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Consumer Behaviour during Crises: Preliminary Research on How Coronavirus Has Manifested Consumer Panic Buying, Herd Mentality, Changing Discretionary Spending and the Role of the Media in Influencing Behaviour

Mary Loxton (), Robert Truskett (), Brigitte Scarf (), Laura Sindone (), George Baldry () and Yinong Zhao ()
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Mary Loxton: Discipline of International Business, University of Sydney, Sydney, NSW 2006, Australia
Robert Truskett: Discipline of International Business, University of Sydney, Sydney, NSW 2006, Australia
Brigitte Scarf: Discipline of International Business, University of Sydney, Sydney, NSW 2006, Australia
Laura Sindone: Discipline of International Business, University of Sydney, Sydney, NSW 2006, Australia
George Baldry: Discipline of International Business, University of Sydney, Sydney, NSW 2006, Australia
Yinong Zhao: School of Economics, Fudan University, Shanghai 200433, China

Journal of Risk and Financial Management, 2020, vol. 13, issue 8, 1-21

Abstract: The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic spread globally from its outbreak in China in early 2020, negatively affecting economies and industries on a global scale. In line with historic crises and shock events including the 2002-04 SARS outbreak, the 2011 Christchurch earthquake and 2017 Hurricane Irma, COVID-19 has significantly impacted global economic conditions, causing significant economic downturns, company and industry failures, and increased unemployment. To understand how conditions created by the pandemic to date compare to the aforementioned shock events, we conducted a thorough literature review focusing on the presentation of panic buying and herd mentality behaviours, changes to discretionary consumer spending as defined by Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, and the impact of global media on these behaviours. The methodology utilised to analyse panic buying, herd mentality and altered patterns of consumer discretionary spending (according to Maslow’s theory) involved an analysis of consumer spending data, largely focused on Australian and American markets. Here, we analysed the volume and timing of consumer spending patterns; the volumes of spending on specific, highly-demanded consumer goods during the investigative period; and the distribution of spending on luxury and non-durable goods to identify the occurrence of these consumer behaviours. Moreover, to identify the presence of the media in influencing consumer behaviour we focused on web traffic to media sites, alongside keyword and phrase data mining. We conclude that, to date, consumer behaviour during the COVID-19 crisis appears to align with behaviours exhibited during historic shock events. We hope to contribute to the body of research on the early months of this pandemic before longer-term studies are available.

Keywords: coronavirus; COVID-19; consumer behaviour; panic buying; herd mentality; discretionary spending; media (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: C E F2 F3 G (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2020
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