Retail Therapy

Shopping Our Way to Happiness?

Over time, retail shopping has become a source of therapy, garnering the ability to improve peoples’ moods as they shop, satisfying their retail needs and desires. In the United States, according to a survey conducted by TNS Global for, 52 per cent of people admit to having engaged in retail therapy, with 64 per cent of those being women who have admitted to shopping to improve their mood.
Of those who have used retail therapy as a means of improving mood, 40 per cent of respondents felt that retail therapy only worked as a temporary distraction, while 36 per cent confirmed that shopping had a positive impact on their overall mood and happiness, as they attempted to transform their lives through their retail experiences.

Much effort has been made to prove that retail behaviour does in fact have a positive impact on a person’s mood and happiness. Many experts are working to develop a better understanding of the motivating factors that drive consumer experiences, as 62 per cent of people report that they have made purchases in an attempt to improve their mood.

The concept of retail therapy has itself become a branch of psychology, with consumer psychologists, as well as retailers and marketing experts having taken an interest in how and why consumers make retail choices, focusing on how social persuasion influences the decision making process, as well as the motivations behind why consumers choose one product or brand over another.

In developing a better understanding of how and why consumers relate to goods and services in the market, retailers and marketing agencies can better appeal to consumers, meeting and driving market demand. In doing this, retailers can better brand themselves, appealing to the consumer and the emotions behind their retail decisions, as 57 per cent of consumers claim to be brand agnostic.

Consumer psychology considers not just how and why consumers make purchases, but also how environmental and emotional variables impact on the decision making process (ex. age, gender, socioeconomic status, peer groups, media, culture, etc), doing so by conducting market research (experiments, surveys, focus groups, etc) to obtain consumer information and their retail patterns.

The Psychology of Consumerism
People find themselves in retail transactions on a daily basis, driven by a variety of motivations and factors. People shop out of necessity, out of boredom, for gift giving purposes (especially during the holidays), for sport (there are bargain hunters and shopaholics who love the thrill of the hunt and new retail acquisitions), and even out of illness.

Though retail therapy serves well for some, there are others who are unable to moderate their retail habits. Some individuals endure emotional and mental illnesses and may find themselves searching for fulfilment through purchases and possessions. In Western countries, it is estimated that 10 per cent of the population suffer from compulsive shopping habits, often paired with the propensity to hoard.

Each of these motivations speaks to the neurobiological connection between consumers and shopping, though many individuals are unable to recognise their own motivations. Shopping triggers the reward centres in the brain, activated by changing levels of the brain chemical dopamine, which plays a critical factor in both mental and physical wellness. Dopamine levels change with the varying retail shopping motivations, as different levels of dopamine are present when a person is browsing, shopping with the intent to buy, shopping in a good or a bad mood, searching for deals, holiday shopping, or even when shopping online. When shopping in a bad mood, individuals are more likely to make an impulse purchase.

Online shopping alters dopamine levels only slightly because of the physical differences when compared with in-store retail shopping, including environment, product display, and ability to focus. As well, shipping of online purchases takes longer, thus altering the immediate satisfaction and gratification of the purchase.

Shopping is just as much an emotional and mental exercise as it is physical. Given that our brains respond to shopping in its different forms, in varying capacities, it is clear that retail therapy warrants further investigation, as shopping does in fact have the capacity to alter a person’s mood.

Can Shopping Really Make Us Happier?
According to a study published in the US Journal of Psychology and Marketing, Black Friday and holiday shopping is a defence against boredom and seasonal misery. Retail therapy is proven to help with seasonal affectivity disorder (SAD), endured by many over the course of the cool and gloomy winter season, with one-third of shoppers admitting to shopping to beat the winter blues. Does the same trend hold true in Australia’s warmer climate?

Indeed, it has been shown that holiday shopping has a more powerful impact on mood than retail shopping at any other time of the year. The festive time of year naturally lifts people’s spirits and reinforces relationships, as people are no longer shopping for themselves, but rather for the ones they love. Gift giving and receiving improves social connectivity, reciprocating the giving spirit between friends and loved ones.

Giving to others, receiving gifts, and treating yourself can truly have a positive impact on mood, leaving few negative side effects in its wake. Though the holiday season promises to be upbeat and festive in our local shopping centres, holiday retail shopping can also prove to be stressful for some, given the large crowds as well as the thought of spending too much money or budgetary constraints.

As it turns out, retail therapy can also improve confidence and performance. Shopping can help boost creativity and presentation, whether it is dressing for success or having the right tools and accessories to supplement that confidence. For many, being in style and relevant to the current trends improves their connection to society, offering them social validation and increasing their emotional wellbeing in the process.

Shopping can serve as a source of relaxation and escape for some, and may be a source of entertainment or even a hobby for others. In some cases, where moderation is impossible, retail therapy can become a crutch. Shopping has the capacity to generate the same emotional highs and lows of gambling, and as such, requires a certain level of moderation.

Consumers, of course, are able to influence the market through product purchases, with more people interested in buying more and spending less; indeed, today’s average consumer invests over fifteen hours of research before making purchases. The thrill of the hunt for top of the line products at bargain prices can provide a rush for consumers and ultimately drives retailers and markets to deliver.

Though money may not buy happiness, spending it seemingly can. Shopping is proven to improve your mood and can make you happier, when treating yourself to retail therapy inspires lasting positive emotional impacts. Not only can shopping improve our moods, it can improve holiday festivities, bringing people together to share in both holiday and retail experiences, giving gifts and sharing happiness.

Making Sense of Management

Management is the art, or science, of getting things done through people. Sounds fairly straightforward – except for the fact that people are not robots waiting to do our bidding. People have their own minds, motivations, and goals. So how do managers keep operations – and the people behind them – running as planned?

December 19, 2018, 5:14 AM AEDT