Lancaster University

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Investigation - Why people get into debt

02/20/2002 17:25:10

Shopping and Consumer behaviour experts here at Lancaster are launching a major investigation into why people get into debt.

Dr Sue Eccles and Dr Helen Woodruffe-Burton from the Marketing Department say that there is a great deal of evidence to show how consumers spend but very little to explain why people spend to excess.

Previous studies by the researchers into addictive shopping behaviour show that it is changing attitudes towards the use of store and credit cards coupled with the ease of getting credit that contributes significantly to cases of debt.

This new research will help explain the 'must have it now' culture and anomalies such as why, after the terror attacks on the World Trade Centre on September 11, shops did not experience any fall in profits.

Dr Woodruffe Burton explained: "It is interesting that when people are feeling insecure and experiencing anxiety due to, for example, the threat of terrorism and escalating crime levels, i.e. events which are beyond their control, they seek outlets which they can control. Shopping is one of those outlets, as it represents freedom to consume - where the individual has power and control."

Dr Sue Eccles says that it is important to understand underlying attitudes towards credit and debt before any policy is formed which aims to curb people's entry and progression through increasingly unmanageable levels of debt.

"In other public campaigns such as drink-driving, the techniques used to get messages across to the public are far more effective if they have been informed of the motivations behind the behaviour."

Dr Woodruffe-Burton and Dr Eccles will be carrying out joint research with Professor Richard Elliott, head of the Department of Management at Exeter.