Consumer satisfaction with local retail diversity in the UK: effects of supermarket access, brand variety, and social deprivation
Levels of concentration in the grocery sector have led to concerns about reduced diversity of local retail provision and its potential negative effects on consumer welfare and choice. Using empirical evidence from a study of consumer perceptions of retail choice across nine purposefully sampled neighbourhoods in the city of Worcester in the UK, the paper illuminates consumer satisfaction with local provision and investigates how satisfaction varies with the local mix of grocery stores. The study adopts a stated-preference approach with realistic but hypothetical scenarios being presented to consumers in which the level, form, brand composition, and accessibility of local retail provision is systematically varied to gauge the sensitivity of householders in different types of neighbourhoods to variations in local retail assortments. The contributions of the paper are reflected in three main findings: (1) residents value having a large supermarket close by and reveal that they value diversity of provision rather than overconcentration; (2) consumers in deprived areas overall display greater satisfaction for the same offer than consumers in less deprived areas; and (3) although small stores in a local store assortment significantly contribute to reducing dissatisfaction with the local retail offer, they contribute little to achieving higher levels of consumer satisfaction. The study stresses the need for planners and policy makers to maximise choice and welfare through both the number and the diversity of stores in local neighbourhood areas. Keywords: retail planning, provision, retail assortment, access, consumer choice, consumer welfare, neighbourhood valuation, experimental analysis, stated-preference
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