather than lux
level, with bright described as brighter than outside daylight), which potentially
introduces a degree of subjectivity to responses. This was pre-tested for consistency,
however, and a sample was also drawn from the final responses and the relevant stores
visited to observe levels; responses were deemed to be consistent in measurement
across all the stimuli descriptors, so if there was any error, it was at least systematic.
A second type of measurement consisted of scales measuring levels of stimuli.
These scales were linear numeric scales with full descriptors based on retailer
discussions, designed to elicit distributions for each stimuli. The midpoints were the
mode from observations. The third types of measurement were expectation
questions, asking respondents to select from a list one or more expected responses to
their in-store stimuli. These were centred on the key stimuli dimension constructs
identified in the literature. Pre-tests of the sections, the whole and the revised
questionnaire were undertaken (Alreck and Settle, 1995; Churchill and Iacobucci, 2002).
A schema, following the classic guidelines of Sokal and Sneath (1963), Frank and
Green (1968), Harvey (1969), and Hunt (1991), of the four sensory dimensions was
constructed from the responses to the survey. This forms the typical industry
environment set of stimuli (Table I), along with the expected responses to the stimuli
(Table II).
4. The ideal store atmosphere
We designed a two-stage experiment to establish the ideal set of stimuli (cf. industry
standard). Treatments were presence, and levels of stimuli, with measurement taken of
affective responses. Subjects (n 489) were randomly assigned to treatment groups, or
a control group, with a GLM used for analysis. A digital movie was made of a clothing
store with segments lasting approximately 90-120 seconds (depending on the stimuli
incorporated). This approach has proven effective for environmental representation of
visual and aural aspects (Chebat et al., 1993; Voss et al., 1998; Machleit and Mantel,
2001; Baker et al., 2002), providing a high degree of ecological validity (Bateson and
Hui, 1992), where a specific environmental setting is required (Sweeney and Wyber,
2002). Parsons (2009) demonstrates the ability of a digital representation to capture an
audiences affective and cognitive flow for sensory stimuli with visual and aural
stimuli portrayed electronically, and tactile and olfactory stimuli physically present. A
measure used by Voss et al. (1998) was employed asking a sub-sample (n 12) if the

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Stimuli dimension

Retailer reported level of stimuli

Music style
Music volume
Music tempo
Music familiar and
preferred by customers
Other sounds
Scent present
Scent pleasant
Scent congruence
Temperature controlled
Temperature
Flooring

Easy listening (40.0%); popular (top 40) (28.6%)


Average (2.94: 0.072)
Average (3.03: 0.079)
Yes (91.2%)

Lighting source
Lighting level
Wall colour
Ceiling colour
Floor colour
Lighting colour

No other sounds (80%)


No (76.5%)
Pleasant (2.13: 0.350)
Somewhat congruent (2.00: 0.267)
Yes (85.3%)
18-251C (75.8%); 10-171C (18.2%)
Carpet (73.0%); wood (32.4%); concrete (21.6%); vinyl (16.2%);
tiles (13.5%)
Halogen (55.3%); natural light (50.0%); exposed fluorescent (42.1%);
ceiling panel fluorescent (36.8%); non-halogen spotlights (23.7%)
Bright (2.08: 0.095)
White (34.3%); cream (25.7%)
White (74.3%); cream (14.3%)
Grey (21.2%); brown (12.1%); blue (12.1%); natural wood (12.1%)
Translucent (86.0%); white (14.0%)

Notes: Proportion stating presence of this level shown in parentheses, or if five-point scale used, mean
and standard deviation shown in parentheses; multiple levels permitted; only levels that were listed by
Table I.
Schema of sensory stimuli 10 per cent or more are given

Stimuli dimension

Retailer expectation of shopper response

Music

Stay longer (41.2%); take time to examine merchandise (32.4%);


increase sales (23.5%); examine the merchandise more (14.7%);
slow down shoppers move through store (14.7%); no change (14.7%);
spend less time in store (14.7%)
Evaluate store more positively (38.9%); like store (33.3%); take time to
examine merchandise (27.8%); no change (27.8%); increase sales
(22.2%); stay longer (22.2%); slow down shoppers move through store
(22.2%); examine the merchandise more (16.7%)
Stay longer (72.7%); like store (51.5%)
Examine the merchandise more (64.3%)

Scent

Table II.
Shopper responses to
stimuli, expected by
retailers

Temperature
Lighting/colour

Notes: Proportion stating this expectation shown in parentheses; multiple expectations permitted

videotaped scenario was realistic (on a seven-point scale anchored by very


unrealistic [1] and very realistic [7]: mean 6.4), to assess ecological validity, which
was considered acceptable. The video was also pre-tested to ensure a reasonable level
of proto-typicality (Ward et al., 1992). A manipulation check was conducted with a subsample (n 10), identifying the occurrence of temperature, lighting, music, and scent
differences correctly.

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Subjects entered a room that was fully blacked out with theatre-quality curtains.
A single light was on illuminating a black, adjustable leather chair. The subject was
seated and told they were about to see a 90-120 second video clip of a store. They were
given a set of wireless headphones, and were told that at the same time as the video
starting, some music would be heard. The video projector was rear of the subject out of
sight. The projection filled the wall in front of the subject (approximately 4 m  3 m).
During the video, a scent level was present and the temperature in the room was
controlled. Immediately upon termination of the video, the subject was presented with
the measurement instrument.
The levels of each stimulus were applied as follows: music: slow tempo; mid-tempo;
fast tempo; temperature: extremes (hot/cold); mid level (comfortable); lighting: bright;
dull (neutral/dull); scent: congruent; incongruent, based on the schema, forming a
3  2  2  2 design. The music was classical/popular mixes, with tempo pre-tested to
be slow, mid, and fast tempo. Heating/cold air units, monitored using a thermostat,
controlled temperature. The two levels were the 18-25 degree level (mid) and 10-17
(low). Lighting was adjusted in the video by altering the contrast and brightness levels
in the digitisation. Again, lighting was pre-tested to ensure subjects saw the contrasts
as reflective of the industry descriptors. Finally, scent was perfume (congruent
associated Parsons, 2009) and coffee (incongruent) presented through a spray.
The sample was approximately one-third general population and two-thirds
students. As the store was a type likely to be shopped at by both groups the inclusion
of a student sample for convenience was not seen as a potential problem; however
the split sample responses were compared, with no significant difference found. As
discussed by Sternthal et al. (1994), the need for a sample that is truly representative
of the population of interest arises only for research aimed at generalisations. For the
theoretical explanation this paper seeks, a more homogenous sample is appropriate
as it lessens the possibility of diversity undermining the chances of finding
theoretically predicted outcomes.
To examine the responses to stimuli, a measure of affect was developed based on
scales originally developed by Fisher (1974) for measuring affect in terms of perceived
environmental state. The 13 relevant items from Fishers (1974) environmental quality
scale that have been used in similar environmental marketing studies (e.g. Crowley,
1993; Spangenberg et al., 1996; Parsons, 2009) were employed. The mean of the 13 items
is taken for each subject to give a score for affect. Each item uses a seven-point scale.
Cronbachs a for the store 0.7795, an acceptable level (with the common threshold
held as 0.7000 Hair et al., 1995). It is conceivable that normal experience with the
store type may have an effect upon responses to stimuli, particularly in light of
Mitchell et al.s (1995) discussion of expected stimuli having different effects from
unexpected. On this principle, subjects treated with a store that, according to the
schema developed, was typical and expected, are likely to have less positive affect
responses than those for whom the store was typical, but because of inexperience,
unexpected. Three items were used to measure subjects levels of normal exposure
to the store type; typical frequency of visits to the store type, typical expenditure at
such a store, and typical length of time spent in such a store and used as a check of
potential difference in affect; no significant difference was found.
MANOVA was employed to analyse the dependence relationship represented as the
differences in a set of dependent measures (affect and four behavioural measures that
are not discussed in this paper) across a series of groups formed by the four categorical
independent measures (the sensory stimuli). Hair et al.s (1995) requirements for

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MANOVA are met as follows: the sample in each cell exceeds the number of dependent
variables; the interactions are ordinal; the use of covariates to account for systematic
bias has been taken care of by the random assignment of respondents to treatments;
the three assumptions of MANOVA, independence (among observations), equality of
variance-covariance matrices, and normality (of the dependent measures) are all
considered met. There is no discernible time-order amongst respondents, treatments
were randomly shuffled throughout each day, and respondents were randomly
assigned to experiment treatments, and there does not appear to be any pattern of
dependence amongst respondents. The equality of the matrices is tested by the box test
and there are no significant differences (F 0.951, significance 0.735). Group sizes are
approximately equal so even if the assumption were violated, there would be minimal
impact (Hair et al., 1995). While there is no test for multivariate normality, univariate
normality across the measures suggests that any departure from multivariate
normality would be inconsequential[1]. Outliers were not a problem as we confined
data to limited scales. Pillais criterion was used; it is the most robust of the tests
available when sample sizes are not large (as in this case). Effect size and the power of
the test were examined and considered acceptable. We interpret the results in light of
observed causality based on three common criteria (e.g. Churchill and Iacobucci, 2002);
our estimated marginal means support concomitant variation, time order of occurrence
is integral to the after-only experimental design, and the elimination of other possible
causal factors is obtained by the random assignment of subjects and the controlled
laboratory setting. The result of the multivariate test is shown in Table III.
Examination of the marginal means (the population estimates rather than the
sample means) allows us to see the directions of the relationships established. These
means are shown in Table IV. The main effects are all positive with the exception of
temperature. Brighter lighting results in greater affect, as does faster music. These are
findings new to the literature on apparel stores. Congruent scent increases affect,

Effect

Pillais trace

Affect (liking)

0.000a

0.000a

0.000a
0.000a
0.033a
0.000a

0.000a
0.000a
0.001a
0.000a

0.000a
0.246
0.000a
0.005a
0.855
0.000a
0.164
0.000a
0.741
0.000a
0.435

0.001a
0.062
0.000a
0.000a
0.390
0.000a
0.021a
0.000a
0.355
0.000a
0.270

Intercept
Main effects
Lighting
Temperature
Music
Scent
Interactions
Lighting  temperature
Lighting  music
Temperature  music
Lighting  temperature  music
Lighting  scent
Temperature  scent
Lighting  temperature  scent
Table III.
Music  scent
Multivariate test p-value Lighting  music  scent
for main effects and
Temperature  music  scent
interactions; Pillais trace Lighting  temperature  music  scent
and between subjects
Notes: Pillais trace criterion used; asignificant at the 0.05
effect

level

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Stimuli
Lighting
Bright
Dull
Temperature
Extreme
Mid level
Music
Slow
Mid
Fast
Scent
Congruent
Incongruent

Affect EMM

Atmosphere in
fashion stores

4.67 (0.03)
4.43 (0.04)
4.10 (0.04)
4.99 (0.04)

437

4.47 (0.04)
4.49 (0.04)
4.67 (0.04)
5.10 (0.04)
3.99 (0.04)

Note: Means are shown followed by the standard error enclosed in parentheses)

strengthening the general findings of Spangenberg et al. (1996), Mitchell et al. (1995),
Mattila and Wirtz (2001), and Parsons (2009). Temperature increases affect when it is
mid-level rather than the extreme, which is supported by the general retail findings of
Machleit et al. (1994) and dAstous (2000).
5. Repeated exposure
The significant main effects and interactions were used to run the second stage
of the experiment with repeated measures over a four-day period (n 62 subjects;
sampled from the same population as the previous experiment). The same procedures
were followed as before, except that subjects were exposed to the typical industry
standard or the ideal set of main effects and interactions (derived from the earlier
experiments results), or a combination of both over the period (changeover
occurring period three). The ideal levels were bright lighting, fast music, mid-level
temperature, and presence of a congruent scent. The industry norm is bright lighting,
mid-tempo music, mid-temperature, and no scent. A repeated measures GLM was
used to examine the within-subjects effects of repeated exposure to stimuli. The ideal
atmosphere group was exposed to the same ideal stimuli in each of the four
periods. The industry atmosphere group was exposed to the same industry stimuli in
each of the four periods. The industry/ideal group was exposed to two periods
of industry atmosphere followed by two periods of ideal atmosphere, while the ideal/
industry group had the reverse. Mauchlys test of sphericity suggests that for the
industry, industry/ideal, and ideal/industry groups, sphericity can be assumed for
the analysis, but for the ideal group, the e correction needs to be applied, so the
Greenhouse-Geisser e corrected and Huynh-Feldt e corrected significance levels
are used. The ideal group had no significant effect for affect over time (F 1.848,
Greenhouse-Geisser significance 0.172; Huynh-Feldt significance 0.165), and neither
did the ideal/industry group (F 2.291, significance 0.095), but the other two did
industry group (F 5.910, significance 0.002); industry/ideal group (F 5.977,
significance 0.002).
If we go with the premise that there is likely to be a decay effect from repeated
exposure to the same stimuli, the directions of the repeated exposure trends in

Table IV.
Estimated marginal
means significant main
effects

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Figures 1-4 suggest that if the store atmosphere is less than ideal there is a significant
decline in affect for the store. If the atmosphere is ideal (in terms of retailer desired
responses) the negative effects of repeated exposure could be mitigated. Furthermore,
if the atmosphere is changed positively i.e. the stimuli levels become ideal or closer to
ideal there can be significant increase in the affect for the store.
7
Mean affect

Figure 1.
Ideal atmosphere bright
lighting, fast music,
mid-level temperature,
presence of a congruent
scent

6
5
4
3
2
1
Day 1

Day 2
Day 3
Period

Day 4

Day 1

Day 2

Day 4

Figure 2.
Industry atmosphere
bright lighting, mid-tempo
music, mid-level
temperature, no scent

Mean affect

6
5
4
3
2
1
Day 3

Period
7

Figure 3.
Industry/ideal atmosphere
industry atmosphere for
two periods followed by
ideal atmosphere for two
periods

Mean affect

6
5
4
3
2
1
Day 1

Day 2

Day 3

Day 4

Period
7
6

Figure 4.
Ideal/industry atmosphere
ideal atmosphere for two
periods followed by
industry atmosphere for
two periods

Mean affect

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438

5
4
3
2
1
Day 1

Day 2

Day 3

Period

Day 4

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6. Conclusions and implications for managers and researchers


The first of the conclusions drawn is that interactions between sensory stimuli
belonging to different dimensions (Kotler, 1974; Baker, 1986; Bitner, 1992) do occur and
do have significant effects on shopper affect. On this basis, the literature-based and
dimensions-based conceptualisations of research-to-date that have concentrated on
main effects only are rejected as accurate representations of the influence of in-store,
non-utilitarian sensory stimuli on shopper affect. The conceptualisation provided in
the interactions-based approach provides a better guide for the operationalisation of
the store atmosphere as a package as encapsulated by the construct approach (e.g.
Baker, 1986; Bitner, 1990, 1992; Kerin et al., 1992; Ward et al., 1992; Grewal and Baker,
1994; Baker et al., 1995; Spies et al., 1997; Babin and Attaway, 2000).
There is also a clear conclusion that arises from the schema developed. Kotler (1974)
and subsequent researchers view atmospherics as the conscious designing of space to
create certain effects in buyers specifically emotional effects that enhance their
purchase probability. Increasingly, however, researchers are seeing stimuli being used
as a means of differentiating the retail environment from competitors, and enhancing
the shopping experience by creating exciting surroundings (e.g. Wakefield and Baker,
1998; Parsons, 2003, 2009), or at the very least, ambient congruity (e.g. Grewal and
Baker, 1994; Spies et al., 1997). Yet the marketplace shows, through the schema of
stimuli used and the expected responses established a surprising degree of uniformity
within the fashion sector. This is particularly surprising in light of Ward et al.s (1992)
showing that consumers perceptions of proto-typicality and their attitude towards
stores is strongly influenced by environmental cues. Whether this is a lack of design
on the part of retailers in New Zealand, a cost issue (e.g. white paint is cheaper than
coloured; fluorescent lighting is cheaper than halogen, etc.), or a false perception
amongst retailers that the stimuli packages they are using are the best combination,
the empirical results indicate that retailers could do better in achieving desired
affective responses. The conclusion drawn therefore is that retailers are far less
differentiated in their use of sensory stimuli than they could be to achieve the
responses they expect. As Parsons (2003) discusses in the shopping mall context, there
is a greater need for retailers to differentiate themselves in an environment of
disaffected shoppers bored by the sameness of offerings, yet the observation and
survey of retailers in this research shows a general consensus of sensory stimuli usage
within the fashion sector, at odds with a context of shoppers seeking not only
utilitarian succour but hedonic gratification as well (Babin et al., 1994).
The third conclusion concerns repeated exposure to stimuli. After spending
sometimes hundreds of thousands of dollars, a retailer is faced with a shopper quickly
becoming bored or disaffected with the sensory stimuli and the benefits of positive
affect are diminished or lost altogether. Ward et al.s (1992) perceptions of prototypicality requires the environmental cues to suggest a matching of the shoppers
self-concept and the store image as portrayed (in part) by store atmosphere, but as
Sirgy et al. (2000) suggests, the person may develop or the store may develop (or
stagnate) and the match may become less appealing. If having the same stimuli is seen
as stagnation, and is considered a negative event (in terms of the shopping
environment), Stoltman et al. (1999) suggest such an event could lead to switching. The
results of the experiment on repeated exposures effect on affect suggest that
stagnation with repeated exposure can diminish affect for the store. The results
also suggest that change in stimuli, particularly positive change in terms of moving
to levels that are more likely to induce positive affect, can revitalise the shopper affect.

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Thus, the conclusion is that repeated exposure to the same stimuli can result in
reduced affect, whereas a change in stimuli can revitalise and even increase affect.
The change does not have to be wholesale nor dramatic. The differences between
the industry standard set of influential stimuli and the ideal set is a matter of level.
By altering the level of the stimuli retailers can achieve a meaningful affective response
at a fraction of the cost of a full refit. The retail manager must appreciate that small
changes can have large effects. The findings show that a change from mid tempo music
to faster tempo music can significantly enhance shopper affect in a clothing store. The
dilemma a manager faces when designing the atmosphere of their store is that having
invested considerable budget into creating the ambience that appeals to the shopper
the shopper can then become bored and disaffected, as the findings about repeated
exposure revealed. However, a simple change of music played, a dimming of the lights
temporarily, the introduction of an alternative scent all these changes in stimuli are
simple and small, but can have significant positive effects on responses. Thus, a
retailer who has invested in a store design expected to last five or six years, is not faced
with a redundant design after the first visits by shoppers. By constantly manipulating
the sensory stimuli levels and even presence, the retailer can instil a revitalisation of
the store. Whilst not examined in this research, the logical interval between changes
would be tied to the normal interval between visits for typical shoppers.
Empirically this is the first study to take a stimuli from each of the dimensions or
factors conceptually described by Kotler (1974), Baker (1986), and Bitner (1992) and
test them in a full factorial design, creating a representation of a holistic store
atmosphere, rather than simply single or multiple stimuli. By doing so the research
shows that it is possible to empirically test combinations of stimuli and/or levels. The
implication therefore for researchers is that different stimuli could easily be added
or substituted within a dimension to test its effect within a factorial design, rather than
relying on main effect results only.
Conceptually the first implication for researchers is that in any model of sensory
stimuli-based store atmosphere relationships with shopper affect and/or behaviour
should incorporate interactions. By omitting interactions researchers may be missing
potentially influential stimuli that individually may not have significant effects, but in
combination with other stimuli may greatly influence shopper affect. This also means
that it may be necessary to revisit studies that have contradictory results concerning
main effects, such as the debate over whether scent should be congruent (e.g. Bone and
Jantrania, 1992; Mitchell et al., 1995; Bone and Ellen, 1999; Fiore et al., 2000), or even
present (Bone and Ellen, 1999; Gulas and Bloch, 1995; Mattila and Wirtz, 2001) to
generate responses, or whether music tempo influences behaviour (e.g. Herrington and
Capella, 1996; Milliman, 1982). It may be that the music, scent, or whatever stimuli has
been studied is interacting with other stimuli or is not interacting with other stimuli
when it should be, to provide what has been observed as a main effect.
The second conceptual implication is that a model of store atmosphere is likely to
require a mediating influence in the form of repeated exposure. Clearly this is only
relevant in studies concerning patronage, but it would be rare for a researcher to be
investigating a retail situation where a single visit is common. The findings from
this study are not comprehensive in their determination of a need for the mediating
variable, but there is a clear indication that such a variable is likely to have a part
to play in any model of store atmosphere. Conceptually this then raises the question
of whether other mediating, or moderating variables may exist that should also
be included.

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Methodologically the strength of the findings in this research shows two things.
First, the combination of field observation and sample survey research, based on an
extensive literature analysis, to produce a schema of industry norms, allows for the
construction of a valid and reliable set of experiments to empirically test the conceptual
model and related propositions. Such an approach (the use of a schema) is unusual
in marketing research, but this study shows how effective such an application can be.
Second, the use of a controlled setting can be applied in environmental studies of
marketing, achieving ecological validity but allowing the researcher to control external
influences. The use of digitally enhanced displays of visual and aural stimuli in
combination with physical manifestations of olfactory and tactile stimuli allow the
researcher to conduct studies of store and other market environments without
the expense of constructing artificial sets, or the trade-off of placing the study in a
field setting.
Finally, with the ability to measure components of store atmosphere directly, but as
part of a package, it may be that a conceptualisation like Bitners (1990, 1992) can begin
to be tested, integrating store atmospherics with other store environment factors, or
with other determinants of patronage (e.g. Kerin et al., 1992; Sirgy et al., 2000).
Note
1. Kolmogorov-Smirnov tests give the following univariate results: affect: Z 2.236; time:
Z 3.440; money: Z 3.259; frequency: Z 2.968; likely: Z 3.243. In all cases the
asymptotic significance was 0.000.
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Corresponding author
Andrew G. Parsons can be contacted at: andrew.parsons@aut.ac.nz

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