Why Buy? The Psychology of Competitive Shopping

Nicole Nakamoto
Nicole Nakamoto
Jaime Tuisano
Jaime Tuisano

KAHALA (KHNL) -- Why would anyone wake up in the pre-dawn hours to be the first in the door at a sale? The science behind this psychology is about competition. People tell me if they don't get there first, they might lose out on a deal.

Nicole Nakamoto raced to Cinnamon Girl at Kahala Mall to make sure she snapped up the cutest fashions in her size. She said if she showed up late, she feared, "Mostly all the stuff are out already. And I don't want everything to go away before I can get it, like all my sizes."

But waking up at 4:30 am to get to a sale? "I drink coffee!" she chirps happily.

Jaime Tuisano and daughter Tiffany were a little punch drunk by the time we met them at noon. "I got up at 2:30. She got up at 3," says Mom. "The game plan was to hit Walmart first because they have the best sales. Then Ala Moana, and then Kahala Mall."

Apparently enough people feel that way, that staffers can't re-stock shelves fast enough at Cinnamon Girl. Manager Aileen Ignacio takes a break from a long line at the cash wrap to tell us, "It's been really hectic here at Kahala Mall Cinnamon Girl. We've been having a lot of our locals shop for Christmas gifts as well as gifts for themselves."

From clothing, to cosmetics, and everything in between, it seems the Christmas season inspires a whole different kind of spirit: the competitive kind! Tiffany Tuisano recounts mock-danger at Walmart. "Here at Kahala Mall it is not too bad but at Walmart it was pretty hectic. You had people going for each other and everybody else's toys!"

Her mom says there is even a strategy. "Bring as many people as you can and make them stand in line to buy your item. Cause it's pretty much crazy when you get there."

Industry experts say Hawaii retailers are cautiously optimistic this year, because shipping costs are high and visitor counts are low. The National Retail Federation predicts a sales increase of only 4% for this year due to the slowing national economy. That makes it the slowest holiday growth since 2002. The average seasonal sales profit for the last decade has been 4.8 percent.

At the Merle Norman cosmetics store in Pearlridge Shopping Center, manager Gina Lovern took that into account when ordering her holiday boxed gift sets. "They're very popular, but if I order too many then I'll have a hard time selling all of them after December 25," explains Lovern. She points to a little glittery display of two tubes of face cleaners, and two colorful pots of blush and bronzer. It's a gift with purchase item, she says, and adds, "When we have promos like that it does help drive business into the store."

But from the looks of it at the mall on this day, with long lines and a slightly electric atmosphere, it won't be a slow selling season.