1 Department of Marketing and Statistics, Aarhus School of Business, Aarhus BSS, Aarhus University2 MAPP - Centre for Research on Customer Relations in the Food Sector, Aarhus School of Business, Aarhus BSS, Aarhus University3 Department of Management, Aarhus BSS, Aarhus University4 Department of Management, Aarhus BSS, Aarhus University
In the Danish language "haven" means "the garden": A tranquil place with beautiful colours and vegetables where one can relax and prepare for the more stressful activities of modern life. Similarly, the chain store´s fruit and vegetable department can be the haven of the stressed self-service customer. As a result of the increased competition between self-service retail chains and the increased mobility of customers, chain store managers increasingly try to strengthen customer loyalty, not only to the individual store, but also to the whole chain. One way to do this is to enforce chain-equity, by the creation of stronger relations and positive shopping experiences. In this respect a number of measures, as fx service management and direct marketing programmes, have been instigated. Most of these developments have concentrated on the peripheral spheres of the purchase decision situation. A more recent trend is that retail chain managers concentrate the effort on the key-departments of the chain store. So far, however, the academic research attempts to measure which departments are most significant for chain-equity have been scarce. This paper discusses the concept of chain-equity and gives a number of reasons why the fruit and vegetable department can be one of the keys to the creation of chain- equity. Furthermore, the paper describes the results of two empirical studies (a focus group and a survey), which aim at exploring a) the concept of chain-equity, b) the extent to which a positive customer perception of the fruit & vegetable department can lead to an increased chain-equity and c) the factors in the fruit & vegetable department that determine the perception of this department.