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“Switched”: store‐switching behaviours

Anne Findlay (Institute for Retail Studies, University of Stirling, Stirling, UK)
Leigh Sparks (Institute for Retail Studies, University of Stirling, Stirling, UK)

International Journal of Retail & Distribution Management

ISSN: 0959-0552

Article publication date: 25 April 2008




The purpose of this paper is to investigate store‐switching behaviours for main food‐shopping consequent on a change in operator for a major superstore; to relate results to previous research findings on store‐switching levels; and to use the results to emphasise new directions and dimensions for store‐switching research.


A two‐phase random household postal survey on main food‐shopping behaviour was conducted in a central Scottish city. The two phases, separated by one year, bracketed the change of a main food store from Safeway to Morrisons. A proportion of respondent households in the two phases (45 per cent) was common and represents matched subjects, allowing investigation of store‐switching behaviour.


The aggregate switching rate is higher (27.4 per cent) than found in previous UK research, despite the locational/accessibility component being held constant. No aggregate differences between switchers/non‐switchers on socio‐economic or demographic grounds were found, confirming previous US research. The high level of switching is ascribed to a re‐evaluation of store choices/attributes consequent on the store changeover, confirming the notion of a “trigger” mechanism.

Practical implications

The research has implications for competition authorities, other policy makers and retailers. It reveals the transient nature of a component of store‐switching and the store‐specific nature of store‐switching behaviour. Policy makers need to understand the baseline or natural switching rate amongst retailers generally and specifically in their area. Retailers can exploit further the store‐specific element of switching.


Research on store‐switching behaviour over time is rare both generally and specifically in the UK. This research provides evidence of switching rates which can be subject to confirmation/disconfirmation in other circumstances.



Findlay, A. and Sparks, L. (2008), "“Switched”: store‐switching behaviours", International Journal of Retail & Distribution Management, Vol. 36 No. 5, pp. 375-386.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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