Amid the global spread of coronavirus, consumers are stockpiling goods like canned foods, hand sanitizer, and various other essential commodities. Among these, toilet paper has been the most unlikely stockpiling targets for the people anxious about the pandemic. As a consequence of which, supermarkets in Australia have restricted supplies to one pack per person; toilet paper rolls are chained to the wall in public restrooms of Japan; and in Hong Kong, it has even resulted into an armed robbery to steak supplies when it was being delivered to the market.
Despite regular assurance by the authorities, our emotional state is pushing us to panic buy. It can be associated with “retail therapy” where consumers buy only to balance the emotional state. They want to have control of the uncertain environment.
Alexander DePaoli, an associate professor of Marketing at Northeastern University researches how emotions influence consumer behaviour and satisfaction. Fear caused due to COVID-19 is affecting people’s behaviour in multiple ways. It depends on how people identify the emotion they are feeling. Anxiety brings about a level of uncertainty, and in an urge to resolve that uncertainty, people engage in activities to get a feeling of control of their lives. And, one way to have that control is shopping, to accumulate a sufficient amount of groceries and other items which assure you of being in more control of your circumstances. At the same time, “avoidance mindset”, that is, people tend to look for ways to avoid the fearful situation that influences consumer decisions.
In a wake to control this situation, supermarkets of Japan are stacking up 12-roll toilet paper packets on display to reassure the customers of the availability of good in plenty and eliminate people’s fear. Although consumer psychology gives a believable explanation of this phenomenon, the situation needs to be controlled. The dominance of prudence over self-affirmation is the need of the hour.