Wednesday, 10 February 2016

Feature: Retail Therapy or Shopaholic

Picture credit: Paul Wilkinson - Flickr
Written by Jessica Hutchby

Rachel Strange and her next-door neighbour Maida Mujanovic drop their abundance of many coloured shopping bags on the leather sofa where they both stand back, sigh and admire the shopping they’ve just done. For Maida this is complete joy whilst for Rachel she is looking at her shopping with a sick feeling in the pit of her stomach debating whether or not she should take some of her purchases back to the stores. 
The sick feeling that Rachel has in her stomach is not uncommon, according to Dr. Dimitri Tsivrikos, a Consumer Psychologist at University College London, “Post purchase regret is caused by a psychological discomfort in which the effort and resources invested into buying the product do not match the rewards gained by the product.” There are many reasons why people decide to go out impulse buying.  It can be because they’ve had a bad day, received some bad news or were just walking near a shop and saw something they wanted so they bought it. 

This is exactly what Rachel did a few days ago, she saw a top she loved in Primark and had no intention of buying it but as she liked it she thought why not? Philip Adcock, founder and managing director of Shopping Behaviour Xplained Ltd said, “Impulse buying is by definition an unplanned purchase it is often an important part of instore advertising campaigns.” 

Rachel says, “I saw the top on a mannequin and I decided that because it looked good on the mannequin I just had to have it.” However, yesterday, as much as she loved the top she decided to take it back to the shop, she was feeling so bad about spending the money on it. 
Unlike Rachel and Maida, some people decide to use a personal shopper instead of doing their own shopping. Faye Speddings, of Faye Speddings Styling, Sheffield says, “Most of the time people come to me if they need some inspiration.” Faye also helps people make decisions about things they want to buy, for example, people will go to her with ideas and occasionally she can help them buy things out of their comfort zones. Faye says, “If I bring a client a rail full of clothing, it is always the items that they were originally unsure on that end up becoming their favourites!”

This is similar to how Rachel feels when she impulse buys, “I tend to pick quite plain clothes, blacks, greys and blues but sometimes it is nice to find something that you don’t usually think about wearing, even if I do think about taking it back.” Research shows that retail therapy and impulse buying can cause people both happiness and sheer sadness.

A number of universities in America have undertaken a study into this. According to The University of Michigan retail therapy is the best thing for you when you are sad, whilst Erasmus, Cornell, New York and Northwestern have all said that it can be really bad for you. 

Maida says that she agrees with the research done by The University of Michigan, while Rachel disagrees. Maida says, “I’ve never felt guilty after buying anything, I enjoyspending the money on myself when I can and I love the feel of new clothes.” Maida tells me that she enjoys impulse buying because it is the only time she really gets to shop for herself because she has a six-year-old daughter who usually gets most of the money spent on her. “When I impulse buy I usually buy perfume or clothes. I don’t really have much interest in buying handbags and shoes.” 

At this point she shows me her wardrobe, which is neatly laid out, with shoes at the bottom, skirts, dresses and trousers hanging in orderly rows and her t-shirts are stacked uniformly on the shelves. Maida says, “My wardrobe is little empty at the moment because I’ve just done a spring clean of my clothes so in a few weeks it will be much fuller than now as I will have been on another shopping spree.”

There are a number of films about people with shopping addictions with the most popular being Confessions of a Shopaholic. In Confessions of a Shopaholic the main character Rebecca Bloomwood has debts accrued from the amount of shopping she has done and as a result is sent to Shopaholics Anonymous. 

A former shopaholic, Debbie Roes from San Diego gave up shopping when she could no longer shut her wardrobes doors and sustain the cost of her expensive lifestyle. Debbie discovered she was a shopaholic when she realised how bad her debts were, she says, “I had a considerable debt when I was younger and had to be bailed out of debt twice by my father, once by an ex-boyfriend and once through a debt consolidation service.” But the debt was not the only thing that made her realised she had a problem with shopping. She knew it had become a problem when she realised it was more of a hobby and took up most of her time, 

“Before I started my blog, I was spending at least three or fours per day going to physical or online stores, visiting fashion forums and reading style blogs and magazines.” 
Debbie herself still does not feel like she is recovered and may always be a recovering shopaholic. She says, “I am probably 75% or so recovered at this point. Blogging has been instrumental in my recovery.” Along the road to recovery she has stopped lying to her husband about her shopping and they now both have a much better relationship. She says, “shopping never helped me to become a better person.”

So it looks like retail therapy can have three definitive angles. There are people out there who can end up like Debbie, in debt from doing something she really enjoyed. There are people out there like Rachel who enjoys shopping but feel sick to the stomach after they have shopped and there are people like Maida who feel absolutely nothing after shopping and love every minute of it and puts everything in her wardrobe in a uniform way.
According to Dr. Dimitrios Tsivrikos when people, like Maida and Rachel who are friends go shopping together, research has shown there is an increase in the likelihood to impulse buy, but if someone was to go shopping with a family member they feel there is more responsibility on them to not shop.

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