Panic buying in the COVID-19 pandemic: A multi-country examination

Tahir Islam, Abdul Hameed Pitafi, Vikas Arya, Ying Wang, Naeem Akhtar, Shujaat Mubarik, Liang Xiaobei*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

352 Citations (Scopus)


The global crisis of COVID-19 pandemic has ravaged the world economy and healthcare, igniting much fear, panic, and uncertainty among billions of people. As lockdowns being implemented in many places, panic buying has emerged as a reliable feature of the Coronavirus outbreak. Therefore, it is of urgent needs to examine consumers' panic buying behaviors during COVID-19 to gain a better understanding of the phenomenon and to provide managerial insights for policy-makers and marketers alike. In this study, under the theoretical guidelines of the Stimuli-Organism-Response model and the Competitive Arousal model, we investigate how in the panic situation created by the pandemic, external stimuli such as Limited Quantity Scarcity (LQS) and Limited Time Scarcity (LTS) affect the emotional arousal among people, which in turn influences consumers’ impulsive and obsessive buying behaviors. This study is conducted in a multi-country setting including the U.S., China, India, and Pakistan. Online surveys were conducted during the peak time of pandemic. Our findings show that LQS and LTS significantly increase perceived arousal in consumers, which further leads to more impulsive and obsessive buying. In addition, our results also reveal that excessive social media use intensifies the relationship between scarcity messages and perceived arousal whereas the urge to buy impulsively moderates the relationship between perceived arousal and behavioral outcomes in all selected countries except for India. Theoretical and managerial implications are discussed in details.

Original languageEnglish
Article number102357
JournalJournal of Retailing and Consumer Services
Early online date23 Oct 2020
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2021


  • COVID-19
  • Impulsive buying
  • LTS)
  • Obsessive buying
  • Panic buying
  • Perceived arousal
  • Scarcity messages (LQS

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Marketing


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