Cash-rich, time-poor Britons waste £1,725 a year on must-have gear they'll never use

By Roger Dobson,Jonathan Thompson
Monday 10 October 2011 08:13

Meet the "fantasy shopper" - the cash-rich, time-poor consumer whose garage is crammed full of expensive merchandise that never gets used.

Meet the "fantasy shopper" - the cash-rich, time-poor consumer whose garage is crammed full of expensive merchandise that never gets used.

Skis, fishing rods, mountain bikes, cooking pans and even boats are piling up in households around the country, say academics who have identified a new and growing class of consumer - those who love the idea of a leisured lifestyle, but lack the time to lead it.

The author of the report, Professor Jonathan Gershuny of the Institute for Social and Economic Research at the University of Essex, said: "Expensive leisure goods ... are purchased by high-income earners with little leisure time. The purchased goods remain in storage at home as symbols of a potential but unrealisable future."

The report, published this week in the Journal of Consumer Culture, follows a further study by a market research company suggesting Britons "waste" a staggering £80bn a year on goods that are never used or used so rarely as to not have been worth buying.

The research, conducted by Datamonitor, found that the typical UK shopper spent an average £1,725 a year on luxury items, gadgets, accessories and memberships which are under utilised, and food which is thrown away . Younger, single men are the main culprits, with men typically wasting £240 more than women.

The University of Essex report suggests that the biggest wasters are those earning over £50,000 a year. These people have lower than average leisure time, but are still big buyers of leisure goods.

"These goods are stored away due to lack of time," says the report, "with an intention to use them at some imagined future time. Satisfaction may be obtained by the mere knowledge of possession."

In many cases, the purchases are made by families who want to do things together. The report cites the example of one father who bought an expensive saw and drill in order to build his daughter a treehouse. The tools then gathered dust in a cupboard.

"Wished-for, or fantasy, elements of leisure lifestyle may also be expressed in 'inconspicuous consumption'," says the report. "For example, the fantasy of being the sort of person who actively participates in outdoor activities may be represented by the purchase of hiking gear, fishing or sports equipment; likewise, the dream of becoming an expert photographer or computer whiz may involve the purchase of expensive camera or computer gear."


Luxury kitchen equipment

Hiking and camping gear

Mountain bikes

Designer walking boots

Fishing tackle


Golf clubs

Top-of-the-range cameras

Sailing dinghies

DIY tools and workbenches

Most purchased and under-used luxury items, as identified by researchers

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