COVID-19 has increased consumers’ hoarding habits: Study

*Researchers are exploring deeper the psychology behind ways Coronavirus has turned many consumers into hoarders while shifting overall spending or buying habits

Alexander Davis | ConsumerConnect

Reports indicate that consumers have been stocking up on food and supplies since the outbreak of the novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

ConsumerConnect learnt that this development has led to shortages of necessary items, and a push by regulators to get people to cease these hoarding habits.

Consequently, researchers from the University of Technology, Sydney, in Australia, are diving deeper into the psychology behind the ways the pandemic has turned many consumers into hoarders and shifted overall spending habits.

Michelle Baddeley, a researcher, said: “Evolved instincts dominate in stressful situations, as a response to panic and anxiety.

“During times of stress and deprivation, not only people but also many animals show a propensity to hoard.”

In connection with the psychology behind hoarding, the researchers assessed current levels of hoarding from several different points of view, all with the intention of understanding why this trend among consumers has emerged since the start of the pandemic.

While many factors come into play, the innate desire to follow others’ behaviours and a general sense of fear are two major influences that have affected consumers’ shopping trends in recent months.

Once trends start to emerge, especially in times of uncertainty, consumers tend to follow what others are doing, report said.

It was gathered this is how grocery store shelves end up empty and homes are stockpiled with various goods as consumers don’t want to feel left out, or that they’re missing something.

Baddeley further explained: “When other people’s choices might be a useful source of information, we use a herding heuristic and follow them because we believe they have good reasons for their actions.

“We might choose to eat a busy restaurant because we assume the other diners know it is a good place to eat.

“However, numerous experiments from social psychology also show that we can be blindly susceptible to the influence of others.

“So when we see others rushing to the shops to buy toilet paper, we fear missing out and follow the herd.”

Besides hoarding consumer products such as toilet paper or cleaning supplies, Coronavirus has changed the way many consumers think about spending and saving money, according to researchers.

They explained that many of these decisions come from fear, but they have long-standing implications.

“In economics, hoarding is often explored in the context of savings. When consumer confidence is down, spending drops and households increase their savings if they can, because they expect bad times ahead,” said Baddeley.

In preparing for the future, the researchers say these findings highlight the ways that spending habits have been affected by the pandemic.

And they hope that lawmakers can use these results to help guide consumers away from fear-based efforts and towards more positive actions.

Baddeley added that “understanding these economic, social, and psychological responses to COVID-19 can help governments and policymakers adapt their policies to limit negative impacts, and nudge us towards better health and economic outcomes.”

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