Exploring External Effects of Unmanned Retail Outlets in Rural Areas
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7TH COLLOQUIUM ON EUROPEAN RESEARCH IN RETAILING 2022
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For several decades, the retail industry and its environment have faced continuous transformations ? a process that has been exacerbated in the era of online retailing and driven by consumer demands for greater convenience. Wide ranging economic and demographic changes have contributed to market-specific pressures leading to seismic strategic shifts across the industry (LeDoux and Vojnovic, 2013; Wrigley et al., 2019). The grocery retail sector, for example, has seen forays into online ordering and delivery, extensive store format innovation and changing store network provision affecting the balance between metropolitan centres and rural areas (Thibodeaux, 2019). This restructuring has created geographical regions with inadequate food supply ? commonly referred to as ?food deserts? (Bitler and Haider, 2011; Adams et al., 2010; Dennis et al., 2007). These developments provide the basis and opportunity for innovative business models and new forms of retail operation and customer engagement (Badrinarayanan and Becerra, 2019). For instance, unmanned, self-service, automatized retail stores are increasingly prevalent (Yao et al., 2020). To summarize, existing literature considers food deserts in general, noting their location typically in areas of economic deprivation as lack of access to grocery stores exacerbates these concerns relating to social justice (Adams et al., 2010; Bitler and Haider, 2011; Dutko et al., 2012; Sinéad Furey et al., 2001). Further, Demoulin and Djelassi (2016) suggest that unattended convenience stores have positive effects on customer satisfaction, patronage and create a more convenient service. Yet, to date, there is no research on the relationship of unmanned automated retail outlets on the vitality of rural areas, food deserts and their externalities. This research addresses this research gap. The purpose of this study is to explore external effects of locating unattended grocery stores in rural areas with hardly any retail infrastructure.