The desire to replace an existing item in the home is often the justifier for the purchase of a discretionary item. In fact, this often becomes the catalyst for an extended spending spree. A worn-out chair, rug, or broken television is frequently the spur that moves buyers from their homes and into the stores. Over and over in focus groups, respondents explained how the purchase of one item led to a cascade of additional spending to buy new things to complement and match the original item that started the spending spree. "We had an old chair. It cleaned up well but still looked dingy, so I went out and bought a new chair. Then when I got it home, it made the sofa and love seat look dingy, so we just replaced that. Next, I need to get new drapes, because the new furniture makes them look really bad." Another participant explains about her latest home spending spree: "We just bought four reclining chairs, including a couch with a recliner. We like to be comfortable, very comfortable. Now we need to get new things to go with [the couch]. One thing leads to another so you can justify new purchases. I've got to get a new rug. I wanted new furniture for ten years, so now it is time to do it." A new backyard patio gives another respondent a justification to continue to spend: "We just finished the patio and sidewalk, so we needed plants to complement that. Then we needed patio furniture to complement that. It's a sense of accomplishment to show off what we've done."

The desire to replace an existing item often becomes the catalyst for an extended spending spree.

Part of the motivation that drives the spending spree after replacing an existing item is to extend the thrill and excitement of having something new. Another respondent explained: "I always find myself buying bigger and better kitchen appliances. The kitchen is so important to me. I bought a new coffeepot with a water filter. The first time I used it I thought it was the best cup of coffee I ever made. I thought WOW! But now I just take it for granted. I just don't notice it anymore. Something new is a WOW. Improvements are amazing."

Demographic Distinctions

Women say replacing an existing item is a more important motivator for them to shop than do men. Older consumers aged 45 to 64 consider this more important when they shop, compared with younger consumers aged 18 to 44. Moderate-income households rate replacing an existing item more important in their buying decisions than do households that are more affluent. Two-person and larger households are also more likely to consider replacing an existing item as an essential motivator to purchase.


Finding a way to relieve stress motivates three-fourths of survey respondents in their discretionary purchases. Stress relief results from the act of shopping—from the relief and satisfaction felt upon culminating an anticipated purchase and from the product itself. Stress relief is an important benefit in the marketing of aromatherapy, candles, bath products, whirlpools, hot tubs, and small personal-care appliances.

In the post-9/11, terrorist-threatened world, consumers face an emotional crisis. Threats to personal security, when combined with economic uncertainty and rising global tension, create a feeling of stress for many Americans. When people are under stress, they fall back upon past behaviors that have proven successful in the past for relieving stress. In the aftermath of September 11, some consumers turned to comfort foods. Others turned to the gym and strenuous activity for stress release or returned to old vices such as cigarettes and alcohol. Still others turned their feelings of stress into a justifier for more shopping.

When the crisis is long lasting or intensifies, stress relief will play a bigger role in shopping behavior. At the same time, consumers can cause themselves more stress by making expenditures they perceive as extravagant. Extravagance is in the eye of the beholder, but we can describe it as a purchase that a buyer cannot rationally justify. The higher the price, the harder consumers must work to find justifiers to give permission to make the purchase.

In the post-9/11 crisis, the sale of indulgence products, life's little luxuries that can be bought without guilt, will be vibrant for some time. Marketers and retailers need to be aware of new frugality taking hold in the American consumer characterized by a desire to get more perceived value for the money. Now is not the time to raise prices, but to look at ways to engineer products or find new suppliers in order to offer more indulgence value for a lower price. Promotions that focus on delivering more to the consumers, such as "two for the price of one" or "buy two get one free," are on target for today.

Consumers crave the comfort of traditions to relieve stress, so there is new demand for products that enhance and support family traditions. These include such things as Christmas and Hanukkah decorations, dinnerware for family get-togethers, kitchenware and kitchen décor, candles and fireplace or hearth products that "keep the home fires burning," and games and entertainment products that encourage high-quality family time. Back-to-basic toys give parents a chance to get down on the floor and play with their kids. Our holiday celebrations will hearken back to the past, as we try to re-create a Norman Rockwell Thanksgiving and a Victorian Christmas.

Suddenly, Made in America becomes a much more potent positioning statement, as buying American is now a patriotic duty. While Americans accept products manufactured in foreign countries, they will look for foreign-made goods that are produced for an American company. They also may look at labels to find out where goods are made and reject products manufactured in perceived terrorist nations, including Indonesia. Be forewarned: If your company's products are manufactured in any of these countries, be prepared to change manufacturing sources fast.

Products that convey a symbolic or inspirational meaning will be in great demand, especially flags and patriotic-themed products. Do not expect consumers to lose interest in displaying, wearing, or flying the "red white and blue" anytime soon. Inspirational themes, from God Bless America to angels, will attract more and more consumers as they seek peace in spiritual renewal. Bible sales, along with inspirational book titles, will see an upswing.

Nostalgia-themed products that recall a better, simpler time will bring comfort to consumers. Greeting cards, scrapbooks, diaries, and other products that enable personal communication will be in demand.

Inevitably, consumers seeking stress relief are going to change their shopping patterns. They may retreat to the safety of their home. When they shop, they may want to spend less time at the store. They will do more of their weekly shopping in a single shopping trip. More shopping will be done from home, with consumers turning to the Internet, mail-order catalogs, even party-based and other direct-selling businesses for their shopping needs.

Demographic Distinctions

Women are more strongly motivated than men by stress relief in their pursuit of discretionary products. Relaxation, a justifier closely aligned to stress relief, appeals more strongly than stress relief to both genders. Consumers aged 18 to 54 place a higher priority on stress relief. This justifier is not motivating to consumers aged 55 or older. Black consumers respond more strongly to stress relief in their discretionary purchases, while people living in households with two or more individuals consider it an important motivator for their purchases. Less-educated consumers feel more stress and seek relief more often in purchasing discretionary products.