The behavioral responses to perceived scarcity – the case of fast fashion

Shipra Gupta, James W. Gentry

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


The literature on scarcity has generally examined consumers’ attitudes towards scarce products and suggested that scarcity messages have a positive effect on the evaluation of and attitude toward the scarce object. However, literature has largely failed to explain consumers’ feelings or reactions to human-controlled scarce environments. This study examines how deliberate product scarcity influences the consumers’ behavioral responses, and provides an understanding of consumers’ reactions to conditions of scarcity that are strategically created by marketers. The context of this study is fast fashion retailers, as they are known to create extreme human-induced scarcity. We conducted 21 face-to-face interviews with fast fashion store managers, consumers, and an industry expert. Further, observational research was also conducted to observe the consumer buying behavior across 10 different fast fashion stores. The objectives were to (1) help the interviewees think about the various strategies adopted to induce scarcity within the stores (from retailer’s perspective), (2) understanding of scarcity in these stores (from consumer’s perspective), and (3) consumers’ responses to such deliberate manipulations. All the interviewees agreed that fast fashion stores were successful in creating perceived scarcity which reflected both limited merchandise supply as well as deliberate manipulation of merchandise availability by the retailer. The findings also suggest that consumers in these perceived scarcity conditions exhibit buying behavior like urgency to buy, which further leads to deviant and competitive behaviors like in-store hoarding and in-store hiding. Though perceived scarcity, urgency to buy, and in-store hoarding was consistent across the interviews with store managers and consumers, surprisingly, the phenomenon of in-store hiding behavior did not emerge from any of the interviews conducted with store managers, but was a consistent theme across most consumer interviews.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)260-271
Number of pages12
JournalInternational Review of Retail, Distribution and Consumer Research
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 26 2016


  • Consumer behavior
  • in-store hiding
  • in-store hoarding
  • perceived scarcity
  • urgency to buy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Business and International Management
  • Economics and Econometrics
  • Marketing


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