Academic journal article The Journal of Consumer Affairs

Consumer Household Materials and Logistics Management: Inventory Ownership Cycle

Academic journal article The Journal of Consumer Affairs

Consumer Household Materials and Logistics Management: Inventory Ownership Cycle

Article excerpt

This paper examines the various stages and activities of consumers' management of owned possessions including acquisition, ownership, and disposition. Using a materials management perspective, more frequently found in industrial marketing, the authors develop a consumer model of management of household goods. Stages of the model are illustrated using consumer anecdotes collected as exploratory research. Implications for researchers, practitioners, educators, and policy makers are discussed in terms of how the materials management perspective can be used to help deliver better value in products and services to consumers by understanding the activities in each stage of ownership.

Although some shopping activity is an end in itself, that is, shopping for entertainment or social interaction (e.g., Lesser 1986), consumers usually shop to buy products to own, use, or reuse. Yet, most buyer behavior theory and research has focused on the pre-acquisition and acquisition stages of goods ownership, ignoring behaviors that occur after purchase. Economic theories of household management do take a post-purchase focus; however, their emphasis is, understandably, on goods consumption and use in the creation of utility for household members (Knoll 1963; Magrabi et al. 1991; Maloch and Deacon 1966). The focus of this article is on that area of household management dealing with the logistics of possession, ownership, and maintenance. Although parts of the conceptual model presented could apply to services as well, it is concerned here only with physical products--thus ownership implies more than just consumption. We explore how concerns about logistics, storage, and disposal can influence other decisions and then demonstrate how awareness of logistical considerations can benefit household decision making, consumer education, and product planning and marketing.

Systems approaches to household management have long recognized the role of possessions as inputs to a system designed to maximize household well-being. While recognizing the importance of sequencing of action (Maloch and Deacon 1966) and management of resources (Beutler and Owen 1980), most systems approaches and models make general reference to such actions, facilitating broad understanding, but turning attention from specific ways to improve efficiency or value. It seems clear that possession management is implied in economic models of the household that talk about planning, controlling, decision making, and goal setting. However, general open systems models, by necessity, deal with household management at a much broader level, in effect grouping possession management and logistics issues together with other day-to-day household activities such as repair and maintenance of physical plant, value creation, and negotiation. As such, they seem to downplay the specific stages of the process of resource management (e.g., physical movement, storage, and maintenance) and the influence these activities can have on household well-being.

The open systems approach, through its focus on interactions (frequently expressed as inputs and outputs between the household and the environment), tends to draw attention to general issues related to efficient use of resources and creation of value. This perspective is useful and important. However, at some point we need to delve into specific internal household activities to increase understanding.

In their model of household production and consumption, Magrabi et al. (1991) use arrows to represent inputs and outputs of various processes. Although they make reference to technical operations of the household, they focus on creation of "household commodities" rather than movement, and their discussion makes no mention of the impact of what goes on in the arrows (representing the flow of materials in and out of use) on household well-being. Here, the authors suggest that, by paying attention to these movements, consumers, educators, and marketers can gain additional insights into how to create value for households. …

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