Retail Therapy Isn’t a Coronavirus Invention

Business Insider ran an interesting piece in late March 2021 discussing how smaller, local boutiques have been upstaging Big Retail at a time when coronavirus continues to limit shopping. The piece was focused on a phenomenon known as ‘retail therapy’. It should be noted that retail therapy is not a coronavirus invention. It has existed for as long as people have shopped.

Retail therapy is the practice of shopping in order to improve your mood and outlook on life. A 2011 study published by Psychology & Marketing suggests that it really does work. People can make themselves feel better by buying things. That said, there is still some debate as to whether or not retail therapy is a good thing in the long term.

                   A Lot Like Self-Medicating

One can look at retail therapy and see it as a harmless activity that doesn’t have any adverse consequences. In reality, retail therapy is a lot like self-medicating. A consumer feels like they are in a sour mood and decides to solve the problem by shopping. They could just as easily go to the liquor cabinet and pour themself a scotch.

We would think no less of them if they chose the scotch over shopping. But in the backs of our minds, we all know that drinking to improve one’s mood and outlook is treading on dangerous ground. Do it too often and the risks of addiction increase accordingly. How many problem drinkers have a problem because they drink to feel better?

You could make the case that retail therapy is similar. Buying just to make oneself feel better doesn’t really address why a person is in the midst of a funk or has a generally gloomy outlook on life. All shopping does is mask those negative feelings with the temporary joy that comes from obtaining something new. Is that wise?

                   The Coronavirus Version

Retail therapy has taken on a new form in the coronavirus era. Where it has traditionally been viewed as a means of improving one’s mood by shopping, some people now utilize this new form of retail therapy to ease their fears of catching coronavirus. In the right context, this may not be a bad thing.

One way to practice retail therapy in the coronavirus era is to do all your shopping without engaging others in the process. For example, clothing shoppers in Salt Lake City can shop with The Stockist using two different strategies.

First, they can shop online like their non-local counterparts. Second, they can still enjoy the in-person shopping experience by arranging for private shopping. The boutique offers private shopping appointments before and after regular retail hours.

Private shopping could be viewed as a form of retail therapy that allows consumers to shop as normal without having to face fears of coronavirus transmission. It’s an opportunity to purchase products you would still purchase anyway but do so in a setting that is less intimidating.

                   Everything in Moderation

Retail therapy may not be as risky as self-medicating. You might be able to practice it without any risk of going overboard. But as with everything else, moderation is the key to keeping things under control. Shop with the understanding that you are going to maintain a budget. Buy mostly what you need and a few things that you want, but don’t buy just to buy.

Retail therapy is by no means a new phenomenon. It has been going on long enough that scientists have studied it. It has only received more attention recently because the coronavirus crisis has changed the way we do everything – including how we shop.

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