UK Women Seek Retail Therapy to Cure Recession Blues


Shop till You Drop, a dead end job mystery is a humorous detective novel about a woman who uncovers crimes while employed at an ultra-exclusive boutique in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. But there is much truth to the title of this fiction. It is also the real-life saga of more and more women during the recession.

Conspicuous consumption seems to be the remedy for what ails many money-strapped UK women, as found in a new survey by researchers at the University of Hertfordshire.

Some 700 women were asked about their emotional responses to their grim financial situations and almost half reported they were pretty darn scared. Nealy 80% said they were so concerned about their bank accounts, they would be making cutbacks on spending.

Yet 79% also confessed they would go the material girl route to cheer themselves up – splurging on clothes and other items to release those endorphins. Hey, chocolate only goes so far.

The survey results, published by Life Science, also found 40 percent of the women cited depression as an excuse to overspend, while 60 percent claimed “feeling a bit low” was a good enough reason.


Karen Pine, Professor University of Hertfordshire

“This type of spending, or compensatory consumption, serves as a way of regulating intense emotions,” observes Karen Pine, Aussie professor and author of  Sheeconomics (Headline Publishing Group, 2009).

Pine likens the splurge mentality to an addiction such as drug dependency in which people self-medicate, but instead of drugs, the high is retail therapy: a new dress, eye shadow and a few pairs of summer sandals. Ironically, it all adds up to more credit card debt and feeling even worse after from pangs of guilt.

“If shopping is an emotional habit for women, they may feel the need to keep spending despite the economic downturn,” figures Pine. “Or, perhaps worse still, if they can’t spend we might see an increase in mental health problems such as anxiety and depression.”

I guess it’s true. The shopping avenue has always served as a huge distraction for me, something that allows me to flex my creative eye, even if the wallet is not quite as limber. In fact, one of my favorite haunts is Retail Therapy, a designer outlet in San Francisco. I’m guaranteed to get my fix there when my bank book gets me down.

Who says affluenza ceases just because your portfolio goes south?

retail therp

Apparently, women are not the only victims of the shopping addiction during hard times. A 2006 study by the Stanford University School of Medicine found 5.5 percent of men label themselves compulsive buyers.

So what is the cure for the cure?

In the movie Confessions of a Shopaholic, the compulsive shopper finds relief by attending a self-help group and purging her stuff. Maybe that also works in the real world. There sure would be a lot of takers among the most serious victims of the recession, those struggling just to buy food.


2008 Robert Zuckerman / Walt Disney Pictures

Luanne Bradley

Luanne Sanders Bradley is the West coast Editor at EcoSalon and currently resides in San Francisco, California.