Barbara Bickart on Shopping Smart for the Holidays

in Faculty, Marketing, News
December 11th, 2012

Associate Professor and Dean’s Research Fellow gives advice in BU Today about the most common shopper mistakes and how to avoid them

Excerpts from BU Today:

The future of the economy may be uncertain, but money woes appear not to have dampened the spirits of holiday shoppers. Spending over the four-day weekend following Thanksgiving, including Black Friday and Cyber Monday, reached $59 billion, a 13 percent increase over last year, according to the National Retail Federation. The organization predicts that holiday sales will jump 4 percent over last year’s number, to $586 billion.

What does it all mean? Why do people spend more when they may have less? How can shoppers get the biggest bang for their buck? BU Today spoke with Barbara Bickart, a School of Management associate professor of marketing and a Dean’s Research Fellow, about common holiday shopping pitfalls, why we spend irrationally this time of year, whether we should feel guilty about buying for ourselves, and why we should buy the same gift for everyone on our holiday list.

What are some common mistakes shoppers make during the holidays?

The real issue is being tempted by deals that are right in front of you that seem too good to resist and look like they’re going to go away tomorrow. The retailers do a really good job of trying to convey that this is a limited time offer, that it’s a very precious, valuable, scarce deal, and that there are only so many of these available. So people think, I’ve got to act now.

How can we avoid these pitfalls?

One thing is having a list and knowing exactly what you’re going to get. And if you’re going to get things for yourself, know what those are too, because you’re probably going to be more impulsive for yourself than you are for others.

Another thing is not to go shopping when you’re tired or depleted, because as we make many decisions, we start to become more depleted and then we become more inclined to be impulsive. If you go shopping at a time when it’s not so busy or when you can be energetic, that’s going to help you avoid making those impulsive decisions. A shopping marathon is not a good idea. Do a little bit at a time and maybe do it on a Tuesday night when the stores aren’t so crowded.

See all of Associate Professor Bickart’s tips on BU Today.

Photo by Flickr user ThomasOfNorway.