Recreational shoppers don’t just browse but spend more than others
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Leisure shoppers are bullish on buying, says a University of Florida researcher whose study finds these recreational consumers are intensely involved in the sport of bargain hunting and creative purchasing.
Recreational shoppers are not mere browsers but even go so far as to have their self-concept and personal identity wrapped in the all-consuming thrill of the search and victory of the buy, said Richard Lutz, a UF marketing professor who led the study.
“The notion of a leisure shopper is someone who looks a lot but doesn’t buy much,” he said. “It might be the mall rat who wanders from store to store or the customer that walks into Starbucks, orders a cup of coffee and plops down in a chair for the afternoon to read a book.”
Instead, leisure shoppers are really shopping enthusiasts who broaden their search from stores to the Internet, catalogs and TV home shopping channels in the quest for the perfect deal, he said.
“For people who are really intense shoppers, it’s almost a source of pride,” Lutz said. “They view shopping as a creative act and something they are an expert at, whether it be finding a good bargain or putting together an outfit.”
Often these enthusiasts go out of their way to convey this passion, he said.
“If you meet them at a cocktail party, they are very likely to bring up in a conversation that they are shoppers,” he said. “It’s really part of what makes them who they are.”
The researchers surveyed 354 parents of students enrolled in an introductory marketing class about how much time and money they spent shopping for clothing during the past year. The questions covered retail stores, catalogs, TV home shopping channels and the Internet.
The results showed that a majority (56 percent) were “normal shoppers,” for whom shopping had no particular place of importance, either positive or negative, 27 percent were “shopping aversives” who hated to shop and 17 percent were “shopping enthusiasts” who embraced the practice so strongly that it became part of their identity.
“The good news for retailers is that recreational shoppers not only shop longer and more often, they also tend to buy more,” Lutz said. “The bad news is these customers are not particularly store-loyal or even loyal to any particular retail form.”
In keeping with stereotypes, shopping enthusiasts were largely female and shopping aversives were overwhelmingly male, Lutz said. “It may be that if we had studied electronics stores or car lots instead of clothing shops, the results might have been different,” he said.
Lutz and co-researchers Anne Magi, a UF visiting marketing professor, and Michael Guiry, a marketing professor at the State University of New York at New Paltz, who published their research in the winter 2005-06 edition of the Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, also found that shopping enthusiasts were slightly younger, had less education and were more likely to be immigrants.
While other studies have shown that people become less materialistic as they age, the finding on immigrants is relatively new and may reflect their desire to assimilate, Lutz said.
“Wearing the right clothes and the right brands is one way to fit into a particular group,” he said. “Perhaps when newcomers want to find out what it’s like here they say, ‘Let’s go to the mall and see what Americans buy.’”
One reason shopping has assumed greater importance in American society may be because churches, civic organizations and other institutions have declined, Lutz said. The appearance of such aphorisms as “Born to Shop” and “I Shop, Therefore I Am” on bumper stickers reflect the prominent position shopping plays in consumer culture, he said.
In a separate survey of 561 UF graduate and undergraduate students, Lutz’s research team found that those who considered shopping part of their identity strongly agreed with such statements as “I find that a lot of my life is organized around shopping” and “I get so involved in shopping that I forget everything else.”
Because recreational shoppers spend more, Lutz said, it is in retailers’ interest to try to cater to them.
Lutz said it is unclear whether someone is likely to love shopping because his or her mother does. “There are all sorts of rules that you might learn from your parents about how to approach the marketplace,” he said. “One of those might be that shopping isn’t just for filling our utilitarian needs, but it’s a place to have fun, be creative and spend time together.”