Food Retailing in the World of Covid-19: Consumers Attitudes and Response to the Store Health Precautions
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Background: The current pandemic situation is getting worse day by day. Businesses are worried about the uncertain business environment as countries are forced to enact lockdown conditions to overcome the global pandemic. This pandemic situation motivates research into how to manage this condition in retail businesses. The present study investigates the effect of store health precautions, and how they impact shoppers’ intentions. Purpose: Health precautions taken by a retail store is, at face value, an important factor contributing to potential customers’ feelings of comfort and the minimisation of perceived risk and, consequently, affecting decision making and behaviour. The perception of risk and the psychological comfort of shoppers are two crucial elements in purchase likelihood and loyalty intentions of shoppers. However, the precise relationship between is still disputed. Therefore, this thesis aims to examine the association between store health precautions and purchase likelihood, or loyalty, and also to examine the major factors that mediate the relationship. Design/methodology/approach: The research utilises an online survey, Amazon Mechanical Turk (MTurk) and Qualtrics. A total of 124 participants participated in the survey. The study uses an experimental design to collect data from the respondents. Data is mostly collected on Likert-type 7-point scales. Independent t-tests and regression analysis was conducted using SPSS version 26 software. Findings: The findings of the research show that health precautions of the store positively impact shoppers’ purchase likelihood and their loyalty. In addition, the study also finds that shoppers’ psychological comfort and perceived risk play a sequential mediation role between the relationship of store health precautions and loyalty. Similarly, the results also show the same partial sequential mediation of psychological comfort and perceived risk between the relationship of store health precautions and purchase likelihood. Shoppers’ psychological comfort mediates the relationship between store health precautions and shoppers’ purchase likelihood. Research implications: Health precautions in the store will impact on shoppers purchase likelihood, and this relationship is mediated by shoppers’ psychological comfort feeling and perceived risk. Also, health precautions impact on store loyalty and this relationship is also mediated by perceived risk and psychological comfort feeling. Store health precautions will influence shoppers to buy from the food store, and, in return, shoppers will become more loyal to the store. Thus, food store owners should provide masks for sales agents, install glass screens on sales counters and maintain social distancing in the store to positively change the buying intentions of the shoppers. Research limitations: Research only focused on retail food stores in the USA. Future research should focus on other sectors and in different geographical locations to get a better picture of shoppers’ purchase likelihood and loyalty. Originality/value: The empirical findings of the research added new theoretical understanding of consumer behaviour such as the implementation of health precautions in the store has a sequential impact of perceived risk and psychological comfort to shoppers’ purchase likelihood and store loyalty.