Shopping addiction or harmless retail therapy?


“When you have a life changing event like COVID, there is fear, no control, uncertainty,” says Rattle. “All of these emotions are so extreme that you have to be able to cope somehow. So [for] people who loved shopping before as a happy thing, now it was their escape mechanism.

For Kate *, a 30-year-old woman working in the Philadelphia fashion industry, her shopping habits started during her senior year of high school with her first job. From there, they never really stopped, whether it was pandemic.

“My salary has since increased [high school], but I think the total percentage of my disposable income spent on clothing has stayed about the same, which is grim, ”she said. “I apologize now that clothes are best produced in small batches or that I buy from Poshmark, but the momentum is still the same. “

On average, she buys about two items a week, according to her estimate, which she admits “doesn’t look bad.” But a glance around her apartment reveals piles of folded clothes on the floor and in the closet. She is jokingly called an “accumulator”.

Part of the motivation of women like Kate is rooted in adrenaline – it’s the thrill of the chase, finding something unexpected and the thrill of owning, owning something interesting and spotted only by you. There is creativity for Kate, a desire to recreate something expensive or designer with used items or discounted treasures from low cost retailers.

And on the days when she finds something so perfect – the right size, the right style, the right brand – it seems to be done. On a recent shopping trip, Kate found some never worn Cole Haan slingback kitten heels for $ 4.99.

“They were right for me, they’re within my budget – what are the odds? I can’t leave now, ”she said. “The few times I walk away, 75% of the time, it’s the right decision, but there’s that stubborn 25% where you come back and it’ll never be there again. I just have to take this as a sign of the universe that we were meant to be together.

Every once in a while Kate challenges herself to take a week or two off to shop. Inevitably, something happens: a tough week, boredom, or a looming opportunity.

She, a 23-year-old woman who lives in Los Angeles and works in the tech industry, began shopping for small gifts during the pandemic to boost her morale. She was excited to know that a package was waiting for her or to chat with vendors once the stores opened. In addition, buying clothes gave him a sense of identity.

“When I go shopping I feel powerful and important,” she said. “It makes me feel like I’m together and spending money on this thing I want. I have the impression that I am offering myself something and that I have “realized” it.

She is now able to take a step back and correlate her purchases with times of anxiety and low self-esteem. Now that she’s making more money, she says she spends less.

But she also knows how quickly that itch can go from a purchase to a flood. At the start of the pandemic, she was buying so much that she hid packages from her roommates, not wanting them to see how much she was spending each week.

It was the lack of control that left her helpless. Even when she walked into a store looking for something specific, she would inevitably walk away with a few other things that weren’t on her list. It was difficult to stick to a defined budget.

Rattle feels we are at a definite time when it comes to overbought. She calls it a “perfect storm” of three factors: Large retail companies mastering psychology, like sending repeated emails the second an item is added to an online shopping cart; social media feeds us constant ideas about who we should be and who we are not; and a largely cashless society is taking real money away from our bank accounts.

“We are all vulnerable. You are hungry, you are tired, you are dejected, you are shopping, ”said Rattle. “Compulsivity occurs when it becomes so difficult that it becomes behavior. ”

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