Shopping used to be nothing more than a way of obtaining food, clothing, and other necessities of life. Today, however, shopping symbolises the materialistic culture of western society and its popularity as a leisure activity reflects the rise of consumerism. This has been possible by the 75 per cent increase in disposable income in the past twenty years. The number of credit cards in use has more than increased a lot, and the amount of outstanding consumer debt has almost tripled in the same period.
Having more money has meant spending patterns have changed. While traditional models of economic behaviour assume that consumers are rational and weight up the costs and benefits before making a purchase, anyone who has ever walked into a shop and left five minutes lat
er with a new jacket and left without some money in their wallet, knows that the theory does not always hold true.
Some researches on consumer behaviour identified impulsive buying as an attempt by shoppers to bolster their self-image, particularly for those who suffered from so-called compulsive buying or shopping addiction, a condition that affects two to five per cent of adults in the West.
A three-year study compared excessive buyers to a similar group of ordinary consumers. Excessive shoppers were more materialistic and believed that buying goods was a pathway to success, happiness and identity. 'Excessive buying is a coping strategy to fill the gaps between how shoppers feel about themselves and the person they want to be'.
Although there are other ways of dealing with poor self-image, such as over-exercising or alcoholism, shopping has become one of the most important strategies. This is especially true for women, who are three times more likely to be compulsive shoppers than men, as shopping is a socially approved activity, and allows those who do not go out to work to get out of the house.
Moreover, certain types of goods are more likely to be bought on impulse than others. Those most frequently reported- clothes, jewellery, ornaments- are closely related to self-image and appearance. This finding is contrary to usual theories about impulse shopping, which explain it as a short-term gratification winning out over longer-term concerns such as debt.
All in all, advertisements and shopping environments are so seductive that they play on the idea that if you buy product X you will be much more attractive, and consequently convince people to keep on buying them.
A Consuming Addiction written by Cristina Nuta for FamousWhy.com
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