This paper aims to examine the third-place phenomenon, within a fashion context, through the theoretical lens of servicescape and experiential retailing. It identifies third places’ typologies, evolution and adoption and explores the opportunities third places offer to retailers when attempting to connect better with consumers.
Taking a qualitative approach, research was conducted using secondary data sources, observation of 98 retail stores and the shopping-with-consumers technique with 42 informants. Manual thematic analysis and magnitude coding was conducted.
Third-place fashion practices are prevalent and growing. Their predominant functions include sociability, experiential, restorative and commercial. Variances inherent in third places are expounded and a third-place-dimensions model is proposed.
Due to the chosen research approach, the results are limited in terms of generalizability to other settings. Several research directions are elucidated, including exploration of fashion third places on consumers’ place attachment within specific sectors; the impact of differing age, gender and geographies on third place meaning; virtual and hybrid forms; retailer motivations; and third-place alliances.
The preliminary study serves to support managers to understand how consumers perceive and experience the fashion third place and the potential of the third place to enhance consumer engagement.
The research makes a valuable contribution to the dearth of extant literature on third place within the fashion field. It offers a new theoretical perspective on form, function and benefits of third places as a conduit of social-, experiential-, and commercial-experience consumption.
The author thanks the postgraduate Fashion Retail Research group for their contribution to the data collection process of this research.
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