Doctoral Dissertations

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



Major Professor

Thomas L. Bell


The purpose of this study was to examine the reasons underlying the decision of small town residents to go out-of-town to shop. In order to explain why consumers expend time and money to shop out-of-town, a model that draws heavily upon consumer behavior research was developed. The model consists of three parts; the consumer's personality, evaluation processes used in making a spatial choice, and environmental factors which include socioeconomic status, demographic measures, distance perception, and community identity. The evaluation processes include aspects of store image and the social and economic risk consumers associate with shopping choice. To the concept of economic man used in classical economic and geographic theories, are added consumers who have personali­ties typified as personalizing, apathetic, ethical, and desirous of engaging in multipurpose trips.

The model was operationalized by administering a questionnaire to a randomly selected sample of Lenoir City, Tennessee residents. It was found that over two-thirds of sample shopped within the town for most of the 20 shopping items used in the study. There were several disparate motivations for the shopping choices. Some people shopped within the town because of reasons of town support (ethical), others because they were apathetic about shopping, and some because they were a captive audience, i.e., low income, family obligations, and/or retired. The shoppers who chose to shop out-of-town did so because they felt Knoxville, a larger nearby city and major shopping destina­tion, offered greater selection, name brands, and fast service. Out-of-town shoppers had higher incomes and educational attainment than those who shopped within the town.

The model used in the study is consistent with Rushton's definition of spatial behavior. The results of the model suggest that there is a need to reevaluate the simplistic assumptions of "economic man" embedded in many geographic models.

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