BUYING ON SALE: A POSITIVE ADDICTION?


It’s sales time ! Yay ! … for many of us this means a pleasant increase of our dopamine level:

the joy of succeeding in bringing home new, fresh, “prey”, captured at a very satisfying quality/price ratio, to join, or, more dramatically, to replace other items in our wardrobe, once as tempting, now fallen into disfavor.


The truth is that few of us can resist a sale. And neuroscience studies reveal the shocking news that we even become sales addicted - in the end, whether we really need a new pair of shoes or not becomes secondary, the first thing in our mind will be securing the lowest price possible.


But which is the mechanism behind this phenomenon?

Martin Lindstrom, international specialist in neuro-marketing explains:

“Huge markdowns, or even the anticipation of sales, spark a primal urge in consumer’s brain. The prospect of a bargain activates our centuries-old hoarding instinct”.


So, deep down, it’s (again!) all about our self-preservation instinct...

We feel more secure and satisfied when we close a good deal for ourselves, and that becomes more important than the item itself; we just had to have it, because who knows what the future might bring??

“Maybe tomorrow I will really need it and I will regret not taking this opportunity. Maybe the day after tomorrow I will not be able to afford it. Maybe. Maybe". (This is just your conscious brain that tries to indulge your subconscious, that has already decided to buy).

Putting on it the label “mine” will make you feel more reassured, secure, therefore happy (at least on the short term).

The question is: our weakness in front of the seducing discounts is all bad or maybe is also good?Well, on the short term we might end up spending more: “those t-shirts were sooooo cute, and the markdown was sooooo convenient, that I bought five, even if I needed ... none”.


But scientists say that on the long term the situation can turn up side down: sale seasons build a neuronal shortcut (called somatic marker) in our minds that will eventually bring us an overall financial benefit. How come?

Well, after a couple of sales shopping sessions, next time when we will see a full price on an item of our preferred brand, we will think twice before buying it - because our brain will expect the lower price.

“it takes seven years for a brand to recover its value in the minds of the consumers once it’s been discounted” says ML.


And the market responds: mid seasons sales, anticipated sales …. they don’t realize (or maybe they do but it’s too late now) that in this way they condition our brains to be accustomed to lower prices:

  • 8 times of 10 we will ask ourselves: “why should I buy it now at its full price, knowing that after a while I can buy it 50% off?”

  • 1 time of 10 we will buy it at 100% anyway - and than will feel frustrated when, in a month or so, we will see it on the shelves, 70% discounted (a feeling that, guess what ?... will contribute to increasing the discount addiction by confirming its relevance);

  • only 1 time of 10 we will be satisfied to buy it at the full price, and, because usually that will be an item that we needed for a special occasion or represented a limited edition, the logical justification for that una tantum exception will help us not changing our brain’s general expectation for discounts.

And let me surprise you with another neuro-marketing bomb-news (yes, you got it by now, I’m a big fan):

Did you know that

The more choice we have, the less money we spend ?


Think about the last time you searched for an item online, and you found one hundred, each with a long list of features to be evaluated. What did you do? I bet you left the window open on the laptop's screen in order to compare the items in a future moment, but you moved to another easier action or ... an easier purchase, where the process of choosing lasted less. Am I right?


Yes, it's a paradox, but if you think about it you will see it's true: too many offers on the market reduce the probability of completing purchases.

Today, It’s a buyer’s market, we get to decide.

And many of us can and will wait the lower price (that our brain translates by now with the “right” price).


And let’s admit it, what's the rush?? Expressing a social status? By being the first ones to wear the newest articles on the market?

Well, there is a continuously lower percentage of people that do that in the present society - demonstrating to be more responsible and with sustainable habits has become cooler than displaying “fresh of paint” luxury logos.

Less is more becomes a dictate also in terms of buying clothes: on one hand, less items and more quality; on the other hand less paying for more satisfaction.


But attention, Less doesn't mean None ! The "pioneer" buyer will always exist and the others may thank them: for promoting the new collections or just for giving the economy a spin (as they also fully afford it).


I leave it up to you. This is not an ode to sale and the objective is not to indicate you a certain behavior. It’s an invitation to introspection - which type of buyer are you and for which are your reasons? are you a Sales Addicted or an Early Adopter?

(you can answer in the comments if you wish).


And no matter what your conclusion will be (SA or EA), as an Image Consultant, I can advice you to:

  • practice intelligent shopping - yes, you can search for bargains (SA) or the thrill of the newest-new (EA), but with a list of items in your pocket, written after a wardrobe analysis, when you’ve decided what you need in order to make it more efficient and style-upgraded;

  • maintain vigilance on the quality matter - it’s not the amount of the markdown (SA) or the name of the brand (EA) that is important, but the quality/price ratio;

  • remember the rule “1 in, 1 out” - a balanced and efficient wardrobe is when for every item that enters, one goes out;

  • avoid “impulsive acquisitions” - allow yourself to think twice, even when the discount is so vertiginous (SA) or the news is so sensational (EA) that generates butterflies in your stomach :-)

  • never make compromises on size - it’s more important that the clothes fit you properly than its intrinsic beauty - don’t risk your overall image for the sake of the bargain (SA) or of the brand’s image (EA).

This being said,

I wish you Vertiginous Sales (SA) or Sensational New Collections to Buy (EA) , my dear Smart Ladies !

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