Lockdown fever: The urge to buy that one perfect thing

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Comfort shopping has become the new norm as COVID-19 keeps us tethered to our homes. Nemanya Medic reports

What does it take to soothe a locked-down soul during COVID-19? For Nico Bellamy, it was buying a Frieling French coffee press.

“For a fleeting moment I can pretend I’m actually out at a coffee shop instead of trapped indoors for the foreseeable future,” he told WhoWhatWear.com.au.  

For many others it’s been jigsaw puzzles, which have seen an enormous spike in interest this year.

Enthusiast John Philpot could only agree  when PM Scott Morrison declared jigsaws were an essential item that people could leave their homes to buy.

They are “a thing of beauty to look at”, he told the ABC. “As you get to bigger and bigger jigsaw puzzles, there’s the challenge of actually assembling all the pieces, which gets more and more difficult.

“You wake up in the morning and wonder, ‘how many pieces will I get through today?’ “

In lockdown, it might feel like shopping is the only thing you have control over.

Dr Chris Ludlow, a sociologist and lecturer at Swinburne University, says people feel that they must “enrich their home environments with things that will give them positive experiences”.

The introduction of click and collect and extensive home delivery options has given businesses a lifeboat in an all-online environment.

Dr McIntosh: “Buying stuff online has become a part of everyday life.”

A surge in interest in gardening and home entertainment has led to a 89 per cent increase in digital services for Bunnings and Officeworks, especially interesting areas of gardening and electronics.

Dr Craig McIntosh, a lecturer and sociologist at Swinburne University, says these purchases are a result of an ever-growing consumptive society that has been brewing to create “a shopping economy”.

“Buying stuff online has become a part of everyday life,” he says. 

The pandemic’s coincidence only helps to accelerate an environment in which people will “buy everything without any concerns”, he says.

One factor people use to justify all these expenses is altruism. 

Many people feel that they are “helping other people out” by ensuring that workers keep their livelihoods. Although, it’s “hard to separate altruism, indulgence, and possibly addiction,” he says.

“People haven’t had the increase in income to fund this sort of consumption,” which means these purchases add to any debt they already have, he says.

It might look like an opportunity to pick up new hobbies and skills, but Dr McIntosh says this type of excess is a dangerous gamble given that “none of us have gone through anything like this before.”

He says only time will tell if we “break the cycle of consumption” and save ourselves.