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Panic buying & coronavirus: When people feel death is imminent, they panic

Panic buying in the case of a disaster is a fairly short-lived phenomenon, according to academic papers.

Shelves at a local Pick n Pay emptied after shoppers stockpiled purchases. Picture: Cindy Poluta/EWN.

JOHANNESBURG - With the coronavirus outbreak prohibiting the gathering of more than 100 people and the cancellation of many events, social media has been littered with videos and pictures of the public panic buying loads of household items.

702's Bongani Bingwa spoke to Gordon Institute of Business Science Dean, Professor Nicola Kleyn, to unpack the effects of panic buying.

"Academic papers suggest that panic buying is actually rational disaster buying. They are expecting that they may not have access to food stocks for some time."

She said panic buying in the case of a disaster was a fairly short-lived phenomenon.

"When people feel that death is imminent, in most cases, they will panic. What we are seeing is psychological behaviour, it is less about the stock and more about what they are buying, like toilet paper.

"The hypothesis is that toilet paper is big and comfortable and relatively cheap for its size," she says.

"Buying toilet paper is not panic buying, people want to feel that they have done what they needed to be prepared and toilet paper represents an easy purchase. People need to be conscious and rational when they go shopping. If people are stockpiling, they must be willing to offer those that can't."

Listen to the audio below for more.

To track the latest developments around the coronavirus both in South Africa and abroad, click on this live status report from Strategix.