‘Tis the shopping season. Stores are making their big end of the year pushes to get “into the black” (make a profit), alongside the psychological tactics (mostly subconscious) to get us to spend our money.
For example, this review on the effects of retail atmosphere on shopping behavior reminds managers that,
“...consumers may not always be aware of particular facets of the retail atmosphere, even when it is influencing their behavior. These findings suggest that particular elements of the atmosphere do not always have to be blatant to have an effect on consumers. Sometimes, understated and subtle changes to the retail environment are all that is required to change how shoppers behave inside a store.” 5
Consumers/Shoppers = Us
We are being urged to buy stuff, whether we realize it or not. These marketing strategies, alongside an infatuation with shopping, especially on sprees like Black Friday or holiday shopping, increased accessibility, impulse buying, and the ‘need’ to buy what we do not have, can mask some underlying shopping addictive tendencies.
More specifically, oniomania is an obsessive or uncontrollable urge to buy things, and the case has been made to classify it as an addiction.2
Others call it shopaholism, compulsive shopping, compulsive buying, or compulsive spending.1
In short, people can become overly concerned about shopping to the point where they are driven by an uncontrollable shopping motivation that can provide a lift in emotions, but also can impair other important areas of life.
A recent review of 40 studies, across 16 countries found that about 5% of adults exhibit compulsive buying behavior, but was as high as 16% in studies that surveyed shoppers.3
Being young and female were associated with an increased tendency to exhibit compulsive buying behavior (i.e. "Confessions of a Shopaholic").
Also, just like your Black Friday shopping can occur online from the comfort of your home, so can compulsive buying behavior.4
Do You Have a Tendency for Shopping Addiction?
See how each of the following items relate to your thoughts, feelings, and actions over the last 12 months.
0 = completely disagree
1 = disagree
2 = neither disagree nor agree
3 = agree
4 = completely agree
- I think about shopping/buying things all the time.
- I shop/buy things in order to change my mood.
- I shop/buy so much that it negatively affects my daily obligations (e.g. school, work).
- I feel I have to shop/buy more and more to obtain the same satisfaction as before.
- I have decided to shop/buy less, but have not been able to do so.
- I feel bad if I, for some reason, am prevented from shopping/buying things.
I shop/buy so much that it has impaired my well-being.
Interpreting the Results
Add up your score from each item. Your final sum score will range from 0 to 28, with a higher score suggesting more shopping addiction.
Being aware of our tendencies can help, as can several self-help tactics to counter compulsive buying behavior.
However, if there is concern about shopping addiction, seek guidance from your local healthcare provider.
- Shopping addiction is a real thing that should not be overlooked.
- I probably should have posted this before Black Friday.
- Andreassen, C. S., Griffiths, M. D., Pallesen, S., Bilder, R. M., Torsheim, T., & Aboujaoude, E. (2015). The Bergen Shopping Addiction Scale: reliability and validity of a brief screening test. Frontiers in Psychology, 6, 1374.
- Hartston, H. (2012). The case for compulsive shopping as an addiction. Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, 44(1), 64-67.
- Maraz, A., Griffiths, M. D., & Demetrovics, Z. (2016). The prevalence of compulsive buying: a meta‐analysis. Addiction, 111(3), 408-419.
- Rose, S., & Dhandayudham, A. (2014). Towards an understanding of Internet-based problem shopping behaviour: The concept of online shopping addiction and its proposed predictors. Journal of Behavioral Addictions, 3(2), 83-89.
- Turley, L. W., & Milliman, R. E. (2000). Atmospheric effects on shopping behavior: a review of the experimental evidence. Journal of business research, 49(2), 193-211.