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Lynda Moore exposes the psychological retailing game where scarcity breeds desire, building on the satisfaction of scoring a deal, and urges you to make mindful choices

Personal Finance / opinion
Lynda Moore exposes the psychological retailing game where scarcity breeds desire, building on the satisfaction of scoring a deal, and urges you to make mindful choices
retail shopping excess

Black Friday sales, the shopping extravaganza sandwiched between Singles Day, Pre-Black Friday. Cyber Monday and bringing up the rear, Boxing Day sales. It’s a whirlwind of discounts and deals, but are we really benefiting, or are we just caught in the spending spiral?

Sure, a 40% (or more) off sign might lure you in, but pause and ask yourself, do you genuinely need what’s on sale? The truth is, amidst the frenzy, you might be snagging a bargain on something you’ll regret later when buyers’ remorse sets in.

Here’s your Black Friday survival kit.

Sure, make use of the sales for your Christmas shopping, but tread cautiously. Fantastic bargains coexist with the not-so-fantastic ones.

If Black Friday is your holiday shopping spree, prepare in advance. Make a list of the who, what and how much you want to spend. Stay organised to help resist the allure of impulsive spending.

Avoid opening tempting ‘special’ emails or browsing online flyers when you’re winding down.  Relaxation can lead you to overspend, and stress isn’t the best adviser either. Also, skip the online shopping after a bit of Christmas cheer; alcohol and shopping rarely make a winning combo.

Delete saved credit cards from your favourite sites.  It adds a crucial moment of reflection before you hit ‘add to cart’.  Ten seconds may be all your rational brain needs to kick in.

If you venture into physical stores, take your time, as you walk through the door think of three things you are grateful for, this will put you in a good mindset to spend more wisely.

Whatever mode of shopping you are using, before you buy, ask yourself these questions:

  • What else could I do with this money if I didn’t buy this now?
  • Will I still love this purchase net week? Next month?
  • Is this truly the best decision right now?
  • Would I buy this if it wasn’t on sale?

Your answers will guide you to the right call – to buy or not to buy.

Be strategic as the sale day approaches. Yes, the marketing hype will be intense, and tempting bargains will abound, but resist the allure if your cash can’t handle the splash!

Consider the small local retailers too.  While the big chain stores flaunt hefty discounts, your local shop owner might be battling tight margins.  Quality often outweighs quantity; a lesson learned from a homeware store owner politely educating a discount-demanding customer.

We all have a limited pool of disposable income, and this week, everyone is vying for their share.  Stay strategic, be wise and don’t let the hype overshadow the fact that the festive season is a marathon, not a spring. Buying ‘stuff’ now, may mean you miss out on the experiences later as we head into summer. 

Let’s delve a little deeper into the psychology of Black Friday madness. The urgency, the limited-time offers, the fear of missing out (FOMO) – these are powerful triggers that retailers exploit to open our wallets wide.  It’s a psychological game where scarcity breeds desire.  The clock is ticking, and so is our heartbeat as we contemplate whether to click ‘buy’.

Marketers are well-versed in the art of creating and emotional connection with consumers. Black Friday isn’t just about discounts; it’s about the thrill of the hunt, the satisfaction of scoring a deal. It’s an emotional rollercoaster where the anticipation of saving money often overrides the rational consideration of whether we need the item.

Beyond us, the individual, there’s a social aspect to Black Friday.  The communal frenzy, the shared excitement, and the collective pursuit of bargains create a sense of belonging. We love sharing our bargains with our friends.  It’s not just about what you buy; it’s about being part of the consumer spectacle.

As we navigate the labyrinth of Black Friday, let’s not forget the environmental impact either.  The rush for deals contributes to over consumption, leading to more waste, a hidden cost to the planet.

In reality, Black Friday is more than just a shopping day; it’s a psychological experience.  Understanding the tricks at play, both individually and societally, empowers us to make mindful choices.  So, as the sale sign beckons, take a moment to reflect.  Is it a real bargain or just a fleeting thrill?

Remember, the best deal is the one that aligns with your needs, and your values.

*Lynda Moore is a Money Mentalist coach and New Zealand’s only certified New Money Story® mentor. Lynda helps you understand why you do the things you do with your money, when we all know we should spend less than we earn. You can contact her here.

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Random thoughts on Black Friday sales (from the perspective of somebody who has worked on the marketing/advertising side for a number of years, including for some prominent retailers)

  • Black Friday seems to have changed in nature from a genuine "clearance" sales period to retailers throwing out typically average offers but relying on the psychological/FOMO aspect - there might be the odd genuinely good deal, but most of them aren't much better than you'd find at any other point in the year.
  • Black Friday - just like Boxing Day - is increasingly an "arms race" where retailers are launching their BF offers earlier and earlier just to try and win their slice of the consumer's mentally-allocated BF spend (same with Boxing Day sales, which now often start before Christmas day is here)
  • The Commerce Commission really needs to do a better job at reigning in retailers playing silly games with special/promo pricing (the likes of PB Tech being quite notorious for this) where a product actually goes on special/sale for more than it was sold for recently, or where it is made more difficult than it needs to be to see what the pre-promo pricing was. 
  • Feedback so far that I'm hearing this year is sales have been lackluster, at least in furniture and electronics where I have some actual evidence.

In other words, I would generally agree with the gist of this article. It is psychologically effective. Last night my wife was showing me some posts from a Facebook group for mums who are big fans of a children's clothing brand called 'Jamie Kay' ... it was full of rather braggadocious posting about how much they had spent (often on Afterpay by the looks of things) on clothes that their babies and toddlers will never remember having worn - that brand combines effectively scarcity (products are released in 'drops' that can sell out) with the likes of BF and Boxing Day and it works scarily well on some. 


Harvard Business School should do a case study on Jamie Kay lol. They have really built a cult following - especially on fb, where upper-middle class women love to 'humble brag' about how much they have spent. Thank god my kids have grown out of anything they sell


Yeah it's madness. A full tear-down/case study would be fascinating reading.

The mind boggles at the mental gymnastics you can see some of these mums (for anyone accusing me of being stereotypical, the group is like 99% women) putting themselves through in order to justify spending money it seems they can often ill-afford, based off the fact that they are admitting in the comments "I can't really afford this but little so-and-so- just couldn't be without the latest floral set drop". 

One of the mums in the antenatal group we were in was messaging my wife saying how she'd spent several hundred dollars yesterday as she 'couldn't resist', but that it all had to go on afterpay - and in the weekend had turned down accompanying us to the Chch A&P show because that was too expensive.

I don't really get it with kids clothing. My toddler just trashes anything she wears given the opportunity. She has the odd nice piece for family photos, special events like weddings but at the end of the day most of her life is spent spilling food or getting covered in mud and dirt so I fail to see the point in dressing a child up like a little doll (which is what Jamie Kay seems to specialise in, but then again I am not the target customer).

My wife is only in the group so she can rubberneck at the madness and also pick up barely used items second hand for a fraction of the cost. E.g. a never worn Jamie Kay sweater for 20% of its original retail price.

From a branding and marketing perspective, this company has it nailed though for at least as long as their products are considered desirable. 


When the retailers are ordering stock specifically for the sale, you know it is a rort.


As a strategic psychologist, the tricks used by site now is so comprehensive compared with standard retail, Temu and tictok tricks are lead examples.


I want to buy a new Aeropress as my old one is now older than my teenager and not sealing very well. Not on sale anywhere, they must be popular!


It has been a rort this year. Retailers simply just up their prices in the lead in weeks and then "discount" them. I was in the market for some blinds and was shocked by the tactics of some of the big box retailers. Ended up just buying them from a local company down the road: