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Study Looks At How Small Retailers Can Compete Against Discounters

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Big box discount retailers have become a common fixture in rural America, but small retailers can stay competitive by providing a transparent shopping experience. That is one of the findings of a recent survey of consumers in three small U.S. communities reported in the latest issue of Implications, a monthly newsletter on design and human behavior produced by InformeDesign® (www.informedesign.umn.edu). Authors Kim Johnson, Ph.D., a professor in the department of Design, Housing, and Apparel in the College of Design at the University of Minnesota, and doctoral candidate Jaeha Lee give retail designers, store planners and independent retailers an in-depth look into the consumer preferences and expectations of people living in small towns. More than half of the 328 participants in their study shopped with independent retailers several times a week. Merchandising is key to attracting and retaining customers. Among other findings, the study shows that these consumers like stores that are easy to navigate, have clear and consistent display of product and allow ample room to search or examine merchandise. Community connectedness of the local store also was important to small-town consumers. The consumers in the study considered both a retailer’s support for local community events as well as the retailer’s financial or technical assistance to community organizations or schools when deciding where to shop. “As discounters continue to enter into rural markets, small independent retailers will struggle if they try to compete on the basis of price,” states Johnson. “However, small retailers can highlight their strengths as small stores providing customers with well-designed stores, unique products, and positive shopping experiences.” InformeDesign is the first searchable database of design and human behavior research on the Web. The site currently contains more than 1,700 “practitioner-friendly” Research Summaries of findings from research literature transformed from more than 170 scholarly journals related to design and human behavior. All services on the InformeDesign Web site are currently available at no cost to visitors. In addition to the searchable database of Research Summaries, the site features a calendar of research-related events and a glossary of terms. The Web site is interactive, allowing visitors to provide comments about specific Research Summaries or other site issues. Visitors may register with InformeDesign and receive automated e-mail notifications about Research Summaries pertaining to their areas of interest or practice. Once registered, users have access to MyInformeDesign, a tool to catalogue and store Research Summaries of interest in a personal cache, available anywhere there is access to the Internet. Registered users also will be notified by e-mail when a new issue of Implications is published. The staff of InformeDesign recommends that registered users who are not receiving requested notifications check with their information technology administrators to ensure that e-mails from informedesign@umn.edu are on a “safe” list and not considered spam. ASID is a community of people—designers, industry representatives, educators and students—committed to interior design. Through education, knowledge sharing, advocacy, community building and outreach, the Society strives to advance the interior design profession and, in the process, to demonstrate and celebrate the power of design to positively change people’s lives. Its more than 38,000 members engage in a variety of professional programs and activities through a network of 48 chapters throughout the United States and Canada. To learn more about ASID, visit www.asid.org . The University of Minnesota is one of the most comprehensive public universities in the United States and has been ranked among the top three public universities. It is a state land-grant university with a strong tradition of research, education, and public service with faculty of national and international reputation. The College of Design unites programs in architecture, clothing design, graphic design, interior design, housing studies, landscape architecture, and retail merchandising creating a nationally distinctive, multidisciplinary college engaged in research, teaching, creative production, and public engagement.

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