Survey: Most shoppers don't believe in "retail therapy," but they do it anyway

A survey of 1,000 American consumers says they really do use shopping to feel better — even though they don't necessarily believe "retail therapy" works.

The survey results, which were released on Tuesday (March 2), found that 63.9 percent of women shop to cheer up, though only 39.2 percent of them said they believed it would actually improve their mood. Among men, 39.8 percent shop to improve their mood, while just 20.6 believe it does the trick.

Sure, it's a silly survey compared to some academic studies on the same topic — this one was paid for by, so it included questions on why shopping online was better than in-store — but it's big enough to be worth mining for insights.

For example, food was the top retail-therapy category for men at 28.1 percent and number 2 for women at 34.7 percent. (The survey didn't specify whether "food" meant a supermarket trip, a restaurant meal or a stop at a bar.) The top spot for women was, predictably, taken by clothes (57.9 percent).

Other top categories for women were shoes (32.4 percent), accessories (29.1 percent) and books and magazines (28.7 percent). For men, the rest of the top 5 consisted of electronics (27.4 percent), music and movies (26.6 percent), clothes (21.5 percent) and games and toys (17.6 percent). The biggest reason for mood-elevating shopping: to recover from a bad day at work (18.9 percent).

That last one may be the most useful statistic for anyone in retail. If 6 p.m. really is the start of Unhappy Hour, making sure associates restock the chocolate and chips shelves at 4:30 might be worth the schedule adjustment.

For more:

- See this CNBC story
- See this news release

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