A two-essay examination of the retail world of adolescent girls
Throughout this dissertation, I focus on the two primary influences in an adolescent girl's shopping experience: her mother and her friends. The adolescent phase of mental development involves a gradual detachment from parents and gravitation towards peers, which results in the formation of an individual, emancipated identity. This dissertation utilizes two essays to demonstrate the different ways in which mothers and friends influence the retail experience for adolescent girls. The first essay investigates how adolescent girls process store image information and how they choose the stores in which they shop. I conduct both qualitative and quantitative studies to develop and test a model of adolescent store choice and shopping behavior. Qualitative interviews reveal the process of store stereotyping, in which adolescents apply the expectations and associations of different peer groups to stores that are associated with each group. Adolescents seem to choose stores the same way they choose friends. They gravitate toward those that appear to be part of their in-group and avoid those in out-groups. There are some variations between individuals in this process. Therefore, I test consumer need for uniqueness and identification with friends as potential moderating variables. The second essay explores mother-daughter shopping as daughters struggle to gain independence during this phase of development. In-depth interviews with adolescent girls, their mothers, and retail employees reveal the factors that influence individual shopping situations, general shopping habits, benefits experienced by mothers and daughters, and resulting retail outcomes. While there is much variety found in the way mother-daughter pairs shop, emotions experienced during the trip seem to be the key drivers of shopping outcomes. Furthermore, from a balance theory perspective, the mother-daughter dyad can often be nonsymmetrical. Adolescent girls may be content when parents do not like their chosen style, but it is difficult for moms to be satisfied when their daughters' views conflict with their own. This presents an interesting situation for marketers who must attract adolescents to the store while also enticing parents to purchase the merchandise.