Doing your holiday shopping at home by watching shopping networks may save you from facing the crowds at the mall, but a new study shows it may lead to more impulse buys of things you don’t really need.

Researchers found that for people who buy clothing on television shopping channels, the hosts of the programs may play a major role in encouraging the viewers to buy impulse items they don’t need.

“Some viewers regard the hosts of shopping programs almost as being friends, and they develop a pseudo-relationship over time,” says researcher Sharron Lennon, professor of consumer and textile sciences at Ohio State University, in a news release.

“Viewers develop attachments to their favorite hosts, and we find that this encourages viewers to buy more impulsively without considering whether they need the clothing they are buying,” says Lennon.

Researchers say TV shopping networks reach more than 140 million U.S. households and have accounted for a growing proportion of apparel sales in recent years.

Shopping Networks Foster Social Interaction

In the study, which appears in a recent issue of Clothing and Textiles Research Journal, researchers surveyed by mail 154 people who had purchased clothing from TV shopping programs.

The participants were asked about what prompted them to buy the item as well as how they viewed the shopping network’s hosts. For example, they were asked to rate on a scale how much they agreed with statements like, “The hosts are almost like friends you see every day.”

The survey also asked questions about impulse shopping habits, such as whether or not they decide what to buy after watching TV shopping programs.

The results showed that the top reasons for TV shopping was lower prices and greater selection, followed by the convenience of in-home shopping.

But the third most common reason mentioned was the emotional aspect of TV shopping, which includes impulse buying.

Researchers found TV shoppers who watched more hours of television shopping programs were more likely to make impulsive buys than those who watched fewer hours.

The study also showed that viewers who formed pseudo-relationships with television shopping hosts were more likely to shop impulsively.

“The hosts and guests on these shopping programs use a variety of conversational techniques that may encourage pseudo-interactive responses on the part of viewers,” says Lennon. “The hosts focus on similarities between the viewers and themselves, in order to facilitate a relationship.”

In addition, researchers say the hosts invite viewers to contact them and often provide email and postal addresses as well as telephone numbers to contact the hosts.

Researchers say the results suggest that the more people watch hosts of TV shopping programs, the more they develop pseudo-personal relationships with them, and the more they buy on impulse.

By Jennifer Warner, reviewed by Brunilda Nazario, MD

SOURCES: Park, J. Clothing and Textiles Research Journal, 2004; vol 22: pp 135-144. News release, Ohio State University.