How does visual merchandising affect consumer affective response? An intimate apparel experience

Derry Law (Institute of Textiles and Clothing, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Hong Kong)
Christina Wong (The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Hong Kong)
Joanne Yip (Institute of Textiles and Clothing, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Hong Kong)

European Journal of Marketing

ISSN: 0309-0566

Publication date: 10 February 2012



The aim of this article is to investigate the relationship between visual merchandising elements and consumer affective response by focusing on a function‐oriented product – intimate apparel.


In this paper, a different perspective on visual merchandising is offered through the different types of intimate apparel retailers (from fashion‐oriented, mass market‐oriented to fashion forward). This is presented in an interpretive study of Hong Kong Chinese female consumers, between the ages of 25 and 35. A qualitative approach is employed and the grounded theory method is chosen. A total of eight focus group interviews are conducted with 64 subjects.


The findings indicate that participating subjects have two points of view when evaluating visual store displays, which include utilitarian and hedonic aspects. The utilitarian aspect relates to the actual needs of consumers, such as garment deterioration, seasonal changes and occasions. The hedonic aspect finds that the perceived female image governs consumer interpretation and acceptance of visual displays. It also reveals that the need to be feminine sets the guidelines to evaluating visual stimulus in stores. Display elements, such as mannequins, colour, lighting and props that emphasize feelings of feminine sexuality, tend to trigger negative affective responses in consumers which finally affect purchase intentions.


The authors aim to explore consumer affective response on visual stimulus in stores by considering the aesthetic, symbolic and cultural perceptions of a function‐oriented product – intimate apparel. The literature to date tends to focus on the interaction between individual visual merchandising elements (e.g. colour, lighting) with consumers. However, the product nature and its symbolic meaning have not been seriously taken into consideration. Due to the immense market potential in the East, applying western‐developed theories may not be universally appropriate. There may be different results and patterns in consumer behaviour. Thus, this study aims to enrich existing knowledge of atmospheric management by including the interaction of Eastern values and product nature on affective responses.



Law, D., Wong, C. and Yip, J. (2012), "How does visual merchandising affect consumer affective response? An intimate apparel experience", European Journal of Marketing, Vol. 46 No. 1/2, pp. 112-133.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2012, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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