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Close knit: using consumption communities to overcome loneliness

Máire O Sullivan (Department of Marketing and International Business, Cork Institute of Technology, Cork, Ireland and Business School, Edge Hill University, Ormskirk, UK)
Brendan Richardson (Cork University Business School, University College Cork National University of Ireland, Cork, Ireland)

European Journal of Marketing

ISSN: 0309-0566

Article publication date: 16 July 2020

Issue publication date: 16 July 2020




This paper aims to highlight the role of consumption communities as a self-help support group to ameliorate loneliness. The authors suggest that the self-help element of consumption communities has been overlooked because of a focus on communities pursuing hegemonic masculinity. Instead, the authors focus on a female-led and – dominated consumption community.


A longitudinal ethnography was undertaken with the aim of understanding consumer behaviour in a “hyper-feminine” environment. Participant observation, depth interviews and netnography were carried out over five years within the Knitting community, focussing on an Irish Stitch ‘n’ Bitch group.


A dimension of consumption communities has been overlooked in the extant literature; this female-led and -dominated community functions as a self-help support group used as a “treatment” for loneliness. It also demonstrates all the characteristics of a support group.

Research limitations/implications

This study offers a framework with which new studies of community consumption can be examined or existing studies can be re-examined, through rather than cases of loneliness and self-help support groups.

Practical implications

Marketers have an opportunity to build supportive consumption communities that provide a safe space for support where commerce and brand-building can also occur. Groups aimed at ameliorating loneliness may wish to consider integration of the consumption community model.


Calls have been made for a reconceptualisation of consumption communities as current typologies seem inadequate. This paper responds with a critical examination through the lens of the self-help support group, while also taking steps towards resolving the gender imbalance in the consumption community literature. The paper explores loneliness, a previously underexamined motivator for consumption community membership.



O Sullivan, M. and Richardson, B. (2020), "Close knit: using consumption communities to overcome loneliness", European Journal of Marketing, Vol. 54 No. 11, pp. 2825-2848.



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