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This study aims to conceptualise the panic buying behaviour of consumers in the UK during the novel COVID-19 crisis, using the assemblage approach as it is non-deterministic and relational and affords new ways of understanding the phenomenon.Design/methodology/approachThe study undertakes a digital ethnography approach and content analysis of Twitter data. A total of 6,803 valid tweets were collected over the period when panic buying was at its peak at the beginning of the first lockdown in March 2020.FindingsThe panic buying phase was a radical departure from the existing linguistic, discursive, symbolic and semiotic structures that define routine consumer behaviour. The authors suggest that the panic buying behaviour is best understood as a constant state of becoming, whereby stockpiling, food waste and a surge in cooking at home emerged as significant contributors to positive consumer sentiments.Research limitations/implicationsThe authors offer unique insights into the phenomenon of panic buying by considering DeLanda’s assemblage theory. This work will inform future research associated with new social meanings of products, particularly those that may have been (re)shaped during the COVID-19 crisis.Practical implicationsThe study offers insights for practitioners and retailers to lessen the intensity of consumers’ panic buying behaviour in anticipation of a crisis and for successful crisis management.Originality/valuePanic buying took on a somewhat carnivalesque hue as consumers transitioned to what we consider to be atypical modes of purchasing that remain under-theorised in marketing. Using the conceptual lenses of assemblage, the authors map bifurcations that the panic buyers’ assemblages articulated via material and immaterial bodies.
European Journal of Marketing – Emerald Publishing
Published: Nov 30, 2022
Keywords: Affective assemblage; Assemblage bifurcations; Covid-19; Netnography; Panic buying; Sentiment analysis; Twitter analysis; Content analysis
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