Commercialised nostalgia : staging consumer experiences in small businesses

Hamilton, Kathy and Wagner, Beverly A. (2014) Commercialised nostalgia : staging consumer experiences in small businesses. European Journal of Marketing, 48 (5/6). pp. 813-832. ISSN 0309-0566 (

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Using the context of the small business and afternoon tea we develop a framework linking the concept of nostalgia and experiential consumption, articulating the transformation of a mundane activity to a special experience. The methodology is based on a grounded theory approach and draws on multiple methods of data collection including participant observation, in-depth interviews with afternoon tea room managers, researcher introspection and consumer interviews. By employing nostalgia cues through product, ritual and aesthetics an idealised home can be constructed emphasising belonging and sharing. The small business owner can be effective in transforming an ordinary activity to an experiential event. Contemporary tea rooms do not replicate tradition; they use it as a cultural resource to construct something novel. This paper demonstrates how the careful configuration of the retail space can be a key success factor, not only for marketers in large flagship brand stores, but also for smaller, independent and local businesses. The essential interplay between product, ritual and aesthetics creates positive moods of belonging and sharing and may increase satisfaction. Understanding the emotional value of everyday experiences is a point of differentiation in a crowded market place and may directly influence consumer loyalty. Staging experiences is a key competitive strategy. This paper is one of the few to empirically assess links between the nostalgia paradigm and experiential consumption. Existing research has emphasised large retail spaces; in contrast, we demonstrate how consumer experiences can be staged in smaller, independent and local businesses.