Previous environments that are perceived as overstimulatinglead to lower

Previous research has linked unplanned purchases toconsumer moods (Beatty and Ferrell, 1998; Rook, 1987;Rook and Gardner, 1993) and pleasant environments(Donovan and Rossiter, 1982; Donovan et al., 1994). Yet,the role of stimulation remains unclear. For example, arousalin pleasant environments was related to extra time andunplanned spending in Donovan and Rossiter’s (1982) study,but such a relationship was insignificant in their later study(Donovan et al., 1994). Since desired arousal tends to varyacross consumers depending on personality traits such asarousal-seeking tendency (Raju, 1980; Revelle and Loftus,1990), we propose that anchoring arousal around consumers’desired arousal levels enables us to gain a richerunderstanding of arousal effects on impulse buying.In this study, we suggest that over-stimulation (i.e. higherthan desired excitement) leads to a momentary loss of selfcontrol,thus enhancing the likelihood of impulse purchases.Prior research in psychology shows that self-regulation isreduced when the self ‘s crucial resources have been depleted(Baumeister et al., 1998; Muraven et al., 1998). This egodepletionis also applicable to consumer settings. Forexample, Baumeister (2002) suggests that people’s ability toresist temptation is at its lowest level at the end of the day asthe self ‘s resources become progressively depleted during theday. We argue that the high level of excitement in a storeenhances the loss of self-control. Previous research indicatesthat high arousal reduces people’s ability to think through theimplications of their actions (e.g. Leith and Baumeister, 1996;Tice et al., 2001). Moreover, research in online shoppingsuggests that highly interactive websites might undermineself-regulation, thus leading to impulse buying (LaRose,2001; LaRose and Eastin, 2002; Kim and LaRose, 2004).Finally, prior research suggests that people tend to engage inapproach behaviors in highly arousing retail environments(Roehm and Roehm, 2005). Following the above arguments,we propose that store environments that are perceived as overstimulatinglead to lower levels of self-control, and thereforeto high levels of impulse purchases. Store environments thatare perceived as under-stimulating or neutral in terms ofarousal, on the other hand, are likely to lead to lower levels ofimpulse buying. In other words, such environments will notthreaten self-regulation, thus minimizing the likelihood ofunplanned purchases. Taken together, we put forth thefollowing hypothesis:H1. Over-stimulating store environments (higher thandesired excitement) will lead to higher levels ofimpulse buying than environments perceived asneutral (as desired) or under-stimulation (lower thandesired excitement).In addition to stimulation level, we investigate the role ofsocial factors in influencing impulse buying. Social factorsinclude two types:1 store employees; and2 other customers (Turley and Milliman, 2000).It is important to understand the interactive effects of thesetwo factors as they are present in most store environments.Previous research shows that employee behaviors predictcustomer evaluations (Bitner, 1990; Gwinner and Bitner,2005; Kelly and Hoffman, 1997; Spiro and Weitz, 1990).Moreover, prior work indicates that helpfulness of salespeoplein assisting customers influences consumers’ willingness tobuy (Baker et al., 1992). Conversely, research on perceivedcrowding postulates that human density is negativelycorrelated with satisfaction (e.g. Hui and Bateson, 1991;Machleit et al., 2005) and number of purchases (Grossbartet al., 1990). In this study, we extend previous research byproposing that the two types of social factors jointly influenceimpulse buying. In other words, the perceived friendliness ofstore employees might mitigate the negative impact ofperceived crowding on unplanned purchases. Thesepredictions are formalized as followed:H2. Employee assistance will moderate the impact ofperceived crowding on impulse buying.MethodologyResearch setting and sampleA wide variety of retail outlets in Singapore were selected asthe context for our field study, ranging from small cosmeticsshops (e.g. Body Shop) to mega furniture outlets (i.e. IKEA).The breakdown of store types is shown in Table I.Respondents were randomly intercepted while exiting thestore. People who failed to make any purchase were screenedout. Respondents were asked to put themselves in the servicesetting, looking back into the store if necessary, to answer thesurvey to their best ability. A total of 138 consumersparticipated in our field study. The sample was slightlydominated by female shoppers (53 percent). In terms of agedistribution, nearly 90 percent of the respondents werebetween 21 and 35 years old, and overall they were familiarwith the store (51 percent had shopped in the store 1-2 timesduring the past month, 38 percent 3-5 times).MeasuresPerceived stimulation was measured via a two-item scaletapping into the store environment’s excitement andstimulation level (1 ¼ much lower than desired, 4 ¼ just asFigure 1 Overview of the research designTable I Frequency of store typesStore type Frequency (percent)Book and music stores (e.g. Borders) 27Cosmetics 21Clothing stores 20IKEA 17Discount stores 7Other 8The role of store environmental stimulation on impulse purchasingAnna S. Mattila and Jochen WirtzJournal of Services MarketingVolume 22 · Number 7 · 2008 · 562–567563desired and 7 ¼ much higher than desired; r ¼ 0:86) (cf.Wirtz et al., 2007).A two-item scale was used to measure impulse buying (“Iended up spending more money than I originally set out tospend”, and “I bought more than I had planned to buy”).These two items were highly correlated (r ¼ 0:77), and thusthey were summed up as an index for impulse buying.Perceived crowding was captured via a three-item scale(“The store was crowded”, “The store was a little too busy”,and “There were a lot of customers in the store”; Cronbach’sa of 0.85). Employee friendliness was measured via a singleitemscale (“The employees in this store were friendly”).Mehrabian and Russell’s (1974) semantic differential scaleswere employed to measure arousal and pleasure associatedwith the store environment. Six item pairs measured thearousal dimension of emotions (i.e. stimulated-relaxed, calmexcited,dull-jittery, aroused-unaroused, wide awake-sleepy,sluggish-wild), whereas the other six items tapped into thepleasure dimensions (i.e. unhappy-happy, despairing-hopeful,melancholic-contented, annoyed-pleased, bored-relaxed,satisfied-dissatisfied). The Cronbach’s a for arousal was0.78, and for pleasure 0.78.ResultsTo rule out the argument that store type is a driving forcebehind environment-induced affect, we ran a one-wayANOVA on the pleasure and arousal scales. The results forboth scales were insignificant. The overall means indicate thatrespondents in this study rated the store environment aspleasant (M ¼ 4:71), while the corresponding figure waslower for the arousal dimension (M ¼ 4:01). To show that it isnot the mere arousal that drives impulse buying, we ran amultiple regression with arousal and pleasure scales asindependent variables. The results indicate that pleasure islinked to impulse buying (standardized beta coefficient of0.24, p , 0:01