Working Papers

Shopping for Appliances: Consumers’ Strategies and Patterns of Information Search

Jan 1, 1985

Consumers’ information-seeking behavior for household durables.

Type of Report
Results of a national survey.

To replicate and update previous work and to extend it by introducing further measures of shopping behavior and information search processes.

Mail questionnaires were sent to members of a national consumer panel who had purchased a refrigerator, freezer, clothes washer, or clothes dryer within the previous year; an 84% response rate yielded 433 usable questionnaires.


  • Consumers typically report low levels of information search before buying their appliances, although the range is wide. For example, 33% spent less than a week considering the purchase, 37% visited only one store (although 72% were familiar with four or more stores), 32% considered only one brand, and 45% spent less than two hours total in shopping.
  • Women were solely or primarily responsible for the purchase in 40% of the cases and participated jointly with spouses in another 52%.
  • The breakdown of an existing appliance precipitated 36% of the purchase decisions, but only 20% of the sample reported feeling extreme or great time pressure and 40% perceived no time pressure.
  • Salespeople were the dominant information source for these purchases, in terms of both frequency of being consulted and perceived usefulness. Sears, Roebuck is the dominant seller of appliances–over half the respondents shopped at Sears and nearly a third purchased from Sears.
  • Most consumers (70%) bought their appliance at a sale price.
  • Consumer satisfaction is very high–95% of the survey participants reported they were “satisfied” or “very satisfied” with their appliance.
  • In light of these and other findings, the authors offer some modifications to conventional views of consumer shopping behavior.

Target Audience/Applicability
Consumer durables marketers and consumer behavior researchers

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