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How religion affects consumer behavior. Consumer attitudes and seasonal demand for products

Forschungsarbeit 2018 24 Seiten

BWL - Marketing, Unternehmenskommunikation, CRM, Marktforschung, Social Media


Table of Contents




Results and Discussion

1. Effects of Religion on Seasonal Demand for Products
a) Christmas and Consumer Expenditure
b) Religious Occasions and Product Consumption
c)Impact of Religion on Investment
d) Religion and Transport

2. Impact of Religion on Consumer Attitudes
a) Boycotts
b) Fashion and Dressing



List of Figures

Figure 1 Monthly retail sales in textile, clothing and footwear stores (Statista, 2018)

Figure 2 Apple Inc. Quarterly Revenues for 2014-2015 (Dilger, 2017)

Figure 3 Ramadan and ordinary months stock returns (Al-Hajieh, Redhead, and Rodgers, 2011)

Figure 4 monthly gasoline sale in Australia (Statista, 2018)

How Religion Affects the Consumer Behavior


Business organizations are set up with the aim of making a profit. The primary objective of any business is to maximize returns, and all efforts are directed towards this aim. Firms make a profit by selling goods and services to the customers. Therefore, high sales volume would translate to high returns for a company. The amount of goods and services sold by a company depends on the demand. When the demand for products is high, there is an increase in the sales and this translates to economic growth. This implies that there is a direct link between how people consume products and economy. It is worth noting that consumer behavior is a significant determinant of demand. However, consumer behavior is influenced by religion as it affects people’s values and actions. It affects how and when consumers spend their money. This paper investigates how religion influences consumer behavior and the associated impact on the economy.


According to Holt (2002), consumer behavior indicates the considerable consumption of products by people. It is affected by different factors such as culture, seasonality, the price of the products among others. Culture, in this case, represents the values and beliefs people hold. One of the major aspects of culture is religion. Religion refers to a defined set of beliefs, values, and practices that serve as a code of conduct or as a guide to people’s behavior. Religious groups and institutions transmit values, doctrines, and beliefs that affect the choice and preference of people. According to Mansori (2012), religion has a significant influence on individual's beliefs, identity, and values. For this reason, it affects the choices people make which has implications on consumption. The effects of religion on consumer decisions may be either positive or negative.

Some religious beliefs and doctrines may motivate consumers creating an increase in particular consumption activities (Essoo & Dibb, 2004). In other cases, religious principles may discourage consumption of an item or services. In such scenarios, religion through the doctrines or principles contributes to the formation of specific attitudes towards commodities. Religious activities, occasions, and holidays also affect consumerism. These activities influence the actions of believers which dictates what goods and services to buy (Foster, 2007). Also, people’s moods change during these occasions which affect their spending and demand for products. It follows that religion influences people’s consumption and hence has impacts on consumer behavior.


In the determination of how religion affects consumer behavior, this study conducted a literature review on research papers on this topic. The research studies that were considered in this case focused topics such as consumer shopping, religion, and religion and consumer behavior. The findings from these studies were used to make conclusions in this research paper.

Results and Discussion

As mentioned above, religion influences how people make choices. This, therefore, determines which products believers would buy and at what occasion or season (Holt, 2002). It would be important to note that not all products are accepted across religions. This is because different religions have varying principles, doctrines, and values. Furthermore, the various occasions in religion will determine the products that would be acceptable for that particular season. On reference to Christianity, the central religious occasions include Easter and Christmas. On the other hand, significant events in Islam include Ramadan, Hajj, and Eid al Fitr and in each of these occasions, the religious principles dictate what is appropriate for believers and what should be avoided. In this paper, religion was found to affect consumer behavior through influencing seasonal demand of products and shaping consumer attitudes towards commodities.

1. Effects of Religion on Seasonal Demand for Products

The religions that were investigated in this study, Christianity and Islam, have various occasions in a year. The most important events in Christianity are Easter and Christmas while Islam has Ramadan and Eid al Fitr. During these periods, the consumer choices shift to conform to the religious teachings and practices (Bailey & Sood, 1993). Therefore, the consuming behaviors of believers of these religions portray a seasonal variation. Some of the aspects of religion that have a seasonal impact on consumer behavior are discussed below.

a) Christmas and Consumer Expenditure

For Christians, Christmas marks the birth of Jesus Christ. This is regarded as the son of God who was sent to save and redeem humanity from sins. This occasion is marked on 25th of every year and lasts for two days. In this holiday, followers of this religious belief that their savior was born and therefore celebrate and merry (Mathras et al., 2016). In these days, Christians share their joy with their families and friends through the exchange of gifts. Although this event is for Christians, it comes during the end of the year in the Gregorian calendar. For this reason, the occasion may involve other non-Christians as it occurs when people have their end of year parties. According to Lemmergaard and Muhr, (2011), gift giving on Christmas is an essential occasion for families, and it is commonly taken that every person should have a gift to unwrap. The gifts are seen as objects of love and this signifys their importance. These presents create personal connections between the giver and receiver. Therefore, every person strives to buy a present for their loved ones. The gifts issued vary depending on people’s preferences and relationships. However, the most commonly issued presents are clothes, food and drinks, and electronics such as phones. Although it may involve money, personalized items are preferred. For this reason, during the last month of the year is associated with an increase in shopping which drastically raises sales (Lemmergaard & Muhr, 2011). The retail stores indicate an increase in the sales of these commodities. Although Christmas is celebrated in the Western nations and Christian dominated countries, it has a significant impact on international trade. It increases the volumes of import in the Christmas-celebrating nations which favor the global economy.

For instance, in the United Kingdom, cloth stores reported an increase in the sale of clothing and footwear during December (Statista, 2018). The average sales volumes in December was significantly high compared to other months of the year as shown below. This is because Christians increase their shopping behavior at this time. They buy clothes and shoes and give them to family members and friend as presents.

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Figure 1 Monthly retail sales in textile, clothing and footwear stores (Statista, 2018)

A similar trend was noted for the electronics. As technology advances, smartphones have become an essential gadget, especially for the youths. For this reason, most of the gifts to the young people involve phones. According to Dilger (2017), Apple Inc. reports the highest revenue from its electronics in the fourth quarter of the year. The fourth quarter of a financial year consists three months, October, November, and December. The sales of Apple iPhones and other technological gadgets is highest in the fourth quarter of a financial year which coincides with December as shown below. This can be explained by the fact that smartphones are a form or gifts issued.

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Figure 2 Apple Inc. Quarterly Revenues (in Millions) for 2014-2015 (Dilger, 2017)

From the above discussion, it can be seen that Christmas, a major occasion in Christianity, have seasonal effects the demand of products. Due to the culture of sharing gifts with family and friends, the demand for commodities goes up during this month (Farbotko & Head, 2013). The sales volume of clothes and electronic goes high because such items are commonly given out as gifts. This occasion, therefore, expands the economic performance of many companies as more goods are sold during this period (Mathras et al., 2016). Therefore, religion in this case has a positive influence on consumer behavior as it affects spending behavior of people.

b) Religious Occasions and Product Consumption

Religions have occasions that are provided by the religious teachings. During these events, believers’ consumption behavior changes to suit the occurrences. For instance, in Christianity, Christmas is characterized by joyous celebrations. In this event, people’s consumption is significantly higher than other days (Mathras et al., 2016). The households’ budgets increase, and people engage in fancy shopping. During this period, foods are bought in large quantities. Christmas dinners involve a wide range of foods and drinks. This implies that the cost of such parties increases. According to Haq et al. (2007), a person produces an average of 26 kg of Carbon IV Oxide from the food they consume during Christmas holiday. This indicates that people overdo things and take a lot of food during this period. Therefore, this religious occasion increases the demand for food products in Christian nations. During Easter, the behavior is different. Easter is a Christian religious festival which marks the death of Jesus Christ. During this period, Christians worship and reflect on their lives. They are supposed to repent and observe the teaching of the Bible. During Lent, which is the period before Easter, Christians abstain from celebrations. They fast as a way of repenting and seeking forgiveness from God. For this reason, the believers consume a small amount of food. This implies that Easter period is associated with low sales volume on foodstuffs. As opposed to Christmas, Christians do not give out gifts during this period (Mathras et al., 2016). Therefore, stores experience low sales on celebratory items and gifts. This affects the economies of both Christian and non-Christian nations in that it affects international trade.

Similarly, Ramadan in Islam affects the consumption. This religious occasion involves abstinence pleasure, food, and drinks for the whole day. Muslims take a slight meal in the morning referred to as “sahoor” and evening supper known as “iftar” (Touzani & Hirschman, 2008). Over the entire day, the believers reflect on the readings from the holy book, Quran. They are not expected to eat anything. Instead, Muslims become spiritually and socially oriented. For this reason, followers of this religion lead simple lives during the month of Ramadan and their eating behaviors are changed. Their demand for food in a day is lower compared to other days.

Therefore, it can be seen that religion, in this case, affects how people consume. The religious principles shape the spending behavior in this case (Touzani & Hirschman, 2008). During the of Ramadan, consumer behavior in Muslim nations is negatively influenced. In other words, consumers are restricted from spending. During this period, there is an observed reversal of daily routine. During the day, Muslims spend much of their time meditating the Quran teachings. However, after the sunset or “maghrib,” people engage in normal daily activities. According to Touzani and Hirschman (2008), Muslims shop and dine during the evening hours. For this reason, shops and marketplaces in Islamic states remain open in the evenings. This is the period people purchase goods and services. In this case, the consuming trend is influenced by religion. The Muslim doctrines force people to change their shopping behaviors which affect the economy. Firstly, it reduces the sales volume. During the month of Ramadan, Muslims consume less, and therefore the economic performance of businesses shrink. It also changes their shopping behavior in that many people shop in the evenings.

Eid al Fitr is another occasion celebrated by Muslims. This is an occasion that signifys the end of the holy month of Ramadan when a new moon is sighted. According to Ab Talib, Ai Chin, and Fischer, (2017), this is a period of enjoyment and festivities. People in the Muslim nations hold parties and eat a wide variety of foods and drinks. Also, the rich people in the community share with the less fortunate. The items given out include food and clothes. This, therefore, increases the market activities. The demand for the foodstuffs increases and people raise their spending during this period. Family gatherings are held, and people come together to share meals. Muslims, therefore, tend to spend more money on shopping. It follows that Eid al Fitr, which is a major occasion in the Islamic religion, shapes people’s demand (Touzani & Hirschman, 2008). The occasion prompts Muslims to spend more money on food. They need to buy more than they need so that they can share with the poor in the community. This, therefore, increases the amounts of goods sold. This implies that international trade would be enhanced since imports are encouraged during Eid al Fitr.

c) Impact of Religion on Investment

Religion also influences customer behavior on matters related to investment. Religious doctrines may encourage or discourage investment. In this case, religion shapes people’s attitudes on the money. One area of finance that has been studied by scholars is stock market. Al- Hajieh, Redhead, and Rodgers, (2011) researched the impacts of Ramadan on the stock market in Islamic countries. This study was conducted in economies where the markets are dominated by Muslims implying that all of them were likely to observe Ramadan. According to the findings of their research, stock prices experienced positive changes during Ramadan as indicated in the figure below.

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Figure 3 Ramadan vs ordinary months stock returns (Al-Hajieh, Redhead, and Rodgers, 2011)

Further testing and analysis of the observation revealed sufficient statistical evidence to support that stock prices and returns were above average in this month. The volume of shares traded during this month was also noted to be higher than in other ordinary months. There was also statistical evidence supporting this observation. This implies that Muslims tend to invest in the stock market during the holy month which raises stock prices. In their study, Al-Hajieh, Redhead, and Rodgers, (2011) indicated that in all the nations that were studied, there was noted to be high volatility in the stock exchange. This implies that the prices of shares in these economies change significantly during this religious occasion. During the holy month, people experience changes in moods and emotions. Ramadan period involves fasting which can be seen as a lesson for humility and patience. Also, there is heightened social interaction during this period. As a result, the moods and emotions are spread to many individuals in the community.

This creates a social synchronization. Synchronization implies that many people in a community tend to have a similar way of thinking or hold related views.

The religious occasion may create positive emotions as believers renew their relationship with God. These emotions could have an impact on decision making on investments. As shown by Al-Hajieh, Redhead, and Rodgers (2011), Ramadan creates a positive mood in the people of the studied countries. This, in turn, had positive impacts on the stock prices and traded volumes. When there is a positive mood in the country, investors tend to be pessimistic about the future. They also tend to be less critical about the performance of shares of a particular company. Therefore, with pessimism, investors tend to be active in the stock market which increases the trading volumes. Additionally, the teachings of Islam during the Ramadan period encourage Muslims to do good deeds to others. According to the Quran, the reward for good actions to other people during Ramadan is twice than they would have typically received in ordinary months. Therefore, this could encourage people to invest since they expect to get more returns. From the research by Al-Hajieh, Redhead, and Rodgers (2011), it indicates that the month of Ramadan leads to a shift of moods and emotions. As Muslims fast and reflect the teachings of the Quran, they develop hope about the future. Due to the high interactions observed during Ramadan, this creates euphoria and people become pessimistic. This affects their decision concerning stock investments. It follows that religion here plays a role in shaping people’s investing behavior. It changes the emotions and attitudes of Muslims in these economies encouraging them to trade in the stock exchange.

The findings of the study by Al-Hajieh, Redhead, and Rodgers (2011) were consistent with those of the study by Białkowski, Etebari, and Wisniewski (2012). The scholars investigated the “stock market anomaly during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan” and they found that stock returns were nine times higher compared to the ordinary months (Białkowski, Etebari, & Wisniewski, 2012). This study considered fourteen countries where the stock market is dominated Muslims. Consistently with the findings by Al-Hajieh, Redhead, and Rodgers (2011), Ramadan was noted to influence the emotions and feelings of Muslims. As posited by Essoo and Dibb (2004), people’s moods and feelings have a significant effect on decisions that may involve uncertainty and risk. Decision-making process is guided by cognitive skills as well as the emotional responses. However, emotions may dominate the behavior and overall decisions. It follows that people in positive moods tend to be pessimistic about the future and their choices. The findings of the study revealed that in eleven out of the fourteen countries that were compared, there was a considerable change in the returns. During the holy month, the average returns in these economies were about 38 percent. In the ordinary months, the mean profit from stocks was found to be about 4 percent (Białkowski, Etebari, & Wisniewski, 2012).

Statistical testing revealed that the findings of the study were found to be significant. According to Białkowski, Etebari, and Wisniewski (2009), this phenomenon can be explained through human psychology. The period of Ramadan involves religious reflection and social integration. With a rejuvenated faith, Muslims develop positive moods and hope for the future. Religion, in this case, affects the moods and emotions of believers. Fasting, reflection, and social togetherness make Muslims develop a sense of satisfaction with life which makes them pessimistic (Alderman, Forsyth, & Walton, 2017). With this, many investors become pessimistic and patience which affects their decisions on the stock market. This raises the volume of shares traded and returns. From this, it can be seen that Islam changes the way people make investment choices. It, therefore, influences their attitudes on opportunities to seize and hence shapes the Muslims’ behavior in the stock market.

d) Religion and Transport

Another seasonal impact of religion on consumer behavior in on transport. Many religious occasions are regarded as holidays. People travel from different parts of the world to be with their family ones or attend particular religious events. In Christianity, Easter and Christmas are the two major events that make people travel. People from the urban centers move to their hometowns to share these moments with their loved ones. Therefore, movement of people is high during these two periods mostly in the Christian nations. According to Haq et al., (2007), Christians in the world travel for over three billion miles as they visit their families and friends. This indicates that the festive season involves a lot of movement. The distances involved during these visits determine the mode of transport. For instance, in the situation where people are moving between continents, air travel is preferred. However, when people are moving from the urban areas to the upcountry or other towns, trains and cars are used. According to Lord and Putrevu (2005), there is a tendency of increased road transport during Easter and Christmas. For this reason, the amount of fuel used during these periods is significantly high. The figure below shows the monthly average of gasoline in Australia. From this, it can be deduced that Christian practices, in this case, increase the demand for transport services. A significant amount of money is utilized to finance the travels during Easter and Christmas. This positively impacts the economy as more transport-oriented products are purchased. Therefore, religion, in this case, has seasonal impacts on the consumption of transport services.

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Figure 4 monthly gasoline sale in Australia (Statista, 2018)

In Islam, Hajj is a religious event that is celebrated during the time of Eid Al-Adha which is an Islamic holiday. According to the Islamic doctrines, a person who is a real Muslim should conduct Hajj at least once in their lifetime. During this event, Muslims visit the holy city of Mecca. Believers visit this place annually from various parts of the globe. Therefore, there is a high demand for transport services during this time of the year. People use trains, vehicles, and airplanes to attend the function at Saudi Arabia. Religion, in this case, plays a role in influencing Muslims’ decision on traveling. This affects the economy since there is an in an increase in demand for the products related to transport.

2. Impact of Religion on Consumer Attitudes

As it was mentioned earlier, religion constitutes values, principles, doctrines, and beliefs that believers must follow. For this reason, people’s actions and behaviors are to a large extent governed by the teachings of the religion they followed. Their religion influences Their opinions and choices. The teaching provides the guideline on the items that believers should consume and the ones that are prohibited. In this section, the fundamental ways in which religion affects consumption are discussed.

a) Boycotts

According to Al-Hyari et al., (2012), boycott refers to a situation where consumers stop purchasing products of a particular manufacturer as a way of expressing their disapproval. This form of resistance involves many people and occurs when a producer goes against the expectations of people. In religion, there are guidelines and principles that believers expect from the manufacturers. The products purchased by consumers must be in line with their beliefs and uphold their values. If this alignment is not present, consumers stop using those particular products. According to Migdalis et al., (2014), Islam provides Muslims with specific requirements for the products the purchase. Also, manufacturers must have certain traits that align with the teachings of this religion. Islam has participated in various boycotts. The religion leaders advise their members not to use specific products when they feel that they violate or go against the beliefs and teachings of Islam. In a study to investigate the brand switching behavior of Muslim consumers, Saeed and Azmi (2016) found that the impact of Islam on consumer choices is immense.

Religion advice members to avoid certain products on numerous occasions. For instance, during the Iraq war of the year 2003, Islamic nations in Asia boycotted products from the United States and United Kingdom. These two countries were involved in attacking Iraq, and the Muslim leaders found this against the Islam teachings (Saeed and Azmi, 2016). Muslims in these countries stopped purchasing products from USA and UK manufacturers. As a result, US companies reported a drop of 40 percent in sales (Saeed and Azmi, 2016). Another incidence was when the Dutch legislator Wilder produced a film that was viewed as an insult to the Muslims and their religion. In his statement, former Malaysian prime minister Mohammad advised Muslims in all parts of the world to stop buying products from the Netherlands (Saeed and Azmi, 2016). Also, in the year 2005, a Danish Newspaper published cartoons of Prophet Muhammad. Islamic believers were offended, and demonstrations were conducted in many Muslim countries. Religious leaders urged Muslims to boycott products from Denmark (Al- Hyari et al., 2012). Consequently, Danish companies reported a loss of more than a million dollars a day. From these cases, religion through its doctrines and beliefs shaped the consumer consumption. They stopped purchasing products as they believed they were against their faith and principles. This reveals that religion has considerable effects on what people buy in the market and hence affects consumption.

b) Fashion and Dressing

Another way that religion affects consumer behavior is by controlling the dressing code of the believers. Many religions in the world provide guidelines on how men and women should wear. Through these doctrines, the consumer behavior is shaped. People of a particular religion purchase clothes that are in line with the teachings of their faith. According to the research conducted by Migdalis et al., (2014) on the impact of religion on shopping behavior, it was identified that consumers purchase clothes that are in line with their religious teachings. Therefore, religion affects people’s attitudes toward fashion. Christians have different tastes when it comes to ornaments and beauty products.

In a study that investigated the “pentecostalist attitudes towards consumption in modern Ghana,” Meyer found that the religion shaped how people view designs and fashions (Meyer, 1998). In his findings, Pentecostals in this nation showed suspicion on fancy goods. In one occasion, a young girl was accused of being related to the Miami Water spirits because of the things she wore. The belt with a lock bearing a butterfly, earrings in the shape of strawberries, and a necklace shaped like a heart was indicated as the evidence (Meyer, 1998). According to this religion, the spirits through these adornments made her indulge and spend money on flirting and fanciful items. According to the teachings of the religious teachers, these adornments made people devoted to the Miami Water spirits (Meyer, 1998). Possession of fancy jewelry signifies passion by satanic powers and distraction from God. Therefore, such items were against the doctrines of the religion and must be avoided. In such a situation, people of this religion develop a negative attitude towards jewelry and fashion (Meyer, 1998). They perceive it as inappropriate and against their faith and therefore shun from purchasing such items. In such cases, religion presents a different attitude where followers avoid buying fancy items. Although it may be termed as fashion, it may not be acceptable due to religious doctrines. Consumer spending is affected by religion since fashionable jewelry is not demanded. This affects the fashion industry in such nations by limiting trade.

Islam is an example of a religion that have dressing guidelines. Muslim women are expected to cover their body entirely - except hands, feet and face - to avoid the gaze of men (Kılıçbay and Binark, 2002). For this reason, they wear long dresses that cover from shoulders to toes. They use the head scarfs and veils to conceal their head and face sometimes. According to a study that focused on the impact of religion on shopping behavior in different countries, Lord and Putrevu (2005) found out that about 92 percent of the people in the United Arab Emirates and other Islamic nations cited that there are specific clothes that are permitted or regarded as appropriate by their religion. Furthermore, the study indicated that people in the Islamic countries believed that religion dictates what is good and what is inappropriate. For this reason, more than 54 percent of Muslims take into account the religious teachings and guidelines while doing their shopping. In research to determine the politics of lifestyles in Turkey, Kılıçbay, and Binark, (2002) found that the fashion of veiling or covering the faces with veils emerged from the Islamic teachings. Women are required to cover their bodies entirely. Although the Quran does not provide guidelines on how it should be done, Muslims adopted veils to fulfill the requirements of the religion (Mansori, 2012). It follows that religion shapes the Muslim’s taste in fashion. The doctrines and teachings encourage women to wear long clothes and veils, and hence people in the Muslim communities have a positive attitude towards such fashion. This makes the demand for such clothes high which enhances the growth of the fashion industry. It follows that, religion may influence consumer’s spending on fashion. It may encourage purchasing of particular clothes that are perceived as appropriate by religious teachings. In other cases, it may prohibit people from wearing certain items which affects trade negatively.

c) Entertainment

Another aspect of consumer behavior that is affected by religion is entertainment. Entertainment refers to the activities that people do for fun. It is a significant aspect of leisure. Religion provides guidelines on how people are supposed to behave in the society. The forms of entertainment and the activities involved should align with the teachings, beliefs, and faith of the religion followed. Media is a major form of entertainment in the contemporary world. However, in many cases, the content presented to the audience may not fit the different values of various religions of the world. Therefore, many religions have developed their media companies to offer entertainment that is in line with the faiths (Al-Hyari et al., 2012). For instance, Catholics have television stations such as Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN) that air entertainment content that is appropriate according to the Catholic faith. Similarly, there are various Islamic media houses such as Islamic Television Networks. This can be seen that religion plays a role in shaping consumer choices even in entertainment. Forms of entertainment that do not suit the religious values are termed as inappropriate, and believers avoid them.


This paper investigated how religion influences consumer behavior and the associated impact on the economy. The economic performance of business organizations is influenced by people’s demand for goods and services. People’s religion, in turn, influences their demand for goods and services. Consumer behavior indicates the manner in which people consume particular commodities in the market. Religion denotes the set values, beliefs, and doctrines that guide the behavior of people in a group. The demand and consumption behavior of people is influenced by these values and beliefs as set by a religious group. One of the ways religion was found to affect consumer behavior is by influencing seasonal demand for commodities. In many religions, there are occasions and events that believers partake. During these occasions, the consumer spending and demand is altered. It was noted that during Christmas and Easter, the consumer behavior for Christians changes. During Christmas, Christians increase their shopping expenditure to buy gifts for their families and friends. Similarly, Muslims were found to depict as a shift in spending during Ramadan, Eid Al Fitr, and Hajj. In Islamic nations, the stock market was found to offer more returns during Ramadan and Eid al Fitr. From this, it can be seen that religion makes people’s consuming behavior to change at different times of the year. Also, religion was noted to shape people’s attitudes towards commodities. This affected their consuming behavior on such items. Therefore, religion has a considerable impact on consumer behavior, and this affects trade and economy.


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ISBN (Buch)
Institution / Hochschule
Katholieke Universiteit Leuven
Business Religion Consumer Behavior Consumer Expenditure




Titel: How religion affects consumer behavior. Consumer attitudes and seasonal demand for products