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Food shopping – utilitarian or hedonistic

This research project will investigate the role the Community Shopping Centre currently plays within the community. The project will examine how the Community Shopping Centre can strengthen its ties with the community and customer base to provide a strategic advantage over online shopping.

Consumer’s perceptions of shopping as a utilitarian or hedonistic activity will be explored as well as behavioural and usage patterns of both online and offline shopping.  This research will be valuable for bricks and mortar retailers, marketers and consumer behaviour academics.

Project background

Community Shopping Centres have traditionally been seen by customers as a place to shop to satisfy utilitarian needs (Lambert and Cripps, 2012). This perception has predominantly been driven by the retail mix of local shopping centres which caters to these needs by being primarily grocery and convenience shopping focused, with grocery being the prime traffic driver.

A key advantage Community Shopping Centres have had in the past is the convenience aspect they provide to local customers. However, as the marketplace becomes increasingly competitive, with the emergence of online shopping changing consumer shopping habits and providing greater convenience (Brynjolfsson and Smith, 2000, Ramas and Nielsen 2005), community shopping centres must reinvigorate their offering to differentiate and prosper. No longer can they rely on their convenient location as their key strategic competitive advantage, which is now undoubtedly being challenged by online retailers.

Today in Australia, the amount of consumers purchasing groceries online trails significantly behind the UK (AC Nielsen, 2012). However, “Nielsen’s latest insights highlight that two in every three adult Australians use the internet every week to check specials on retailer sites, review grocery specials on daily deal sites or to gather coupon offers” (AC Nielsen, 2012). Therefore, it is expected these consumers will naturally progress to purchasing online in the near future.

One of the downfalls of online shopping is the challenge in providing a true experiential shopping experience with personable service for the customer. Therefore, the true opportunity for Community shopping centres is to capitalise on experiential shopping and excellent customer service. No longer can they rely solely on utilitarian shopping experiences but they must move towards incorporating hedonic experiences for their customer. It is proposed that Community Shopping Centres can achieve this by altering the retail tenant mix to include hedonic retailers that provide unique experiential shopping and superior customer service. However, another aspect of consideration is taking the shopping centre back to its heritage as a community place to visit thus, forming stronger ties with their customer and community.


Funding body

  • Faculty of Business and Law, Strategic Research Grant


The project commenced June 2013 and is ongoing.

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