Buying on impulse is an important factor in discretionary purchases for about 40 percent of consumers. Based upon our survey, buying on impulse is about half as important as making a planned purchase. While the consumer who plans his or her purchase gains satisfaction from the emotional buildup and anticipation surrounding the upcoming purchase, the impulse shopper gains a sense of power and entitlement from making an impulse buy. One respondent explains: "I see something I like and I buy it. It's knowing that you are the one that got it. It gives me a feeling of power."
Sales are a powerful motivator for impulse purchases. Finding a good price or a bargain is the ultimate justifier for purchase because it instantly takes away any guilt associated with making an unplanned, spontaneous purchase. "I like to save money," one consumer says. "If I can save money, I'll buy it, even if it is something I was just thinking of buying, but not necessarily at that time." Another consumer explains: "When I find something on sale, I feel like a winner." Feelings of guilt are a powerful demotivator for buying something you don't need. A sale takes the guilt away. "I think if you buy something you don't need, you feel guilty, but if you find it on sale, then you feel less guilty," explains a consumer.
Brand Names at Bargain Prices
Serving the needs of impulse and value shoppers nationwide are the country's roughly 300 shopping centers that feature manufacturers' outlets. These bargain-oriented outlet malls attract consumers in search of brand-name products at a discount. Linda Humphers, editor-in-chief of Value Retail News, published by the International Council of Shopping Centers, explains: "From the customer's point of view, the ability to find a wide assortment of goods with well-known brand names, in a specialty store atmosphere with value pricing, is the major lure." The biggest draws in outlet shopping are the uppertier brand names that are traditionally carried in department stores and specialty boutiques, like Ralph Lauren Polo, Liz Claiborne, and Brooks Brothers. These brand companies favor the control they get in inventory selection and brand image when they operate their own outlets. Humphers says: "Those in the outlet sector realize how much better it is to put over-runs and past season's goods in an environment they control, rather than with a jobber or an off-price retailer that might jam designer goods onto broken hangers next to low-end merchandise."
Also a critical component in the outlet shopping experience is location. "Not to be underestimated is the location of many outlet centers in resorts, where time-deprived consumers can relax and take their leisure time to shop for bargains," Humphers adds.
Accounting for roughly $15 billion in annual sales, outlet shopping is still relatively small in the grand scheme of the nation's $3 trillion retail sector. Yet outlet malls exert a powerful pull on the shopper's psyche that goes beyond the right combination of price, selection, and quality. As Humphers states: "Since most of us rarely need anything we buy, outlet shoppers can justify their purchases as intelligent and sensible because they know the brands and they know what they're worth. Besides, we all like to think of ourselves as smart consumers, and smart consumers check out the outlets."
Men are more likely than women to buy discretionary products on impulse, thus destroying the illusion that men are the more rational shoppers. Younger consumers, especially those aged 18 to 24, are more likely to act on impulse in shopping than older consumers, especially those aged 55 or older. These more mature consumers are the most likely to rate impulse buying as of little or no importance in their purchase decisions. Consumers at lower income levels as well as those at the highest are most highly driven to make impulse purchases. Less-educated consumers also give impulse purchasing a higher priority.