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Membership identity and consumer behaviour : the case of consumer co-operatives



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The study of retail and consumption geographies has become increasingly popular areas of research in the broader discipline of geography over the last decade. Research has covered many aspects of retailing structure and practice, including retailing formats, shopping patterns and consumer identities. However, consumer co-operatives and their members as of yet have not been studied in geography, which is interesting given their considerable presence in the retailing environment. The success of consumer co-operatives in the retailing landscape hinges on the loyalty and economic participation of their members. Their loyalty in the co-operative may in turn be influenced by their identification with the organization. This can pose both challenges and opportunities for co-operatives to succeed in the face of strong retailing competition. This research is thus an attempt to examine the membership identities of co-operative members, and how this influences their consumer behaviour. To this end, self-administered questionnaires were distributed among members and non-members who patronized the Calgary Co-operative Association. They were asked about aspects of the consumer behaviour, shopping preferences, and identification with the co-operative. It was found that overall, members and non-members did not differ in their consumer behaviour. They traveled the same distances, showed the same levels of shopping loyalty at the Co-op, and had the same preferences for the ideal shopping environment. The greater difference however, lay within the membership. When members were disaggregated based on their levels of identification with the Co-op, it was found that members who more highly identified with the Co-op exhibited more loyal shopping behaviour with the Co-op, and those that had a lesser identification with the Co-op exhibited lower shopping loyalty to the Co-op. This has implications for further research on consumer identities with different retailing formats, co-operatives in other areas, and further adds to the growing body of research in geographies of retailing and consumption and co-operative studies.



consumer co-operatives, consumption geography, membership, identity, Calgary Co-operative Association, consumer behaviour



Master of Arts (M.A.)






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