Purpose – Browsing is a common consumer behavior, but it has not been researched extensively. The aim of this paper is to fill some of the gaps in the research. Design/methodology/approach – Drawing on literature from different areas, consumers' browsing experiences, browsing patterns, and factors influencing browsing activities are empirically examined. A combination of interviews and shopping trips with informants to examine the issues are used. Findings – The results show that browsing serves both functional and recreational purposes. Consumers vary by the degree to which they browse functionally or recreationally. Browsing behaviors are influenced by both consumer characteristics and the retail environment. Browsing is a powerful consumer information acquisition activity and has both desired and undesired consequences for consumer purchases. Consumers use various strategies to cope with the undesired consequences. Practical implications – Exploration of browsing patterns and factors influencing these patterns suggests important managerial implications for enhancing desirable browsing and reducing unnecessary browsing. Originality/value – The conceptualization and findings of this research contribute to two areas of research: consumer information search and consumer shopping behaviors in retail environments. An examination of the role of browsing offers an empirical extension to the information acquisition framework.