Retail therapy: Knowing when to draw the line

RETAIL therapy is defined as the act of shopping as an outlet for frustration and a reliever of stress. Retail therapy offers people a sense of control that counteracts the feelings of ‘powerlessness’ and ‘overwhelmingness’.

Retail therapy is often considered a bad thing as people assume that retail therapy is a slippery slope towards overspending. However, researchers opine otherwise.

A study published in the University of Auckland’s Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health found retail therapy in moderation to be beneficial and linked to longer lifespan. Another study in 2013 found that retail therapy was an effective way to turn a low mood around.

In recent years, online shopping started to gain traction with the evolution of the digital industry and e-commerce. In addition, the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the shift towards a more digital world, especially online shopping in emerging economies.

In Malaysia, online shopping has become the ‘new normal’ in the retail industry. According to Statista, a German company specialising in market and consumer data, e-commerce in Malaysia is expected to rake in about US$3.91 bil this year.

On online shopping day, 11.11, Malaysia is ranked fourth in terms of the top overseas countries purchasing from China by gross merchandise value while Lazada Malaysia, an online shopping platform, recorded its biggest 11.11 sale.

Shopee’s platform saw about 12 million orders across seven markets in Southeast Asia and Taiwan within the first 24 minutes of its 12.12 birthday sale. During its peak time, one million items were purchased in a single minute. On the same day, shopping activity was on a high with one user making 180 orders.

Many are overly stressed and depressed during this pandemic and turn to online retail therapy to make them feel better. Although online shopping makes it easier and convenient for people to shop online, this “new normal’ turn into a habit with all the sales online platforms are offering.

Are Malaysians becoming over-reliant on retail therapy as a stress reliever?

It is important to realise that retail therapy provides only a temporary reprieve, and excess reliance can cause shopping addiction or compulsive buying which leads to financial troubles.

“In small, manageable doses, retail therapy absolutely works, and there’s no harm in it. But being overly reliant on it is when things get bad,” said psychiatrist Dr Teoh Meng Kit.

Moreover, retail therapy isn’t actually therapy and it can’t directly address deeper problems. Also, if one is losing ability to moderate your retail therapy, they should seek for professional help. – Dec 15, 2020

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