Why we resort to retail therapy
We all have our own ways to blow off steam – but for some, making an impulse purchase seems to be the answer.
Going shopping is one of the top ways of managing stress for Aussies, according to a survey by the Australian Psychological Society.
Retail therapy has indeed been proven as a fairly effective coping mechanism – 64 per cent of the survey’s respondents said shopping helped alleviate their stress. A study from the University of Michigan also found that shopping can reduce sadness by restoring one’s sense of control in life.
The researchers discovered that making buying decisions helped reduce negative emotions by subverting the belief that “situational forces control the outcomes in one’s life”.
Although some may worry that impulse treats may put a dent in their wallet and therefore make their mood even worse, another study published in Psychology & Marketing suggested that buyer’s remorse is not an issue. “There seem to be few, if any, downside consequences of engaging in the unplanned purchase of treats,” the researchers wrote. The study participants, they wrote, “did not experience anxiety, guilt, or buyer’s remorse,” nor did they “attempt to engage in compensatory activity” or “suffer a downturn in mood post-purchase”.
However, retail therapy can only go so far in repairing mood and reducing stress. The study said shopping helps temporary and mild slumps but not “chronic negative conditions” such as loneliness.
“We are currently dealing with small transactions and fleeting emotions. I am interested in larger purchases and chronic conditions,” said Scott Rick, a marketing professor at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business. “How far can the healing go?”
If you want to reap the benefits while still keeping your budget in check, there are a few tricks you can apply. Katherine Burson, a marketing professor at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business recommended using your imagination. “The people who simply imagine that they are buying have less sadness at the end of the experiment, suggesting that imaginary shopping may have some of the restorative benefits we see in real shopping, which might be the ultimate solution,” said Burson.
You can also make the shopping experience a little less practical by using cash instead of card and removing your credit card details online – you are less likely to buy on a whim if you have to produce bills or manually enter your information.
Finally, wait it out – making decisions in a tight time span can cloud your judgment over the true necessity of the item. Plan ahead and give yourself some time before committing to fork out some money.