Attachment to and detachment from favorite stores: an affordance theory perspective

Borghini, Stefania; Sherry, John F.; Joy, Annamma

Like homes, neighborhoods, and cities, retail locations offer significant opportunities for attachment far from domestic spheres. In commercial settings, consumers construct personal geographies, and find stable references for their lives. Our work advances previous consumer research by showing how these relationalities are situated, implicitly unstable and often impermanent. Individuals attach to commercial spaces in multiple ways, through both immediate and slow processes. We theorize that multiple affordances of spaces – whether sensual, symbolic, or cerebral– trigger meaningful ties, stimulate new affective and practice repertoires and may exert a transformative power in personal biographies. Bonds evolve in tandem with individuals’ life courses and are also impacted by events beyond consumers’ control, such as store closures. Whether disruptive or constructive, detachments can precipitate constructive change, allowing individuals to mobilize the emotional and cognitive resources at the base of their affective bond with treasured places, and redirect these assets more effectively. Forced and voluntary detachment from retail spaces are thus interpreted as integral and complementary components of attachment.