This is dedicated to all the shopaholic fashionistas making it through the recession!
A Compulsive Shopper’s Market
When times are tough, the tough watch their wallet. But what if you are addicted to shopping?By Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan | April 27, 2009
New Yorker Jenny knows she buys excessively—the 29-year-old marketing manager goes shopping at least four times a week, picking up goods like a jacket or a handbag each time, all of which are items she acknowledges she usually doesn't need.
"There are many pieces of clothing I buy that I never wear," she says. "I have 50 bags, four trench coats—I have so many of the same thing, and I don't stop myself from buying something just because I have it. When I see something I really like, I start stressing out that I want it so much, and if I don't buy it then, then I can't have it."
You would think that given the dire state of the economy, the prevailing job uncertainties, and the prevalent credit card debt that shoppers like Jenny might be cutting back. But that's not necessarily the case: Jenny says she finds herself spending more, not less, given the number of sales that retailers are having to encourage purchases. In this economy, buying a blouse or a pair of shoes as a quick pick-me-up is the retail therapy she sometimes seeks. Jenny estimates that she now spends about $1,000 a month on her shopping hobby, compared with the monthly average of $600 last summer.
A 2006 study by Stanford University showed that 5.8 percent of adults have compulsive-shopping tendencies like Jenny's. The study, compiled after researchers conducted a national phone survey of 2,513 adults, showed that many compulsive buyers had credit cards that were within a few hundred dollars of the credit limit and that they were more than four times as likely as other respondents to make only the minimum payment on credit card balances. Compulsive shoppers buy items that are both high- and low-end. The point is to make a purchase, which offers a temporary, euphoric rush.
Lorrin Koran, the Stanford emeritus professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences who compiled the study, says compulsive shoppers make purchases for the same reasons that compulsive gamblers gamble, for instance. "People do it to get away from negative feelings in life—anxiety, depression, boredom," he says. "By going out and shopping, it's usually rewarding in that moment, but it wears off very rapidly, sometimes within minutes or an hour. And after they've done it and they're back in their home, that's when they regret it, they feel sad, and they want to do it again."
In this recession, however, some shoppers have cut back on spending. Khajak Keledjian, chief executive officer of the Intermix boutique chain, says he's noticed that while some of his regular shoppers are coming in more often, they're not buying as much as they used to and are spending about 15 percent to 20 percent less on average. C. Britt Beemer, founder of America's Research Group, a consumer behavior research and strategic marketing firm in Charleston, S.C., says that 7 percent to 11 percent of shoppers he now surveys across the country say they are compulsive shoppers who "feel they need to buy something virtually every day of the week." Five years ago, "the number was closer to 18 percent to 22 percent," he says, noting that 23 percent of women he surveyed this year said they "shop as retail therapy," compared with the 48 percent of women who said they did so five years ago. "It's the economy; it's their finances—their credit card bills got to be too high."
For women who find themselves living beyond their means because they're unable to control their shopping, Koran suggests seeing a doctor to inquire about impulse-control medication or the old-fashioned method of cutting up credit cards. Another method he has found effective: keeping a shopping journal. "You can log how you felt before you were shopping, while you were shopping, how you felt when you finished shopping, and how much you spent," he says. "Self monitoring can help."http://www.elle.com/Fashion/Fashion-Spotlight/A-Compulsive-Shopper-s-Market