Campus News

Published by Communications and Public Affairs 519 824-4120, Ext. 56982 or 53338

News Release

June 08, 2007

U of G Researcher Aims to Curb Compulsive Shopping

Almost everyone has succumbed to the urge of buying on impulse at least once, but a University of Guelph researcher is investigating what makes some of us more addicted to the shopping high than others.

Prof. Sunghwan Yi of the Department of Marketing and Consumer Studies suspects the answer lies in the way a person copes with making an impulse purchase.

Yi is researching the different types of coping strategies people use after making an impulse purchase with the aim of finding which are the most effective in curbing the urge to spend.

Just like a drug, the high of an impulse purchase doesn’t last and is often followed by feelings of regret, guilt and shame, said Yi. And people will cope with these negative feelings in various ways.

“People who are regular impulsive shoppers may find reasons to justify their spending, try to forget about the cash they just dropped or hide the purchase from others because they know it’s inappropriate behaviour,” he said. “These are some of the coping strategies that lead to future impulse purchases.”

Less impulsive shoppers, on the other hand, tend be more open about their behaviour and may even take preventive measures such as shopping with a friend or spouse who can help talk them out of impulse purchases, he said.

Although there has been some research conducted on the addiction of compulsive shopping, little has been done on impulsive shopping, said Yi.

“It’s an area worth studying because significantly more people impulse shop, and some impulse buyers eventually become compulsive buyers.”

Compulsive shoppers have little control over their spending habits and will binge buy, he said. The rush they get from buying something is followed by long-term feelings of depression and anxiety, and their only relief from this is to make another purchase. About one per cent of the North American population is made up of compulsive shoppers.

Impulsive shoppers differ from compulsive shoppers because they have more control and often buy things to reward themselves or because they feel they are entitled to shop, said Yi.

As part of the research project, he is conducting interviews with consumers who have recently purchased a significant item on impulse and is asking them how they felt at the moment of purchase, how they felt after the purchase and how they coped with any negative feelings that arose.

Based on the answers, Yi will then conduct a large-scale survey to determine which coping strategies are used most frequently by shoppers and which are more likely to prevent further impulse purchases.

“Once we can identify which coping strategies lead to beneficial outcomes, we can make suggestions to the general public on how to prevent impulsive purchases. If we can reduce the number of impulse purchases, we can start to reduce the onset of compulsive behaviour.”

Sunghwan Yi
Department of Marketing and Consumer Studies
519-824-4120, Ext. 52416

For media questions, contact Communications and Public Affairs: Lori Bona Hunt, 519-824-4120, Ext. 53338, or Deirdre Healey, Ext. 56982.

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