How consumers with disabilities perceive "welcome" in retail servicescapes: A critical incident study

Stacey Menzel Baker, Jonna Holland, Carol Kaufman-Scarborough

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

68 Scopus citations


Purpose - This paper aims to extend understanding of the cues that customers with disabilities use to judge inclusion/welcome (or not) in interactions in retail stores. Design/methodology/approach - Critical incident interviews were conducted with 115 informants who provided rich descriptions of 113 welcoming incidents and 105 unwelcoming incidents. Interview transcripts were content analyzed to determine inductively the cues customers with disabilities use to perceive welcoming. Findings - Four primary situational factors explain to what perceptions of welcome/inclusion are attributed: service personnel; store environmental factors; other customers; and product/service assortments. Further, a disability becomes salient only when there is an interaction between these situational factors and consumers' disabilities. Researchl imitations/implications - The findings suggest an extension to Bitner's servicescape conceptualization in that it specifies that the assessment of an environment as enabling or disabling is important for at least some customers in deciding whether they should stay, go, or return to a particular servicescape. Practical implications - The results reveal that consumers with disabilities should be viewed as customers first, and only as possessing a disability in particular interactions in the customer-firm interface. Originality/value - This research presents the views of a set of customers who are under-represented in research samples. It discusses how not all people with disabilities are alike and begins to develop a deeper understanding of their behavior as consumers. The research is valuable for retail managers and service providers who need useful information for training employees, for designing servicescapes that are welcoming for consumers with disabilities, and for fulfilling the inclusive intent of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). It will also be of interest to academics who are engaged in research that attempts to improve the quality of life for consumers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)160-173
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Services Marketing
Issue number3
StatePublished - Aug 3 2007
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Marketing


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