Impulse Buying Is Alive and Well

Press enter to search
Close search
Open Menu

Impulse Buying Is Alive and Well

By Mark Dolliver - 11/20/2009
While consumer spending has certainly taken a hit during the recession, the decline has never quite measured up to the claims survey respondents routinely make about draconian, across-the-board cuts in their own expenditures. Now, a poll of adult women conducted for the November issue of ShopSmart magazine (published by Consumer Reports) gives a telltale indication of why that’s so.

People may intend to be tightfisted in their spending, but it turns out that impulse buying isn’t a thing of the pre-recession past after all. Sixty percent of the women surveyed confessed they’ve “bought something on a whim” in the past year, including 39 percent who’ve made an impulse buy within the past month. Fifteen percent said they “often” buy things on impulse.

And we’re not talking about a $5 lipstick. The average price tag on respondents’ most recent impulse purchase was a non-trivial $108. Actually, the desire to economize often gives impetus to impulse purchases. Forty-two percent of respondents said they made their most recent impulse buy “because it was a great price or it was on sale.” Then there’s what ShopSmart calls the “irresistibility” factor: 18 percent of respondents said they made their most recent impulse purchase because they “had to have it.” Another 5 percent bought something on impulse because “they might need it someday.”

Do the women regret the impulse purchases they’ve made? In a significant minority of cases, they do: 35 percent said they regretted an impulse purchase they’d made in the past 12 months.

Impulse buying is more common in some product categories than others. Clothing is the leader in this respect, with 25 percent of respondents saying their most recent impulse purchase was an apparel item. Food also scored in double digits, cited by 14 percent. Fewer said their most recent impulse buy was in the accessories category (6 percent), putting it slightly ahead of electronics (5 percent). Four percent cited cosmetics; 2 percent mentioned jewelry.

- Nielsen Business Media