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Shopping from a child’s perspective: an anxiety-generating experience?

Valérie-Inés de La Ville (IAE Université de Poitiers, Angouleme, France)
Nathalie Nicol (CEPE Angouleme, Angouleme, France)

International Journal of Retail & Distribution Management

ISSN: 0959-0552

Article publication date: 21 June 2019

Issue publication date: 31 July 2019




The purpose of this paper is to offer some insight into how siblings aged between 4 and 12, engaged in a collaborative drawing activity at home, recall the shopping trips they have experienced.


Using a Vygotskian perspective, the data collection consisted of engaging 15 pairs of siblings in the production of a joint drawing of a shop of their choice. Drawing in pairs opens a Zone of Proximal Development (Vygotsky, 1978) where the younger child benefits from verbal guidance by the older one to achieve the common task. This situation enables the researcher to gain close access to children’s knowledge about stores and to the words they use to describe their personal shopping experiences.


This exploratory research reveals some constitutive elements of children’s “shopscapes” (Nicol, 2014), i.e. the imaginary geographies they actively elaborate through their daily practices and experiences with regard to retail environments. In their communicative interactions when elaborating a joint drawing of the shop they have chosen, children demonstrate that they master a considerable body of knowledge about retail environments. Surprisingly, recalling their shopping practices sheds light on various anxiety-generating dimensions.

Research limitations/implications

The data collection is based on a remembering exercise performed at home and does not bring information about what children actually do in retail environments. Moreover, the children were asked to focus on buying a present for a friend’s birthday, therefore the information gathered essentially relates to toy stores.

Practical implications

This research underlines the necessity for retailers to endeavour to reduce some of the anxious feelings depicted and verbalized by children, by improving the welcome for children into their stores.

Social implications

There are also opportunities for retailers to invest in the consumption education area by guiding young visitors so that they learn how to behave as apprentice consumers in retail outlets.


The child-centric perspective of the study reveals new and surprising insights about the way children report their memorised shopping experiences.



de La Ville, V.-I. and Nicol, N. (2019), "Shopping from a child’s perspective: an anxiety-generating experience?", International Journal of Retail & Distribution Management, Vol. 47 No. 6, pp. 680-698.



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