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Shoppers will still buy on impulse – as long as it’s really a bargain

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Shoppers are becoming less impulsive when they shop online, but high levels of consumers still admit to making an unplanned purchase in store, a report out today suggests.

But 2011 they are more likely to stray off the shopping list if they spot a bargain, compared to years gone by.

A study into impulse shopping by shopper research agency Shoppercentric measures consumers’ likelihood of buying on impulse in 2011, and contrasts it with the results of a previous study carried out in 2008. Some 1,054 people took part in the latest research.

Today’s Windows on Impulse Shopping Revisited study found that while in 2008, 50% of consumers admitted to buying on impulse online, only 43% now did so.

But overall it seems that, despite the age of austerity, high numbers of shoppers do still admit to making unplanned purchases. In 2008, 74% of shoppers admitted to impulse buying groceries, while 76% do so in 2011. Some 77% of women and 71% of men said they bought on impulse when grocery shopping, while 63% of women and 50% of men did so when buying middle-priced goods.

However it seems motivations may have changed. Rather than straying off the shopping list to buy indulgences, consumers are more likely to do so if they spot a bargain. Whereas 35% of grocery shoppers would have bought in 2008 because they spotted a bargain, that figure has now risen to 41%.

In 2011, 44% of grocery shoppers cited low prices as a motivation to buy, compared to 31% in 2008. In 2008, 31% said they bought something because they ‘fancied it’ compared to 29% in 2011. Sweets, cakes and chocolates headed the list of grocery items likely to be bought on impulse.

At the other end of the scale, some 28% of 2011 shoppers, male and female alike, said they would buy high-value furniture or electrical items that they hadn’t planned to buy, compared to 27% in 2008.

Danielle Pinnington, managing director at Shoppercentric, said: “Historically, impulsive spending implies frivolous spending behaviour but this not necessarily the case today – now impulse behaviour can be the mark of a smart and savvy shopper. It’s about opportunism: seeing a product at a good price or spotting a bargain that genuinely saves money – these are the factors that drive impulse while allowing shoppers to feel they are in real control of their spending during difficult times.”

Pinnington said the retail industry was “too ready to underestimate shoppers,” adding: “Retailers and brands pepper the stores with promotions, some of which aren’t a bargain at all and retailers think shopper don’t notice when standards slip a bit.

“However our evidence shows that shoppers are now seeing through half-hearted marketing iniaitives, are showing a willingness to play channels and retailers off against each other; and they have adopted a new level of prudence to deal with the pressures they are facing.

“Impulse should no longer be thought of as frivolous behaviour – increasingly it is savvy opportunism.”

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