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Shopping For the Thrill of It

Shopping For the Thrill of It

New research has found that some people shop simply for the thrill of it.

In fact, for these “sport shoppers” a trip to the mall is akin to an athletic competition, according to researchers at San Francisco State University.

“This is somebody who takes great pride in their ability to get the thing they want at a discount,” said Kathleen O’Donnell, associate dean of the university’s School of Business and lead author of the study. “It’s not about spending the least, it’s about saving the most.”

O’Donnell and her colleagues, Judi Strebel, chair of the university’s marketing department, and Gary Mortimer of Queensland University in Australia, define a sport shopper as someone who often can afford the items she buys at full price, but who bargain hunts for the thrill of it. She is competitive and enjoys outsmarting the retail system.

“Even when she can easily afford to pay full price, there’s no joy in that for the sport shopper,” O’Donnell explained. “She takes a real joy from being able to find that thing at a great discount.”

O’Donnell notes that while she is certain there are male sport shoppers, research so far has only produced females.

Also, like athletes recounting their achievements, the sport shopper can remember with great specificity the stories behind the bargain items in her closet, sometimes including the date of purchase, the price at which she bought the item, and the price at which it would ordinarily retail, she said.

Another similarity the researchers noticed between sport shoppers and athletes is the strategy behind each shopping endeavor. While a runner might train for a race, building up to the race’s distance and mapping the route, a sport shopper will get to know the layout of a department store, observe merchandising patterns, and plan a shopping trip based on how much time she has before going shopping.

O’Donnell added that the sport shopper is different from the bargain shopper in that the bargain shopper hunts for deals out of necessity, while the sport shopper does it for the “rush” of finding a good deal.

The study was published in the Journal of Retailing and Consumer Services.

Source: San Francisco State University

Shopping For the Thrill of It

Janice Wood

Janice Wood is a long-time writer and editor who began working at a daily newspaper before graduating from college. She has worked at a variety of newspapers, magazines and websites, covering everything from aviation to finance to healthcare.

APA Reference
Wood, J. (2018). Shopping For the Thrill of It. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 27, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Aug 2018 (Originally: 28 Nov 2015)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Aug 2018
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