Customer loyalty to food retailers in Northern Ireland: ‘devoted loyals’ or ‘promiscuous switchers’?

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11 Citations (Scopus)


Store loyalty is a major challenge for food retailers, and the food retail market in Northern Ireland has been subject to considerable change in the past decade. Although shoppers will often patronize many stores, they typically have a primary affiliation to a ‘main’ food store that captures the majority of their food purchases. This study uses a unique approach to segmenting customers into groups based on loyalty in terms of both the type of data used to generate a loyalty score and the data collection techniques used. Innovative projective techniques have been used alongside traditional questioning techniques to reveal ‘behavioural’ and ‘emotional’ loyalty indicators, and in doing so create a holistic measure of customer loyalty to a main food store, allowing customers to be segmented into groups based on loyalty. A paper‐based questionnaire was administered to 152 food shoppers from throughout Northern Ireland. Responses to traditional questioning formats and projective techniques (cartoon friends and mini case studies) were analysed and used to generate a loyalty score for each respondent. The first group of customers nearly always visit the same store, are willing to recommend the store to others and are less likely to switch to a competitor, even when offered an incentive to do so. They also rate the ‘hard’ attributes of this store highly. As a result of these characteristics, customers in this segment were termed ‘devoted loyals’. The second group of customers may occasionally use a different supermarket for food shopping, some would consider switching to a competitor if offered an incentive, and they rate ‘hard’ store attributes at a slightly lower level than the ‘devoted loyals’. Based on their group profile, these customers were assigned the title of ‘susceptibles’. The third group of customers are less willing to actively encourage friends and family to shop at a specific store. Many in this group did not consider their current store as their number one choice in the next few years. An incentive to switch to a competitor store is more likely to trigger a transfer of loyalty by this group. These customers were termed ‘promiscuous switchers’.
Original languageEnglish
Article numberdoi: 10.1111/j.1470-6431.2007.00641.x
Pages (from-to)349-355
Number of pages7
JournalInternational Journal of Consumer Studies
Publication statusPublished - 28 Jun 2008


  • Customer loyalty, food retail, store loyalty, store attributes, retail patronage.

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