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Consumer embarrassment in an emerging market retail context: a qualitative investigation

Vaishali Sangwan (Indian Institute of Management, Lucknow, India and Department of Marketing, Jindal Global Business School, O.P. Jindal University, Sonipat, India, and)
Moutusy Maity (Indian Institute of Management, Lucknow, India)

Qualitative Market Research

ISSN: 1352-2752

Article publication date: 18 March 2024




Emerging economies are dominated by an unorganized retail landscape, with complex sociocultural norms dictating the behavior of retailers and customers. The purpose of this paper is to explore the phenomenon of consumer embarrassment in an emerging marketing, India.


This research adopts a grounded theory approach and undertakes 31 in-depth interviews with consumers in India. The data is analyzed inductively and iteratively simultaneously with data collection.


The study uncovers that sociocultural normative influences, the retail environment’s structural constraints, interaction-based buying processes and customers’ perceptions play a role in eliciting embarrassment in traditional stores. The traditional format retailers play a significant role in evoking embarrassment and, surprisingly, also in facilitating coping. Contrary to the extant findings, purchasing embarrassing products online may not ensure anonymity and elicit embarrassment. The findings contribute to understanding the phenomenon of embarrassment in emerging markets.


There is a dearth of research examining consumer embarrassment in emerging markets, with extant studies investigating the phenomenon in the modern retail setup of developed economies. The retail landscape of India is predominantly unorganized, with distinct transactional processes and physical characteristics that are starkly different from modern retail stores. Moreover, sociocultural normative forces have distinct influences on the informal setup of unorganized retail.



Sangwan, V. and Maity, M. (2024), "Consumer embarrassment in an emerging market retail context: a qualitative investigation", Qualitative Market Research, Vol. ahead-of-print No. ahead-of-print.



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