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Off-price versus price-off: Use of discriminant analysis to identify competitive differences across retail formats

Ronald L. Hess Jr (Mason School of Business, College of William & Mary, Williamsburg, Virginia, USA)
Lawrence Ring (Mason School of Business, College of William & Mary, Williamsburg, Virginia, USA)

International Journal of Retail & Distribution Management

ISSN: 0959-0552

Article publication date: 7 October 2014




The purpose of this paper is to better understand the unique competitive positioning characteristics of off-price retailers and how they compare to other types of retailers. The authors compare off-price and upscale off-price retailers with four major formats of retailers: first, discount department store/warehouse club retailers; second, moderate department store retailers; third, department store retailers; and finally, specialty department store retailers.


The paper employs a representative sample that was randomly drawn from four primary metropolitan cities in the USA. The data were collected using telephone interviews by a prominent, marketing research firm. A series of discriminant analyses were conducted to examine the data.


The findings of the paper indicate that the off-price formats were consistently positioned at extreme points along the price/value continuum, signifying the strongest value-orientation among the other retail formats. The authors also found that while the upscale off-price format followed the specialty department stores in terms of fashion. The results point to an important disadvantage of the off-price format – although strong on price/value, they often fall short on fashion and many other store attributes that may be important to luxury-oriented customers.

Research limitations/implications

The paper employed a sample from several cities collected using a telephone interview methodology within the US. Due to these limitations, the findings of this paper may be hampered by this methodology and not generalize to regions outside of the US. Future research should examine how the demise of most of the upscale off-price retailers and growth of flash web sites have changed the competitive structure of retailing.

Practical implications

The results demonstrate that the positioning of the off-price retail format is unique from other formats. The retail formats occupy distinct positions. The off-price retail format is strongly associated with the price/value position but only moderately fashionable to customers, especially when compared with the department and specialty department store formats. In contrast, the upscale off-price format, while also strongly positioned along the price/value continuum, is considered much more fashionable than the off-price retail format. In fact, the upscale off-price retail format only trails the specialty department store format in terms of fashion.


The unique characteristics of the off-price retail format and growing interest from upscale department stores underscores the need for a comprehensive understanding of the motives of the off-price shopper. This paper provides retailers with a more complete understanding of the store attributes that differentiate the off-price retail format from other major retail store formats. The overall objective of this study is to offer a comprehensive view of the positioning of off-price retailers compared with many alternative retail formats.



L. Hess Jr, R. and Ring, L. (2014), "Off-price versus price-off: Use of discriminant analysis to identify competitive differences across retail formats", International Journal of Retail & Distribution Management, Vol. 42 No. 10, pp. 902-928.



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