TREASURE COAST― Panic or impulse buying is often an occurrence triggered by an economical or environmental disasters. However, the trends in impulsive purchases often have to do with consumers behavior.

Last year, the COVID-19 pandemic had people hoarding of toilet paper, water and otherwise deemed essential products.

Panic buying is defined as "the action of buying large quantities of a particular product or commodity due to sudden fears of a forthcoming shortage or price increase".

But not all panic buying is done by single individuals without patterns. A recent study from the University of Florida's Institute of Food and Agricultural Services (UF/IFAS) extension looks at the behavior of individuals who impulse buy.

The findings, made by Dr. Zhifeng Goa, professor of food and resource economics at UF/IFAS, can provide clues to why people often buy things they don't need.

The research looked at the responses to suggestions people talk with those closest to them when making purchases. Prior research in 2004 suggested that important relationships such as spouses or family can influence buyers to make more impulsive purchases.

For the consumers, Dr. Goa emphasizes that "if a person is surrounded by others while shopping and receives purchasing suggestions, they are more likely to act on those suggestions and increase their expenditure".

The study used an internet survey of 791 people nationwide to find trends in buying behaviors.

"People are usually more influenced by a close family member like parents, spouse or children," he said. "They all have impacts on their impulsive purchases."

Overall, factors like gender didn't necessarily play a part in determining who makes more impulsive purchases, but rather who is more likely to be influenced by who.

"Females are more likely than males to respond to a suggestion from their kids and males are more likely to respond to suggestions from their parents so that's pretty interesting," he said.

Dr. Goa sees the takeaways of the study to have an effect on both the consumer and companies.

"This information can be used by the regular consumers or in combination based on their goal," he said. "As the regular consumer we don't want to make some more impulsive purchases because we may buy something that's not planned and not necessary. Using our information, we can warn consumers to say if you get suggestions for other people take a few seconds. Try to prevent something unnecessary."

He suggests that retailers can also use this data to better understand consumers purchasing decisions and advertise products more objectively.

"From a company or retailers perspective, maybe they can use this information to motivate people to purchase more," he said.

Co-authors on the study were Bachir Kassas, UF/IFAS assistant professor of food and resource economics, and Xuqi Chen, University of Tennessee assistant professor of agricultural and resource economics.

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