There are several important factors that influence consumer store choice behavior. Although the influence of these elements differs, depending on such variables as the type of product purchased the type of store (such as discount, department or other), and the type of consumer , the factors discussed in this section have been found to exert general influence on store choice. They include store location, physical design assortment, prices, advertising sales promotion personnel and services.
Location has an obvious impact on store patronage. Generally the closer consumers are to a store, the greater their likelihood to purchase from that store. The farther away consumers are from a tire, the greater the number of intervening alternatives and thus the lower the likelihood to patronize that store Research on the influence of location on store choice has taken several directions.
Marketers have long been interested in the factors that cause consumers outside metropolitan areas to choose city A rather than city B in which to shop. Research has been conducted on the drawing power of urban areas on consumers located near these cities. Believing that population and distance were not the causes of consumer store choice but could be used as good substitute variables for all the factors influencing consumers, the law of retail gravitation was developed to explain the strength of one city’s attraction on consumers living near it. In effect, this law states that two cities attract retail trade from an intermediate city or town in the vicinity of the breaking point (that is, where 50 percent of the trade is attracted to each city) approximately in direct proportion to their population and in inverse proportion to the square of the distance from these two cities to the intermediate town. This concept was tested by computing the breaking point between thirty pairs of cities. The predictions were very close to results of actual field studies in which the breaking point was measured.
In applying the laws of retail gravitation it should be kept in mind that they were meant to apply only to two large cities. In addition, the laws apply only to the division of shopping goods trade, and particularly to fashion goods (often referred to as style or specialty goods) because a large part of convenience and bulk goods is purchased locally. Although the work on retail gravitation has helped marketers to conceptualize inter market behavior, it is incomplete as an explanation for store choice behavior because it ignores such factors as income levels, the character of retailing in the two cities, and consumer preferences.
While the above approach has taken a macro orientation to the examination of inter market patronage, others have taken a micro approach, which rests on the assumption that consumers have different characteristics and therefore have a differential predisposition to forego secondary costs such as time, money and effort in selecting one trade area over another. Studies have found that consumers frequently shop out of areas (out shoppers) and they can be distinguished from non out shoppers by certain demographic and psychographic characteristics
As shopping centers developed during the period since 1950, researchers began to investigate their influence on the shopping behavior of consumer. These suburban alternatives to the central downtown shopping district introduced new wrinkles in explaining store choice.
To determine the factors that influence store choice within urban areas, some studies have examined the role of driving me on shopping center preference. Travel times longer than fifteen minutes appear to be barrier to many shopping center patrons. Those who are willing to drive longer times seem to be attracted by the size of the shopping center. Another study indicates, however, that location of the shopping center is not nearly as important as other variables, such as price value, variety of product and store, store quality and cleanliness and friendly sales personnel. This result is contrary to the emphasis placed on distance measures in most site location models.