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Paul Galvin: On impulse buying ...


Been caught up in the excitement of a purchase, then realised that you'll never wear that pair of plimsolls? Don't worry, says Paul Galvin -- you're not alone

It's my old business teacher I blame. I wouldn't know the first thing about impulse buying if it wasn't for him. And I wouldn't be conscious of the thousands of euro I estimate I have squandered in my years as an impulse buyer.

According to him, there exists this phenomenon whereby one can buy something on impulse without proper reflection or consideration.

I recognised this phenomenon as soon as he spoke about. It began to make sense. This rogue desire overtakes your sensibilities. You wonder whether to pay with cash or card. Please enter your PIN. It's less painful.

Your bad judgement overrides your better judgement. Transaction completed. Please remove your card.

Very quickly the shine wears off and you're left holding an expensive pair of shoes, trousers or a shirt that you know you'll never wear.

It's a curious thing. One minute you're feeling those off-white, cotton plimsolls with the netted fronts, the next, approximately 18 minutes after the transaction has been made, you realise you're in Ireland, not Rio de Janeiro, and you couldn't give these damn things away to a gang of young lads playing soccer with a rock, barefoot in a favela.

It's like having a serious condition you don't know about.

And hey, what you don't know can't hurt you, can it? Not if you're minted and money is no object to you.

Or until you're told about it by your business teacher.

The guilt makes you reflect in the same way you should have reflected before making all those purchases you made, and now all you can see is a room full of clothes you don't want or need.

This isn't helped in any way by a propensity for disregarding and abandoning most things you wear after three or four wears.

This Christmas was a particularly profligate time for me. Impulse buying can affect anyone but medical research -- okay, this may just be my own research -- has shown that naturally impulsive people are more prone to the syndrome.

Further research -- more of my own -- has shown that leaving Christmas buying until the last minute exacerbates significantly the syndrome. Wants become needs, needs become wants and consideration and reflection aren't wanted or needed. They go out the shop window.

So here I am today with, among other things, a pair of trainers from Zara that I tried to give away as a Christmas present, only they had tell-tale 'I've been worn' signs.

They looked class on the rack. But then everything in Zara looks class. Its design team is incredibly sharp when it comes to trend direction and colour.

Its business model is so finely tuned and efficient that items can go from the drawing board to the rack in two to four weeks. Lead times this short (most retailers will operate on a minimum four-month production cycle) were unheard of in production and distribution cycles, but require a great deal of communication and information flow between the various teams within the company.

The 200-strong in-house design team works alongside production staff to design what people want to wear, specifically and quickly.

Market research from sales reports, floor staff, the streets, university campuses and discos inform them as to what directions to take.

Anyway, more of Zara's brilliant business strategy anon. Back to what people don't want to wear. Such as these shoes I bought.

Now, they might be class to the next guy. Just not for me. I wore them that day and realised quickly that I looked like an umpire in a baseball game. A bit too big and bulky.

I'm very particular about my shoes. I like them neat. Every step I took I heard the bitter-batter of huge feet. So they had to go.

The rest of the day was spent considering my actions and some of the other impulse buys I've made along the way. To be fair, I'm not too bad but I've acquired such a collection of clothes and shoes now that I could open a shop. Some unworn, some barely worn, some well worn.

I've decided it's time for a clean out. I'm going to bag up the stuff I don't want and give them to charity. The unworn impulse buys, the barely worn impulse buys and the well-worn buys that I'm just over.

Keep an eye out for some very trendy homeless people on a street near you soon.

Weekend Magazine