Over the weekend, I got into a discussion with some friends about how we each relieve the stress from our demanding jobs. One swore by bikram yoga, one saw cooking as therapy, and another divulged she sips wine more than she would like to admit. But I was most intrigued by a friend who revealed she turned to shopping whenever her mood was low. She laughed that her therapists are H&M, Zara, and Macy’s, sharing that her spirits are lifted with each item she rings up at the register.
Unlike excessive drinking or drug use, there’s not a stigma associated with emotional shopping. In fact, it’s considered so harmless, it has its own catch phrase: retail therapy.
Retail therapy is a bad habit that hurts little more than one’s pockets. When controlled, it’s easy to keep hidden.
Marketers take full advantage. They often use retail therapy as a tool to entice shoppers. If I had a dollar for every time an ad suggested buying lingerie to feel sexier or giving into my assumed shoe addiction, I’d be rich enough to clear out a floor in Saks. These ads go unchecked because in our society it’s expected that a woman views shopping as a hobby with little regard to her financial or emotional well-being. It’s the American way.
For those reasons, most women engage in emotional shopping without recognizing it as an issue. It was interesting to see how many of my girlfriends at brunch spoke up to say that they are also emotional shoppers. Even though some of them online shop for hours when they’re depressed and know their favorite salesclerks by name, they never considered it to be a problem.