This article seeks to make a critical contribution to the contemporary debate on the active role of children as consumers, exploring the different meanings children confer on consumer goods and spaces in retail settings.
A total of 60 children were unobtrusively observed in ten Italian apparel stores.
Children tend to subvert the stores' possible uses and symbolizations by actively re‐appropriating the meanings of products, promotional stimuli and spaces through play.
The analysis of children's lived experience of commercial spaces enables retailers to adjust the stores' environment to children's demands, recognising their role as active meaning creators.
The playful re‐appropriation of spaces, products and promotional stimuli emerged as a mechanism through which children learn to consume, reinforcing their knowledge and attitudes about retail settings, products and brands.
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