We’ve all been there. We’ve all done it. As we drift around the stores in the mall, something catches our eye. We saunter over; examine the handbag, dress, pair of jeans, whatever it may be. Imagine ourselves wearing it, holding it, showing it off. And suddenly, even though we hadn’t even thought we needed the product, we’ve just got to have it. That’s the impulse buy.
Everyone impulse buys at some point. Some people, however, do it more than others. There is an actual personality trait, the impulse buying tendency, that can predict which people are more likely to buy impulsively. People who have this trait tend to be more social and are more status and image concerned than those who don’t. They also tend to be more anxious and unhappy. Therefore, they feel the need to buy in order to look good in front of others and to improve their mood. Retail therapy! However, it is only a temporary fix and can have negative side effects. Impulse shopping can turn into a full blown addiction. As a result of an impulse buy, people tend to get a rush of dopamine, which comes from the reward centre in the brain. Gradually, due to tolerance, one will need to spend more and buy more things in order to get the same rush. This makes shopping an entirely emotional, illogical process.
Marketers and advertisers love the impulse buyer! They do all they can to manipulate the consumer into believing that by buying a product, he/she will be a happier, more complete, worthy person. There are many techniques they use to get us all to spend, spend, spend! They associate positive emotions with products through advertising. They make us believe that we’ll be left out of our social groups if we don’t move with the trends and buy the latest gadgets.
The organization of malls is also cleverly constructed to get us in and keep us in. The fact that you can’t see the outside world, distorts our perception of time. Malls are spacious, have harsh lighting and hard floors. They also tend to be very noisy. These factors make us feel unconsciously uncomfortable and drive us into the comfort of the smaller stores within the mall. Stores themselves tend to be designed in a more aesthetic way encouraging us to stay in and guess what, spend! Usually when we enter stores, we turn right. So it’s no surprise that bargain buckets and special deals are placed on that side. Also malls are getting so big these days that it’s easy to get lost. This keeps you looking around and more importantly, keeps you buying! The manikins themselves are great marketing techniques. Clothed in trousers, shirts, jewellery, laden with a handbag, they show you products in combination. If you buy that shirt, you should buy that necklace to match. No longer are you looking at individual products but a whole set of beautifully matching ones!
In order to resist the impulse buy we need to become more clever consumers. We should create a shopping list of things we need or plan to buy and stick to it. This is a sure safeguard against impulse buys. Having a stable spending budget would also be a good idea. We need to remember that happiness, self-worth and respect are not reliant upon the shoes on our feet but on our unique, individual personalities, which cannot be bought. Shopping shouldn’t be viewed as a means to self-fulfilment. Many people believe material and financial success are equivalent to and proof of happiness as is evident through the following statement, “Everybody knows I wear Gucci and Chanel and I feel a more valuable person if I have them,” Atsuko, Japanese schoolgirl prostitute (P 183). Unfortunately Chanel perfumes and Gucci bags go out of fashion. This keeps you trapped in the endless spending cycle unless you savvy up and break free!
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