Hailers: retail salespeople near the entrance of the store and shoppers' approach-avoidance reactions
This research examines a retail salesperson behavior that has been largely overlooked in the literature: retail salespeople standing and waiting for customers near the entrance of the store in retail centers, such as in traditional shopping malls, as well as a variety of other retail shopping contexts. These salespeople are referred to as "hailers." The small amount of previous work in the area and theory suggest that this practice is a positive influence. However, qualitative interviews and quantitative results suggest the opposite. Many consumers feel uncomfortable with a salesperson near the entrance of a retail store because they think that the hailer is going to use high-pressure sales tactics. The main study, which is grounded in approach-avoidance theory and emotional contagion theory, consists of two experiments that examine the effects of retail salespeople near the entrance of stores, as well as other environmental factors and salesperson characteristics. The first study manipulates store familiarity and retail density in addition to the presence of a retail salesperson. The second study focuses on particular characteristics of a salesperson present near the entrance and manipulates the salesperson's demeanor and their level of activity. Each of the stimuli consists of a photograph and scenario combination. The results of experiment one show that the presence of a hailer has a negative influence on consumers' feelings of pleasure and arousal. Feelings of pleasure (and dominance) have a positive influence on approach attitudes and store patronage intentions, while arousal has an inverted-U shaped relationship with store patronage intentions. The results from experiment two show that when a hailer must be present near the entrance of the retail store, a salesperson's positive demeanor has a positive influence on feelings of pleasure. In turn, pleasure has a positive relationship with approach attitudes and store patronage intentions. An unexpected interaction between salesperson demeanor and level of activity has a disordinal relationship with dominance. Further, dominance has a positive influence on store patronage intentions. This research contributes to the domains of retail sales, atmospherics, approach-avoidance theory, and emotional contagion theory. The findings, managerial and academic implications, limitations, and future research are discussed.