Consumers’ reactions to variety reduction in grocery stores: a freedom of choice perspective

Paraskevas Argouslidis, Dionysis Skarmeas, Antonios Kühn, Alexis Mavrommatis

Research output: Indexed journal article Articlepeer-review

17 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose: This paper aims to propose a framework for psychological reactance–triggered adverse effects of variety reductions in grocery product categories on shoppers’ patronage intentions. Design/methodology/approach: The paper tests this framework in two field studies with European shoppers. Findings: Participants perceived mild (let alone aggressive or conspicuous) variety reductions as a threat to their prior freedom of choice (i.e. a precondition for the occurrence of domain-specific reactance). Through lower satisfaction with the reduced variety and anger towards the grocer, this threat, in turn, fostered adverse patronage intentions. Such effects depended on product category nature (utilitarian vs hedonic) and shoppers’ intrinsic need for variety, attitude towards private-label items and general proclivity towards experiencing reactance. Research limitations/implications: By applying psychological reactance theory to a variety reduction context, this paper offers new implications for assortment reduction research. Certain limitations call for future reactance theory–framed inquiry. Practical implications: The findings caution against traditional grocers’ drastic variety reduction policy and highlight conditions enabling assortment rationalisation without severely affecting freedom of choice. Originality/value: Drawing on notions such as “the tyranny of choice”, critics have urged traditional grocers to drastically reduce variety. However, this paper shows that shoppers perceive variety reductions as threats to their prior freedom, which traditional grocers themselves educated them to expect and enjoy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1931-1955
Number of pages25
JournalEuropean Journal of Marketing
Issue number9-10
Publication statusPublished - 12 Oct 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Freedom of choice
  • Theory of psychological reactance
  • Variety reduction


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