Retail therapy is a term used to describe shopping with the intention to improve the buyer’s mood.
Retail therapy is emotionally driven and may be a response to depression, stress, a desire for a reward (for example a celebration) or in response to a period of change. There have been studies which show that this type of shopping may lead to more impulsive purchases but the experience can be effective, prompting an improvement in mood.
People feeling stressed or depressed may feel that they lack control over their situation, which is why shopping, which places the buyer in control, may work as a coping mechanism. Typical reasons cited for indulging in retail therapy might include a relationship breakdown or a stressful period at work.
The shopping experience can provide escape and relaxation, as well as social interaction. Retail therapy is not generally considered to be detrimental, unless it becomes a habit which has negative impacts such as the buyer accumulating debt in order to fund their purchases.
There is some evidence that the benefits of retail therapy can be experienced without making any purchases, and that window shopping may be an effective mood-booster.