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Drawing on the Big Middle theory of retail evolution, an analysis of primary survey data on Thai shopping behavior seeks to understand the relative satisfaction of consumers with wet markets and supermarkets, identifying the factors that affect frequency of visit to, and purchase behavior within, these retail outlets. This provides the basis for engaging in a wider debate on the possibility of a ‘Global Big Middle’ for food retailing. On all salient attributes affecting retail outlet choice, supermarkets perform better than wet markets. However for fresh produce, wet markets continue to account for the majority of expenditure, albeit to a far lesser extent than in previous studies. A bootstrapped bivariate ordered probit model identifies that supermarkets are frequented more by higher educated and younger consumers in the capital city but penetration of supermarkets is high for all socio-economic groups. Bootstrapped bivariate Tobit models reveal supermarkets’ share of fresh produce expenditure is neither biased to a particular educational group nor related to age or, with exception of fresh meat, household income. The analysis questions previous work which perceived wet markets in east Asia as possessing a long-term competitive advantage in food retailing.


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