Retail Therapy Works! It Makes Shoppers Three Times Happier


Angry? Sad? Depressed? Before you head out to any Ayala Malls Philippines, please hear me out first. What you are doing in actuality is retail therapy. Economics expert often criticize that this form of therapy is not only wasteful, but it also escalates the depressive emotions that a person is currently suffering from. Not so fast. While retail therapy may lack substance for some, it has a saving grace, too.


What is retail therapy?

Retail therapy refers to shopping to improve one’s mood or disposition as the main goal. It is thus common among people who are undergoing periods of depression and transition. Considered as a short-lived habit done alone, the buyers refer to the items they purchased as ‘comfort buys.’ Most trips are unplanned, spur of the moment’s trips. The term was first used in 1986 in an article published in Chicago Tribune.

Research studies highlight seven reasons for retail therapy. These are:

  • Escape
  • Indulgence
  • Positive distraction
  • Boosting self-esteem
  • Activation
  • Sense of control
  • Social connection

Studies also reveal that seven of the most commonly purchased items are:

  • Clothes
  • Accessories
  • Shoes
  • Gadgets
  • Food
  • Movie
  • Music


What other retail therapy studies say?

  • 52% of Americans engage in retail therapy (TNS Global/Ebates)
  • 62% of shoppers purchased an item to cheer themselves up (British Psychological Society)
  • 9% shops after having a bad day at work, 14.6% after hearing bad news and 12.2% after fighting with a loved one (TNS Global/Ebates)
  • 4 in 10 women agreed that shopping improve one’s mood (TNS Global/Ebates)
  • Shopping minimizes sadness by up to 3x (University of Michigan)


Who does retail therapy?

About 80% of the women perceives shopping as a retail therapy wherein a need that must be fulfilled is often involved. Some of the shoppers are relying on shopping as one of the ways in dealing with emotion. For instance, they shop to alleviate loneliness or simply relieve boredom. Shopping can fill one’s time apart from being a fun activity.

These shoppers also regard shopping as an antidote. There is something about buying that makes anger, for example, seem less intense. However, not all people who embark on a retail therapy are angry, bored or lonely. Some shoppers shop to de-stress and perhaps escape a while from living an overscheduled life. Whenever you feel a bad hair day or frustration over something, shopping is often the likely solution making it truly therapeutic.

Shopping is a person’s time to unwind, finding herself gravitating towards the store to shop for nice things. Somehow, this is when retail therapy becomes wasteful. Retail therapists are looking for buys that make them feel good and not necessarily those things that they need. Nonetheless, there are retail shoppers who need not spend a single centavo. Some are simply window shopping. They are at the malls just for the sake of a change of environment, that is, when staying at home can become ‘emotionally suffocating.’

Did you know that those who are lonely tends to linger more at the mall? They linger at the mall not because of the consumption aspect, but due to the value of the experiential aspect.  Now, here are some signs that you are doing retail therapy wrong.

1) Hiding or lying about purchases from your spouse/loved ones

2) Feeling guilty or ashamed about shopping itself after shopping

3) Missing work and other obligations because of shopping

4) Regarding shopping as a necessary activity instead of a fun activity


One thing is for sure – shopping keeps you sane and happy. Retail therapy is a diversion, a stress buster, situation to offset voids in one’s life and a way to deal with negative situations. So while therapy gets a bad rap, there are many benefits to doing it. When the going gets tough, the tough goes shopping, right? Now, we see the wisdom in that.  A word of caution though, don’t overdo consumption.



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