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A comprehensive model of customer trust in two retail stores

Paolo Guenzi (Institute of Marketing, Department of Management, SDA Bocconi School of Management, Bocconi University, Milan, Italy)
Michael D. Johnson (School of Hotel Administration, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York, USA)
Sandro Castaldo (Institute of Marketing, Department of Management, SDA Bocconi School of Management, Bocconi University, Milan, Italy)

Journal of Service Management

ISSN: 1757-5818

Article publication date: 19 June 2009




The purpose of this paper is to develop and test a comprehensive model of customer trust in a retail service setting. Three levels of the customer‐to‐store relationship are simultaneously taken into account: customer to sales associates, customer to store branded products, and customer to the store itself.


Using partial least square (PLS) on a sample of 393 customers of an Italian supermarket retailer, a model linking customer trust (in the store, in store branded products and in sales associates) to overall perceived value and store loyalty intentions and behaviors is tested. Subsequently an expanded model to determine the influence of managerially controlled antecedent variables (salespeople's trustworthiness, store environment, store assortment, and communications) is estimated on the various trust levels.


Trust in the salesperson and trust in store branded products have positive effects on overall store trust. Store trust, in turn, increases perceived value and loyalty intentions. Looking at the drivers of the three levels of customer trust, salesperson trustworthiness positively affects only trust in the salesperson. Store environment has a positive impact only on overall trust in the store. Store communication fosters all three levels of customer trust, while store assortment increases both overall trust and trust in store branded products.

Practical implications

Findings of the study suggest an alternative perspective to the dominant strategies in grocery retailing services. To foster store patronage, retailers have typically invested in price cuts, promotions and loyalty schemes. Store managers may rather use sales associates, the store environment, store assortment, store branded products, and communication to foster customer trust and increase customer loyalty. Managing store brands with the goal to build trust, as opposed to increase immediate profit margins, may call for a completely different approach to private labels. Similarly, the potential relevance of interpersonal trust may suggest retailers to devote more resources to selection, recruitment and training of sales associates, and may stimulate changes in evaluation criteria, incentive schemes and reward systems.


The study aims at filling two important gaps in the literature: the scarcity of comprehensive store patronage models and the lack of exploration of the operational means of improving customer trust in retail services.



Guenzi, P., Johnson, M.D. and Castaldo, S. (2009), "A comprehensive model of customer trust in two retail stores", Journal of Service Management, Vol. 20 No. 3, pp. 290-316.



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