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Conceptualising the panic buying phenomenon during COVID-19 as an affective assemblage

Ahmed Zaky (Faculty of Business Law and Politics, University of Hull, Hull, UK and Faculty of Commerce, Business School, Cairo University, Giza, Egypt)
Hassan Mohamed (Faculty of Commerce, Cairo University, Giza, Egypt and Faculty of Business Law and Politics, University of Hull, Hull, UK)
Gunjan Saxena (Faculty of Business, Law and Politics, University of Hull, Hull, UK)

European Journal of Marketing

ISSN: 0309-0566

Article publication date: 28 September 2022

Issue publication date: 30 November 2022




This study aims to conceptualise the panic buying behaviour of consumers in the UK during the novel COVID-19 crisis, using the assemblage approach as it is non-deterministic and relational and affords new ways of understanding the phenomenon.


The study undertakes a digital ethnography approach and content analysis of Twitter data. A total of 6,803 valid tweets were collected over the period when panic buying was at its peak at the beginning of the first lockdown in March 2020.


The panic buying phase was a radical departure from the existing linguistic, discursive, symbolic and semiotic structures that define routine consumer behaviour. The authors suggest that the panic buying behaviour is best understood as a constant state of becoming, whereby stockpiling, food waste and a surge in cooking at home emerged as significant contributors to positive consumer sentiments.

Research limitations/implications

The authors offer unique insights into the phenomenon of panic buying by considering DeLanda’s assemblage theory. This work will inform future research associated with new social meanings of products, particularly those that may have been (re)shaped during the COVID-19 crisis.

Practical implications

The study offers insights for practitioners and retailers to lessen the intensity of consumers’ panic buying behaviour in anticipation of a crisis and for successful crisis management.


Panic buying took on a somewhat carnivalesque hue as consumers transitioned to what we consider to be atypical modes of purchasing that remain under-theorised in marketing. Using the conceptual lenses of assemblage, the authors map bifurcations that the panic buyers’ assemblages articulated via material and immaterial bodies.



The authors would like to express their deepest gratitude to the three anonymous reviewers, the editor and the associate editor for their constructive feedback. Their insightful comments have resulted in a much improved, better presented, article.

Funding: This work was supported by the Egyptian Ministry of Higher Education as well as the Egyptian Bureau for Cultural and Educational Affairs; ref: MM5/17 and MM37/19.


Zaky, A., Mohamed, H. and Saxena, G. (2022), "Conceptualising the panic buying phenomenon during COVID-19 as an affective assemblage", European Journal of Marketing, Vol. 56 No. 12, pp. 3313-3346.



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