While perceived crowding is an important construct in retailing literature, empirical findings on the consequences of this construct are mixed. This study uses meta-analytic techniques to combine the findings from 73 samples and more than 19,000 shoppers in order to both summarize and extend understanding of the consequences of human and spatial crowding in retail stores. It makes a threefold contribution. First, the examination of two distinct types of crowding – human crowding and spatial crowding – provides evidence that they have different impacts on customer satisfaction and behavioral responses. In general, spatial crowding has a negative impact on customer outcomes, whereas human crowding has positive effects. Second, a test of various theoretical perspectives on crowding demonstrates strong indirect effects of crowding through different mediators. While spatial crowding reduces shoppers’ perceived control, human crowding has no such effect. Spatial crowding contributes to a negative evaluation of the store, whereas human crowding leads to a positive store evaluation. Both crowding types are related to positive and negative emotions experienced by shoppers. Thus, complex relationships are uncovered through the study of mediated effects, particularly within a comprehensive framework that integrates constructs and relationships from various theories. Third, the study of the impacts of various moderators indicates that human and spatial crowding display different effects depending on the retailer’s offering (hedonic/utilitarian), retail type (store/agglomeration), employee support (high/low), customer type (new/existing), and the environment (cooperative/competitive). Study findings not only extend theory but also offer relevant implications for brick-and-mortar retail stores faced with the challenges of competing with new retail forms and the use of new technologies.
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- Customer emotions
- Human crowding
- Perceived control
- Spatial crowding