Abstract

In the current experience economy, some retailers and retail designers aim at triggering customer experiences by associating the retail store’s design with ‘authenticity’. The notion of authenticity, however, is complex and layered and has been studied in several scientific disciplines. But within retail design, only limited research on authenticity is available. This paper aims to clarify the complex concept of authenticity in relation to retail design. Retail design as part of interior architecture is an emerging discipline. By establishing its theoretical basis, authors mostly rely on the knowledge of background disciplines; as in this paper, where we look at theories developed in marketing and philosophy to investigate how (staged) authentic retail settings be can situated in relation to the current experience economy. The paper contains three large sections. The opening section presents a review of literature on retail design and the experience economy in relation to authenticity. The second section explores authenticity as defined through the theory on simulacrum by Plato, Baudrillard en Deleuze. In the third section, these theoretical insights are translated to the actual retail environment by surveying (staged) ‘authentic’ retail stores in three shopping cities in Flanders (Belgium). Based on this survey, seven different groups of authentic stores are defined, moving from ‘real’ to ‘hyperreal’. This grouping should not be seen as a classification system but rather as a mental scheme to investigate and report on different approaches towards authenticity in retail store environments. The scheme can be applied in the field of consumer research as well as in retail (design) practice.

Keywords:

Authenticity, Retail Design, Simulacra, Experience Economy

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Jul 7th, 12:00 AM

Developing a Theoretical Framework for Understanding (Staged) Authentic Retail Settings in Relation to the Current Experience Economy.

In the current experience economy, some retailers and retail designers aim at triggering customer experiences by associating the retail store’s design with ‘authenticity’. The notion of authenticity, however, is complex and layered and has been studied in several scientific disciplines. But within retail design, only limited research on authenticity is available. This paper aims to clarify the complex concept of authenticity in relation to retail design. Retail design as part of interior architecture is an emerging discipline. By establishing its theoretical basis, authors mostly rely on the knowledge of background disciplines; as in this paper, where we look at theories developed in marketing and philosophy to investigate how (staged) authentic retail settings be can situated in relation to the current experience economy. The paper contains three large sections. The opening section presents a review of literature on retail design and the experience economy in relation to authenticity. The second section explores authenticity as defined through the theory on simulacrum by Plato, Baudrillard en Deleuze. In the third section, these theoretical insights are translated to the actual retail environment by surveying (staged) ‘authentic’ retail stores in three shopping cities in Flanders (Belgium). Based on this survey, seven different groups of authentic stores are defined, moving from ‘real’ to ‘hyperreal’. This grouping should not be seen as a classification system but rather as a mental scheme to investigate and report on different approaches towards authenticity in retail store environments. The scheme can be applied in the field of consumer research as well as in retail (design) practice.

 

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