Silver lining for those braving last-minute Christmas shopping crowds

With less than ten days to count down to Christmas, last minute shoppers braving the Christmas crush are expected to spend in the vicinity of $32 billion over the festive season. However, there is a silver lining for those braving the crowds this week as recent research suggests those who shop in a crowded environment are actually, less likely to overspend.

Research from Ahreum Merng, assistant professor at Kansas University School of Business has proved that crowd size can lead to dramatically different purchasing behavior and that socially crowded environments lead consumers to be more conservative with their spending.

Specifically, Maeng found that consumers in crowded settings prefer safety-oriented options and are more receptive to prevention-framed messages than promotional messages. For example, preferring toothpaste offering cavity protection over toothpaste promising a whiter smile.

"Consumers in crowded environments get conservative and safety-focused," Maeng said. "We believe this is because people in socially crowded settings activate an avoidance system that results in a more prevention-focused mindset. This, in turn, makes socially crowded individuals more likely to choose options that provide prevention-focused benefits."

Maeng's research comprises six experiments that collectively exposed participants to crowded or uncrowded settings, then had them complete tasks or indicate preferences for messages, products and behaviors. Collectively, the experiments demonstrated that individuals in crowded settings were more conservative and less willing to gamble.

Maeng's research could have important implications for consumers who could use the information to better plan the time and location of their shopping in an effort to better control their decisions.

For last minute Christmas shoppers hitting the malls at peak times before Christmas, it could translate to more sensible purchases - and isn't that a relief?

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