The meaningful everyday - Understanding the meaning of shopping in a daily consumer goods environment

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School of Business | Master's thesis
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OBJECTIVES OF THE STUDY The symbolic and cultural meaning of shopping is undeniable. Being part of our everyday activities, a grocery store is likely to be the most common daily retail experience for consumers. People devote significant amounts of time and money to shopping, and it can be seen as self-defining and self-expressive behaviour. This study focuses on the meanings grocery shopping represents to consumers and the negotiations of identity consumers practice through shopping. The objective is to find out what do consumers talk about when they talk about shopping for groceries, what strategies are related to it and how they reflect their identity through shopping. The aim is to explore the meanings and building blocks of identity related to shopping in daily consumer goods environment and contribute to the stream of consumer culture theory (CCT). METHODOLOGY This thesis is qualitative and interpretative in nature. The research is conducted by using a material-based research method, grounded theory. The grounded theory was adopted because the particular research topic has been relatively ignored in the literature, and grounded theory enables the researcher to build the theory from the ground. 11 interviews were conducted and the interview transcripts form the primary empirical data of the study. The data was also complemented with a few ethnographic observation sessions. FINDINGS It was found that grocery shopping has multiple meanings for consumers and they are in significant role in consumers' identity projects. Four large dimensions were recognized; consumers' wish to master the activity of shopping, the role of money and time in expressing identity, the presence of love in consumption and shopping as adventure. It was found that even normal grocery products can be part of the consumer's extended self and through grocery purchases consumers had the possibility to grasp towards an ideal self. The feeling of mastery and the identity goal of a "wise consumer" were aspired through different strategies concerning money, time and quality. Grocery shopping is also an expression of togetherness, love and belonging in a family. The identity project of a caretaker is strongly present in a social setting of daily shopping. Consumers can find feelings of self-fulfillment and satisfaction when exploring in a store. Through shopping consumers can try and test their adventurous, explorative identity and self.
grocery shopping, consumer behavior, identity, meaning making, grounded theory
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