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Food Shopping in Later Life; Extending the Lens of Encounter(s) and Value-for-Customers

  • School: Nottingham Business School
  • Funding: UK student / EU student (non-UK) / International student (non-EU) / Self-funded


The issue of access to food through shopping has been recognised for some time (E.g. Bromley and Thomas, 1995; Westlake, 1995; Wilson et al, 2004).  Hare (2003), furthered this discussion to comment on, for example, the potential disadvantage for, or exclusion of, older consumers as a result of the growing dominance of multiples/larger retailers at the time and issues of access as a result (E.g. movement ‘out of town’ and factors such as store layout etc).  Meneely et al (2008), supports the importance of the 60 plus segment and their food shopping and well-being needs.  With a focus on retailer perceptions, Meneely et al (2009) found some recognition of the needs of this group, and their importance but, apparently, very little work by retailers to address their actual needs.  Some go as far as to say that older shoppers have been ignored or their needs only partially met (Moschis, 2003).

Theoretical perspective

The focus of the earlier research in this area appears to have been the retail and (specifically) store ‘environment’ and issues such as layout.  Pettigrew et al (2005), at the time, summed up much of the work and its focus as their ‘big 3’ issues for food shopping in later life: demeanour of staff, functionality of equipment (baskets etc) and placement of products.  As such, much of this work attends to issues of access, navigation and things such as in-store facilities and ease of access to products etc.

Hare (2003), and later work by Meneely et al (2009), support the importance of process and experience elements.  This work also begins to consider the exchange from a customer perspective and thus the expectations and experiences of older customers and what leads, and supports, satisfaction in a wider sense as a result.   Gzeskowiak et al (2016) engage with the idea of food shopping in later life as a problem solving activity, which supports life ‘experience(s)’ (it is thus beyond simple/rational needs satisfaction).  In doing so, Gzeskowiak et al (2016) also connect the importance of (self) identity, independence and the choice(s) older customers make.  Pettigrew et al (2017) suggest also the need to focus on, and consider, the wider value placed on food shopping by those in later life (from the perspective of older customers).

The team wish therefore to propose a PhD in this area reflecting the above with two possible avenues.  Both focus on food shopping in later life.  There is the potential for pursuing one of these two avenues independently or, alternatively, for conjoining key themes for wider conceptual scope.

  • One route which embraces the challenge from Vorhees et al (2017) and their request to expand their ‘lens’ of service encounters through service experience(s).  This would sit well with the current work in the area and would support deeper and more relevant insights to this important area.
  • Another route which seeks to extend current insight beyond the functional, store environment and retailer perspective (and a sense-making view of value for customers, VC – Woodall, 2003).  This would recognise that VC (post Woodall, 2003) permits a perspective through which current work in the area can be viewed and older food shopper VC can be more effectively modelled and ‘tested’.

Mixed method; 2 phases in each project with qualitative work followed by quantitative.


Bromley, R. and Thomas, C.  1995.  Small Town Shopping Decline and Inconvenience for the Disadvantaged.  Int. Review of Retail, Distribution and Consumer Research.  Vol 5, Issue 4.  pp433‐56

GOfS, 2016.  Future of an Ageing Population. Government Office for Science

Grzeskowiak, S., Sirgy, M., Foscht, T. and Swoboda, B. 2016. Linking Retailing Experiences with Life Satisfaction. International Journal of Retail & Distribution Management.  Vol 22, Issue 2.  pp124-138

Hare, C.  2003.  The Food-Shopping Experience: A Satisfaction Survey of Older Scottish Consumers.  International Journal of Retail and Distribution Management.  Vol 31, Issue 4/5.  pp244-255

ONS, 2017.  Overview of the UK Population: 2017.  ONS 21 July 2017

Meneely, L., Burns, A., and Strugnell, C. 2008.  Food Retailers' Perceptions of Older Consumers in Northern Ireland.  International Journal of Consumer Studies.  Vol 32, No 4. pp341-348

Meneely, L, Strugnell, C. and Burns, A. 2009.  Elderly Consumers and their Food Store Experiences.  Journal of Retailing and Consumer Services.  Vol 16, No 6.  pp458-465

Moschis G. 2003. Marketing to Older Adults: An Updated Overview of Present Knowledge and Practice.  Journal of Consumer Marketing. Vol 20, Issue 6. pp516-525

Pettigrew, S., Mizerski, K. and Donovan, R.  2005.  The Three “big issues” for Older Supermarket Shoppers.  Journal of Consumer Marketing.  Vol 22, Issue 6.  pp306-312

Pettigrew, S., Worrall, C., Biagioni, N., Talati, Z. and Jongenelis, M. 2017.  The Role of Food Shopping in Later Life.  Appetite.  Vol 111. pp71-78

Voorhees, C., Fombelle, P., Gregoire, Y., Bone, S., Gustafsson,. A., Sousa, R., and Walkowiak, T.  2017.  Service Encounters, Experiences and the Customer Journey: Defining the Field and a Call to Expand Our Lens.  Journal of Business Research.  Vol 79. pp269-280

Westlake, T.  1995.  The Disadvantaged Consumer: Problems and Policies. in Bromley, R. and Thomas, C. (Eds), 1995.  Retail Change: Contemporary Issues.  London: UCL Press

Wilson, L., Alexander, A. and Lumbers, M.  2004.  Food Access and Dietary Variety Among Older People.  Int. Journal of Retail and Distribution Management.  Vol 32, Issue 2. pp109-122

Woodall, T.  2003.  Conceptualising 'Value for the Customer': An Attributional, Structural and Dispositional Analysis.  Academy of Marketing Science Review.  Vol 3, No 12.  Pp1-42


Doctor Richard Howarth

Entry qualifications

An applicant for admission to read for a PhD should normally hold a first or upper second class honours degree of a UK university or an equivalent qualification, or a lower second class honours degree with a Master's degree at Merit level of a UK university or an equivalent qualification.

International students will also need to meet the English language requirements - IELTS 6.5 (with minimum sub-scores of 6.0). Applicants who have taken a higher degree at a UK university are normally exempt from the English language requirements. A research proposal (between 1,000 and a maximum of 2,000 words) must be submitted as part of the application.

For more information please visit the NTU Doctoral School – Research Degrees webpages.

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Applications are accepted all year round.

For a step-by-step guide and to make an application, please visit our how to apply page.

Fees and funding

This is a self-funded PhD opportunity.

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Richard Howarth