Retail therapy, does it work, or does it not?

March 26, 2009


With the release of the “Confessions of a Shopaholic” movie this week, many Rebecca Bloomwood fans have made a dash to ensure that they get to watch this movie once it opens here in Singapore.

Before I delve into the main focus of today’s article, perhaps a short synopsis for those who have been living in the cave and not heard of this movie or series:

Based on the books “Confessions of a Shopaholic” and “Shopaholic Takes Manhattan” by Sophie Kinsella.

In the glamorous world of New York City, Rebecca Bloomwood (ISLA FISHER) is a fun-loving girl who is really good at shopping—a little too good, perhaps. She dreams of working for her favourite fashion magazine, but can’t quite get her foot in the door—until ironically, she snags a job as an advice columnist for a financial magazine published by the same company. As her dreams are finally coming true, she goes to ever more hilarious and extreme efforts to keep her past from ruining her future.

At the end of the day, the movie is reflective about the whole shopping experience. I’ve not yet caught this movie, but I have read the entire series (from how Rebecca met Luke, and how they have a baby towards the end!). Basically, Rebecca shopped when she was happy, and she shopped when she was depressed. Simply put, she loved shopping.

It made me pause and think. Does this equate to Retail Therapy? According to Wikipedia, Retail Therapy is “shopping with the primary purpose of improving the buyer’s mood or disposition. Often seen in people during periods of depression or transition, it is normally a short-lived habit.”

In Rebecca’s case, it wasn’t exactly short-lived. She was driven to bankruptcy because of her excessive purchase, and in the end, she had to sell her clothes and shoes to settle her debts. Obviously, that is an extreme case. However, what one should ask oneself is: Does Retail Therapy improves the buyer’s mood?

Indeed, it does. The instant gratification that comes from buying something new, be it a bag or a pair of shoes, helps buyers to feel better about themselves. But what happens when that instant gratification wears off? Are you supposed to dwell in sorrow, or do you go back to the mall and get something new? Shopping, for women, is ultimately a feel-good thing. However, it doesn’t solve your problems. It merely helps to put it off aside for awhile.

Many researches have been conducted, and although there is no statistics to prove that Retail Therapy does work, many studies have shown a sadness-spending link. According to Dr. Carole Liberman, a psychiatrist based in Beverly Hills, sadness and spending are related as both deal with a way of “filling up the emptiness inside that focuses on making their outside more attractive.”


People usually make huge purchases when they are feeling down, and once they are hit back to reality, chances are they will regret the new purchases. We need to make better decisions when it comes to emotions and shopping. Look for long-term solutions. Do not give in to impulse buying. Always remember that the gratification is short-term, and that at the end of the day, your problems will still be there.


One Response to “Retail therapy, does it work, or does it not?”

  1. 小呗 Says:

    i second to that.
    retail therapy does works and does linger till you get home.

    from my experience as soon as i get home, therapy effect will wear off.

    And i’ll start to be bothered by the amount spent!! thus, there’s a Psychological effect that i’ll Self-hypnotize that ”it’s worth it”


    but i think Adequate shopping therapy should be helpful to us – cosmopolitans.

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