Primary Vs Secondary Markets and Consumer Psychology


Over the Summer, the Frugal North was on a mission to scope out a fresh new dining table + chairs.

We were moving on from a freebie table + 3 chairs that had served us well. Alas, 1 missing chair was encroaching on our ability to host guests at our place, as was the table which was relatively small (fine for the two of us, but it was crowded with visitors). To be happy, we want to be able to have family & friends over and have no qualms about how many guests we invite – so this aligned with our ethos.

We bit the bullet and purchased a brand new table. I mean brand new. It’s a 7 ft long table with a pine wood top (soft wood on purpose so we don’t worry about the little nicks along the way that are inevitable) made right here in Canada.

I agreed begrudgingly but my better half won out on this one…I have to admit though, I don’t regret getting a high quality table. The concept from financial & environmental perspectives is to not buy a cheap table and have to replace it in a couple years while it adds to a landfill. Now I know we could’ve gotten a relatively similar table off Kijiji but we had our eye on this one, and were able to get a fairly sweet discount as we know the store owner through a friend.

With that chapter concluded, we needed chairs to go along with our incredibly stylish and luxurious new table. We both felt a tad guilty and were determined not to buy new chairs. Miss FN had her eye on a particular type of chair she liked – these white Windsor back chairs. I liked them; they looked durable and they were pretty stylish. I glanced at the price of these brand new luxury Windsor chairs…$325 EACH! Whoa! Fuck that!

So we started scouring Kijiji, Miss FN doing the majority of the searching – low and behold, we found 5 Windsor chairs, exactly the same structure and colour, all for $160! $32 a chair – coming in at under 10% of what they were new. We scooped them up IMMEDIATELY and felt great about it (felt a bit better about the table + chair combo too). Yes it’s an odd number of chairs, so we still want to figure that out.

The point I wanted to make is that our experience with these chairs and the price difference, to me, really embodies primary versus secondary markets.

What are primary and secondary markets?

  • Primary markets is a term used in capital markets. It’s a market where new securities are issued through an exchange. Think of a company going public through an IPO.
  • Secondary markets are where stocks, bonds and others are traded amongst buyers and sellers following an IPO.

So applying this to everyday consumerism, think of buying “new” as going through primary markets, while buying things secondhand for example would be secondary markets.

Why are we obsessed with primary markets?

This is a question that often fascinates me. I think it comes down to status and access.

Status – I really have to hand it to marketing strategies these days. The way they can influence with the newest tactics and the speed in which they can deliver advertisements is unprecedented. It is often overwhelming and I believe humans struggle with the vast quantity; the tactic often does not allow us to think. They feed us ads about the newest products and we are told it is what we need to ensure we keep pace in “Status” with our peers. We’re spoon fed this and we accept it as law.

When our peers purchase the shiny new thing, we can’t help but compare ourselves. Benchmarking is how we know we are doing good, or doing bad. We are conditioned to compare and it is ingrained in us to acknowledge that having the latest objects of desire give you more “Status”.

We all want status, right? Maybe something to think about.

Access – The modern world makes buying new, very easy. It makes buying secondhand, very difficult. It’s that simple.

Technology has given us access to the likes of Kijiji, Craigslist, AutoTrader and others, but just think about the ACCESS we have to Amazon and fancy stores with incredible product breadth. How simple it is to find exactly what we’re looking for which is conveniently “On Sale” often still producing sizeable profit margins for the seller.

The world is designed for us to purchase state-of-the-art items, consumed quicker and quicker, to perpetuate GDP growth per capita. While I think a growing economy is incredibly important, we seem to fail more frequently than succeed to keep the balance with environmental concerns and humanitarian aspects.

I find behavioural economics and consumer psychology really interesting topics in general. I can always recommend “Predictably Irrational” by Dan Ariely which discusses a lot of great topics in behavioural economics.

One that looks really interesting but I have not read yet, is “Thinking, Fast and Slow” by Kahneman. However I am looking at checking this one out from my local library shortly and perhaps that could be my next book review!

Have a great weekend everyone!

2 thoughts on “Primary Vs Secondary Markets and Consumer Psychology

  1. We’ve mostly been in purge mode the last several years, but when we were in acquire mode, we made full advantage of the yard sale market! Our house was filled with great items we picked up on the cheap. You should see our lamp collection 🙂 At least yard sales (and their ilk, tag sales, garage sales, flea markets, estate sales, etc) are not going away anytime soon – people always need to get rid of their old junk as they acquire shiny new objects! The downside is that you might have to wait and hold out awhile until you find the exact item you are looking for, like the perfect windsor chairs.

    The problem with the ‘access’ you talk about is that it is easier to find what you want and perhaps at a great price, but sometimes the quality is crap, and you won’t know until it arrives to your house, or even until some time later on down the line when you can’t even return it!


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