Retail therapy has health benefits, say researchers

Westfield Shepherd's Bush

A shopper’s paradise is only a short walk from where I work

Good news for me, not such good news for the English Husband. A study by researchers from the University of Michigan has found evidence to suggest that ‘retail therapy’, a common female practice used to perk up mood, is not all bad.

An excerpt from the 28-page study, published this month in the Journal of Consumer Psychology, says: ‘Shopping that is motivated by distress – “retail therapy” – is often lamented as ineffective, wasteful, and a “dark side” of consumer behavior. Popular press accounts of retail therapy typically paint an equally dismal picture.

‘We propose that retail therapy has been viewed too negatively. Shopping may be an effective way to minimize sadness that lingers (residual sadness) following a sadness-inducing event. We focus on shopping’s potential to reduce residual sadness in particular’.

The researchers found that shopping gave people a sense of control that countered feelings of sadness. Those who shopped were three times less sad compared to those who only browsed. ‘Our work suggests that making shopping choices can help to restore a sense of personal control over one’s environment and reduce sadness,’ they concluded.

Well, I have no idea how they judged this – you’d have to plough through the entire report – but I can vouch for the fact that shopping gives my mood an instant lift. Unfortunately, the lift is rather short-lived.

Feelings of guilt generally take over in the hours after I’ve been on a shopping spree, which then has the adverse effect of making me feel weak-willed. That’s when I start thinking I’m not a good person for using shopping as a crutch.

The only time feelings of guilt don’t take over is when I have plenty of money in the bank, money which I’ve earned and I feel I deserve. Unfortunately, I rarely have that much money in the bank – so my shopping does get me into debt from time to time.

This was the case only just this week. On my way to buy makeup from Clinique (it was bonus time after all) I was pretty much tackled by a salesman on London’s chic New Bond Street, who convinced me to try a beauty product from Orogold. Be warned if you are ever in the area – they tend to congregate together near New Bond Street and South Molton Street.

I’d not heard of Orogold before, but it’s an American premium skincare brand, which I’ve since discovered has a reputation for employing aggresive salespeople. I was absolutely determined not to buy anything at all, but the salesman – who was extremely convincing and persuasive – told me that he would throw in a ‘free’ facial at their salon if I bought a facial exfoliator worth £50. I was hooked.

I’ve not yet tried to book my facial, but I don’t have high hopes that it will be a stress-releasing experience, since I’ll probably be given another hard sell.

This purchase made me feel almost immediately guilty. I spent the rest of the day in a funk. So retail therapy is not always good when you feel like you’ve been ripped off. My gut feeling tells me that anything that needs to be sold aggresively is not worth the money. If only I’d been that rational when I was in the shopping moment.




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3 responses to “Retail therapy has health benefits, say researchers

  1. I can definitely relate to this one. When I was single and had a career, I used to do loads of guilt-free endless shopping sprees. But now that I’m a mum, even if I’ve earned it with my meagre earnings as a freelancer, I still feel guilty spending it on myself and always think that I should be spending it on my daughter! I do hope that – that facial will be turn out to be something really nice and relaxing 🙂 x

  2. Cousin

    I always feel like a junkie when I shop. My mood instantly lifts (whether it’s low or not) and I ALWAYS find something. I even find things to buy at auto zone: a very cute fur thing that goes on my seatbelt. I walk out the store and tell myself “I’m not doing this again for a long time.” That “long time” turns into a week. My closet rack is breaking at the moment from all the clothes. But I rationalize it by telling myself winter clothes just weigh more. Can we start shoppers anonymous?

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