Jim: Why the scowl on face?
Eva: I’m just having a bad day. Oh god…nothing seems to be going my way since morning.
Jim: Come on, take a break. Let’s go shopping and grab some coffee at the cafe on the way. It could help play you down.
 Eva:  Ah…seems like a plan, let’s go. Let me get dressed. Wait up!

* After a couple of minutes, Jim and Eva hopped on into their C-Class Cabriolet and drove around to the cafe for a Latte. But they both ended up pigging out until they felt they could take no more. By then Eva’s mood was already lifting up. Meanwhile, her mind asked for more of beer and skittles. So they didn’t stop there. They were en route to the mall around the block for some mindless credit card swiping.

Consumers have the mirage of purchasing power at their disposal with numerous credit cards options offering instant shopping with a provision of payment in the future. The individual thus makes an impulsive buying by falling under the influence of the product thus falling in a debt trap – in line with the opportunities credit cards provide, the individual get the possession of purchasing power that he/she otherwise does not actually have.

Reality Check

Do you also purchase items just to avoid feeling sad — but then feel guilty afterwards?

Whether it’s the latest gadget, a chic new piece of clothing, you have an urge to splurge now and again.
But cut yourself some slack. We are constantly bombarded with media ads, print or online ads that reinforce shopping mentality. Advertising is all about making you think your life would be better if only you had that product. You’d be happier if you ate at this restaurant, healthier if you went to this gym, better looking if you wore the bespoke suit.
And the ads are really good at what they do. You are being an impulsive buyer by not resisting the urge to buy the product somehow without considering whether it’s something you need irrespective of it being expensive or frivolous.

Shopping can be a rich source of mental preparation. If you think about it, we naturally visualize how we’d use the products we come across. In doing so, we are also visualizing new life, new self. Usually, the two of the most shop-intensive times of our lives are usually our life’s greatest transitions – getting married and having a baby.

Visualizing shopping

Shopping and visualizing — is just the preparation. It makes people feel more in control and less anxious about these big transitions.  Looks like this explains why sometimes the amount of shopping outweighs our actual needs.

It is believed that visualization is a performance booster and anxiety reducer.
Some anxiety is a normal part of life. It’s a by-product of living in an often-chaotic world.   Those struggling with anxiety are significantly more likely to develop some sort of addiction for distress. The addiction can vary from gambling, persistent drug usage to binge eating disorder (Food disorder). 

However, one socially accepted addiction is Oniomania — compulsive shopping, or what’s more commonly referred to as shopping addiction. It becomes compulsive when it becomes a way to deal with stress or loss. However it can become very hard to control. Studies state that there is ‘momentary euphoria‘ provided by compulsive shopping. The rush may often be followed by a sense of shame, disappointment and guilt. Naturally, you want to feel the rush again and this becomes a vicious cycle of a shopaholic.

A woman who is insecure about her looks may compulsively buy fashionable clothing or jewelry to feel more beautiful. When the compulsive shopper shops, endorphins are released and there is an adrenaline rush –shopping is exciting!

The shopping therapy

Some research has shown that making shopping decisions can help to restore a sense of personal control over one’s environment, and so can help to ease feelings of sadness. People who gain pleasure and escape negative feelings through shopping sometimes call it “retail therapy”. This phrase implies that you can get the same benefit from buying yourself something as you would from engaging in counselling or therapy.

Meanwhile the storekeepers/retailers doesn’t seem to want to lose a chance to attract more consumers — create an overall ambiance and tempting merchandise displays that reward customers with an exceptional shopping experience. Merchandising, which is the display of merchandise in an appealing manner to encourage customers to make purchases, relies on the store layout to have shoppers walk through more than just one section of a store. Smart store layouts also reduct congestion during peak shopping hours.

The retailers cleverly plan each aisle to ensure the consumers find it forcefully enjoyable to walk around going through beautifully crafted layout of the store.
For example, when grocery shopping, where do you find staples like eggs, bread or milk?
They are often deliberately placed at the back of the store. Forcing customers to walk through aisles and past several other items on the way. It is one of the most effective store layout and merchandising strategies in retail.

Consumerism and the dawn of visual merchandising

In other words, the weakness of the majority — ‘shopping disorder’, turns out to be a business source for the retailers. After all, visual appeal is an assured aspect of catching human cognition. The same behavioral trait can be leveraged for garnering more market share. If a brand is able to crack this code of generating the initial interest in the target audience, getting footfalls becomes easier and subsequently, enhancement in the business revenue is the part which follows this pre -set brand journey with ease.
This is the stage where even the display window gains superpower. It will not be wrong to say that we have ushered in an era which can be called as the Dawn of Visual Merchandising in Retail.

And, for some of us, there is an allure of wanting what everyone else seems to have. Consumerism, by our own intentions or not, has become a measure of social worth. Although consumerism drives economic growth and boosts innovation, it comes with a fair share of problems ranging from environmental and moral degradation to higher debt levels and mental health problems.

Traits of addiction

Meanwhile, what determines the difference between someone who enjoys shopping because they are generous and want to buy things for others or because they take pleasure and pride in possessions, and a true shopaholic?

Here are three symptomatic features of a compulsive shopper:

  • Over-preoccupation with buying, anytime, anywhere – in stores, online, and on TV (like Home Shopping Network)
  • Feelings of distress, shame or guilt as a result of the activity (particularly noted at the point when the buying gets so out of hand that the compulsive shopper becomes secretive and hides the things they’ve bought)
  • The compulsive buying is not the result of or limited to hypomania or manic (uncontrollably elated and very high in energy) episodes.

Therefore, it’s a very thin line of difference between an impulsive buyer and a normal buyer. Impulse buying has the potential to land you a heap of credit card debt and remorse. But you can avoid getting into the habit, by understanding what you’re up against and using strategies to avoid impulses. A person’s love for the finer things in life should not come at the expense of his/her mental health and financial stability.


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    1. Author

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