The current context in which large retailers operate is characterized by a need for legitimacy, competitiveness, and differentiation. In this regard, earlier studies outline two independent phenomena: first an upsurge amidst retail players for the socially responsible argument (Aouina-Mejri and Bhatli 2011) and second, an increasingly important role given to the private labels (PL) by retailers in their strategies of differentiation (Steenkamp and Dekimpe 1997). Given the importance accorded to PL’s role and being socially responsible, retailers have augmented interest in understanding consumer responses towards these social efforts. Hoch and Banerji (2000) show empirically that the evolution of the market share of PL was related to their perceived quality. In this regard, other studies establish significant links between, (a) corporate social initiatives and positive emotional, cognitive and behavioral responses from consumers (Sen and Bhattacharya 2001), (b) social practices of companies and the perceived quality of their products (Maignan and Ferrell, 2001), (c) social practices of companies and purchase intentions vis-à-vis their products (Brown and Dacin, 1997), (d) perceived quality improvement and loyalty (Corstjens and Lai 2000; Steenkamp and Dekimpe, 1997), (e) forms of socially responsible consumption and personal values (De Pelsmacker et al. 2005). Furthermore, Cristau and Lacoeuilhe (2008) show the relationship between competitiveness of PL and making a smart purchase. To understand the consumer’s responses to the PL’s social quality, an experimentation was used, through mobilization of two independent groups, Nl, a control group and N2 an experimental group (where Nl = N2 = 400) using an online panel company. The sample for the experimentation was representative of the French population in terms of age, sex and socioeconomic status. The T test, comparison of means for independent groups were used to test the effect of disclosure of the social quality of PL on its perceived quality and on the loyalty of the PL and the retailer. The test relationship between dependent variables and the role of individual variables were determined with the structural equation model. The role of socio-demographic variables was tested through the use of ANOVA. During the exploratory and confirmatory studies, measures of loyalty to the PL and the retailer did not show discriminating validity and resulted in a composite variable that we call “overall loyalty”. The exploratory and confirmatory analysis of measurements of the dimensions of personal values from Schwartz’s inventory resulted in two dimensions of the values of social power and values of universalism. Our results seem to confirm the positive impact of the disclosure of a social commitment of firms on their relationships with their customers. Retailers, in particular, are rewarded with a positive intention of loyalty that occurs through improved perceived quality of their own brands. For the 400 individuals in the experimental group, competitiveness, a dimension of attitude towards the PL appears to be the most important explanatory factor in the perceived quality of the socially responsible PL, which in turn determines the consumer loyalty to the brand and the retailer. Universalism’s values seem to explain the perceived quality by the consumer of the PL with social quality. In addition, we found that women have the highest level of perceived quality and global loyalty of the socially responsible PL and that there exists a higher overall level of loyalty among 20–34 year olds than among other age groups.
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- Marketing Sustainability: Consumer Responses to the Social Quality of Private Labels
Chiraz Aouina Mejri