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Title:Evaluating gender in retail servicescapes: Beyond the heteronormative binary approach
Author(s):Cook, Kirby Margeson Lee
Advisor(s):Nelson, Michelle R
Department / Program:Advertising
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Abstract:For consumers who view gender and sexual orientation as fluid concepts, navigating and interpreting in-store atmospherics is a crucial step in their process of reaffirming gender identity, exploring their self-expression, and finding ways of fitting in. A non-binary individual who prefers a more gender-neutral look versus a female looking for something feminine, can be in the same clothing store but have two entirely different experiences in the same environment. As sociocultural concepts for gender continue to evolve beyond the binary gender system, the retail industry must keep pace in order to appeal to customers’ gender identities and sexual orientations. While retail literature has examined the effects of various atmospheric cues, there is a lack of research focusing on gender cues in retail settings or how people with varying genders or sexual orientations experience these environments. This exploratory study examines how the gender indicators (e.g., colors, products, etc.) in clothing stores are perceived and interpreted by consumers as they relate to their own gender identity and sexual orientation. Twenty virtual semi-structured interviews were conducted (eight individuals identifying as members of the LBGTQ+ community, seven heterosexual females, and five heterosexual males). Multiple rounds of coding using in-vivo and holistic methods led to emerging themes: the importance of mannequins, the positive and negative effects of store personnel, and extended perspectives on consumer shopping behaviors elicited through animal personae. Theoretical contributions include exploration of how consumers process brand personality information; interactions with sales associates are critical to consumers’ evaluation of fit; shoppers feel vulnerable to varying degrees in retail environments; and lastly, despite changes in socio-cultural norms, retail continues to promote gender as a binary concept through advertising and store imagery.
Issue Date:2021-04-27
Rights Information:Copyright 2021 Kirby Cook
Date Available in IDEALS:2021-09-17
Date Deposited:2021-05

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