Grey consumers








Statement of the problem

The effects of service quality perception of grey consumers on store loyalty and satisfaction behaviour.

Brief Literature review

The grey consumers constitutes of the elderly people who are above 50 years of age who  are currently the fastest growing segment of consumers in the United States as well as globally. The continued growth of this population is also accompanied by numerous significant changes that nowadays occurring in the  contemporary American population.  Moreover, research has indicated that one of the major lifestyle of the grey consumers is shopping instead of other chores (Iacobucci, Ostrom and Grayson, 1995). Therefore these  shopping  activities significantly impact the physical and mental welfare of the grey consumers. This is also partly because of progressive lifestyle changes that the grey consumers are undergoing as a result of their changed social activities and roles (Wong and  Sohal, 2003).

The grey consumers’ shopping behaviours are completely different when compared to other age groups including their shopping orientation, general expenditure patterns bas well as store loyalty. These group of consumers is hardly influenced by the price of the product, and, rather, they are usually interested in having high quality services and products, hence they tend to show higher levels of store loyalty (Moschis, 1992). Moreover, it is also evident that grey consumers are always keen in paying more attention to the provision of services which include courteous treatment as well as sales people assistance compared to the younger consumers. Therefore, in relation to this it becomes necessary to understand perceptions of grey consumers on the services offered in various retail stores as well as their shopping behaviours (Iacobucci, Ostrom and Grayson, 1995).

There has been an overall agreement and recognition that the product price and quality have not been the only dominant element that affects consumers’ purchasing decisions. This therefore indicates that service is nowadays turning out to be a decisive factor for the grey consumers to decide if or not they are willing to do their shopping at a certain retail store (Wong and  Sohal, 2003). Hence the changes in the patterns of consumers’ purchasing decisions has necessitated the need  for the  retail stores to embark on offering services that are fulfilling to the expectations of their customers (Mumel, 2005).

Moreover, the developed gap model usually conceptualized service quality that is perceived as the degree as well as the discrepancy direction between the perceptions of the customers of the performance of the actual service and also their expectations. This led to the identification of ten dimensions, that are: “tangibles”, “responsiveness”,  “reliability”, “competence”,  “access” “courtesy”, “security”, “credibility”, “communication”, as well as “understanding”, as crucial factors that are related to the perception of consumers on service quality (Iacobucci, Ostrom and Grayson, 1995). Therefore on the basis of the “gap model”, a standardized multi-item instrument was developed referred to as SERVQUAL which consisted of five major dimensions of service quality aimed at measuring the perceived consumers’ service quality: “responsiveness”, “reliability”, “assurance”, “tangibles” and “empathy”.

Customer satisfaction is also a very crucial factor in determining their perceptions towards service delivery in a particular retail store (Moschis, 1992). This has been overtime reiterated by the existing positive relationship that link good service quality to customer satisfaction. Thus good service delivery is one of the most powerful strategy for any retail store to achieve their goal of satisfying their customers (Iacobucci, Ostrom and Grayson, 1995). Therefore high service quality is directly linked to higher levels of customer satisfaction. Moreover, not all the services that are perceived by the customers within a set up of the retail store is capable of motivating them carry out more purchases within the store, meaning that not all the offered services are capable for effective customers satisfaction  as well as  motivating an increase in their expenditure. Iacobucci et al. (1995) provided an effective suggestion that improvements on service quality needed to be conducted on the basis of the needs of the customers so as to adequately improve their satisfaction.

Moreover, there has been an overall realization that customer retention as a result of their loyalty towards store is a very effective strategy for reduction of  costs (Mumel, 2005). Thus customer retention increases the store revenues as a result of increase in the customer spending as well as reduction in the operating costs (Wong and  Sohal, 2003). Therefore as a result of an increase in the emphasis of customer retention, an increased number of retail stores have developed programs to promote customer loyalty with the aim of retaining customers together with an emphasis in transforming their customer management approach through the shift of their focus from acquisition of customers to retaining of the acquired customers (Iacobucci, Ostrom and Grayson, 1995).

Data collected

The research sample consisted of 232 respondents above fifty years of age from the United State’s south-eastern town to whom structured questionnaires were administered. Among the 232 administered questionnaires only 205 were returned, whereby among them only 182 were qualified questionnaires that ended up being used for data analysis. The rest 23 questionnaires didn’t meet the sampling criteria thus they were excluded. Among these, six participants had not attended any department store in the past year for apparel shopping, nine of the excluded respondents were below the needed age threshold whereas the rest eight did not complete all the required questions (Wong and  Sohal, 2003).

Among the collected data there was an indication that almost 62 per cent of all the study respondents reported to have been to a department stores for the purpose of purchasing clothing items “occasionally”, whereas only 18.13 per cent of the respondents reported of “often” visiting the department stores for clothing items purchase. Moreover, a small percentage of 4.40 of the respondents reported to  “very often” visiting the department stores to purchase clothing items while 15.93 per cent reported to be  “seldom” going to the department stores for the clothing items  purchase (Iacobucci, Ostrom and Grayson, 1995).

However, this study involved the development of a structured questionnaire that was very crucial for enabling the collection of the grey consumers data pertaining to their perceived service quality within the department stores which they preferred most, their satisfaction as well as their loyalty to those particular stores (Wong and  Sohal, 2003). The questionnaire statements were adopted as well as complied by considering the previous studies that had identified the dimensions of the retail service quality together with the related research that explored the existing link between service quality, customer loyalty and customer satisfaction (Moschis, 1992).


Iacobucci, D., Ostrom, A. and Grayson, K. (1995). Distinguishing service quality and customer satisfaction. Journal of Consumer Psychology, vol. 4 no. 3, pp. 277-303.

Moschis, G.P. (1992). Marketing to Older Consumers: A Handbook of Information for Strategy Development. Westport: Greenwood.

Mumel, D. (2005). Grey consumers are all the same, they even dress the same – myth or reality?. Journal of Fashion Marketing and Management, vol. 9 no. 4, pp. 434-49.

Wong, A. and  Sohal, A. (2003). Service quality and customer loyalty perspectives on two levels of retail relationship. Journal of Services Marketing, vol. 17 no. 5, pp. 495-513.


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