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Consumer perceptions of service quality of large clothing retailers in the Cape Metropolitan Area
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South Africa’s retail sector is competitive, and is characterized by a tough and uncertain business environment (Barlow, 2002:21). Amidst such challenges, Dotson and Patton (1992:15-28) found that retailers do not deliver desired services to their customers. To ensure competitive survival, retailers should differentiate themselves and continuously seek ways to maximize the value that they offer to their customers (Parikh, 2006:45-55). Service quality has been identified by Berry (1986:1-9) as the most basic strategy for retailers to create competitive advantages and to improve customers’ shopping experience. This study focuses on determining consumer perceptions of service quality of large clothing retailers within the Cape Metropolitan area, with the aim of identifying areas for improvement, as well as service quality determinants, which are most important to consumers.Secondary objectives include: to establish consumer expectations in terms of service quality determinants; to establish, which areas of service quality require improvement; to provide recommendations to improve service quality based on findings from the study, and to compare consumer perceptions of service quality amongst ad hoc shoppers against those who have accounts (credit facilities) at various retail stores. Quantitative research was conducted by means of face-to-face survey research, and includes results from 120 questionnaires. Interviews, which took the form of store intercepts, were conducted outside the entrance of selected retail stores, and took place during the last week of March. Stores were selected through random multi-stage sampling, while respondents were selected through a systematic sampling process. A descriptive research design was used. The content of the questionnaire was developed based on Dabolkar, Thorpe and Rentz’s (1996:3-16) RSQS structure, which captures the dimensions of service quality in retail stores. Data was analyzed by using SPSS software, and was presented numerically by making use of charts. The major findings of the study relates to levels of consumer satisfaction with the existing levels of service quality delivered by large clothing retailers within the Cape Metropolitan area for ad-hoc shoppers, as well as account holders. The findings of this study could bring about new strategies for the improvement of service quality among large clothing retailers in the Cape Metropolitan area. These strategies will contribute towards creating a competitive advantage through the use of service quality, and will ultimately contribute towards the long-term success of large clothing retailers within the Cape Metropolitan area.
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