From the difficulty in buying to the detachment to discard

An undertaking of the National Confederation of Shop Managers (CNDL) and the Credit Protection Service (SPC Brasil) was held in the 27 Brazilian capitals. From it, it emerged that 47% of Brazilian consumers admitted buying one or more products they had never used. The act of buying releases dopamine and this is the main reason why buying makes us feel good. That said, for Brazilians there are more factors involved in consumption. Excessive or not? That is a mere detail.

The last few decades have seen Brazilians learning to buy and finding that this is very good. We went for years with few products available on the shelves and without the necessary funds to consume beyond basic goods – that is, we saw years, decades, even, of unsatisfied demand, of the urge to consume and the lack of ability to do so. The 1990s saw the advent of the Real Plans, and with them something to which Brazilians were not accustomed: stabilized inflation, which fell from an average of 40% per month to 12% and then lower. Accordingly, money became a thing with a trustworthy value and prices of goods could be compared. Next, with more easily available credit and the distribution of income of the social programs, the ideal scenario for excess consumer consumption was created. Being able to buy what they had always wanted, and paying in several instalments which did not strain the family income, Brazilians gave themselves up to the pleasures of consumption. Classes C, D and E showed a greater tendency onwards consumption than classes A and B. CNDL research showed 6 out of 10 of those interviewed admitting to going ‘in the red’ to acquire something they didn’t need to buy and which after they were unable to pay for. 

A nation so clean and so vain could do nothing other than give over a large part of its income to hygiene and beauty, such as the 1.3% of the monthly income which class C spends on its hair and nails. This is almost twice that spent on Brazil’s staple fare of rice and beans (0.68%), according to data from the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE). 

That said, not everything is down to the willingness to consume. We are also used to a heavy tax load, which is actually 50% for cosmetics and 75% for fragrances. This is the tax on products made in Brazil. 

With all this, we can see the difficulty the Brazilian consumer has in discarding out-of-date cosmetics and not-quite-empty packages, as Maribel Suarez, Leticia Casotti and Roberta Campos of the COPPEAD Graduate School of Business of the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, have written. They describe how the discarding of cosmetics does not conform to a rational evaluation. The consumers interviewed were not guided by the product’s expiry date as the main criterion, but by changes in the product’s appearance or scent. For them, good products lasted longer and the expiry date was merely a trick of the industry to sell more. Throwing away into the waste bin, giving to other people or forgetting about the product in some barely used spot are some of the alternatives to discarding cosmetics. 

The stronger the emotional bond forged between the consumer and the product, the more difficult it is to discard the product. Accordingly, in this climate, the harder it is or the longer the wait to acquire a product, the greater the emotional bond forged between consumer and product. 

Gustavo Boaventura is the editor of the blog Cosmética em Foco.

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