After watching the finale of ‘Mr Selfridge’ on catch up, I got to thinking about the whole shopping experience and how the man in question had, apparently, revolutionised it. He was the Richard Branson of his day: innovative, bold and hob-nobbing with anyone who was anyone.
Pre-Selfridge, shopping had been dull and perfunctory; you went in to a shop, asked for what you wanted and got exactly that. There was little room for imagination or catering for eclectic tastes.
With the rise of the contemporary department store, we were introduced to the hedonistic vices of variety and choice. Shopping had shed its skin as an inescapable chore to emerge as something that was not merely necessary, but pleasurable; and we embraced it in our millions.
Today we can still see the evidence of this as, come the weekend, we descend in our droves on to the malls, arcades and markets of the world to indulge in one of our favourite pastimes.
Nearly a decade ago Dr Aric Sigman, a British psychologist, conducted research in to our shopping habits and discovered that shopping is often used as a substitute for sex. And it seems writer, Adrienne Gusoff, agrees:
“Shopping is better than sex. At least if you’re not satisfied, you can exchange it for something you really like.’
Sigman asserted that women are more receptive to this powerful aphrodisiac as they are able to assimilate a range of different stimuli simultaneously, as opposed to men who can only respond to one thing at a time. Anyone who lives with a man can attest to this claim.
Women could spend days on a shopping expedition that would make the likes of Sir Edmund Hillary flag, and still return without the thing they originally left the house for (a whole host of other things – yes – but not the intended item). Men are a different kettle of fish. Generally they like to research the make, model and best price beforehand, then – bish, bash, bosh – like the hunter gatherer they aspire to be, go to the store, go directly to the store and do not enter any other shops or divert their gaze to other items, along the way.
Given the choice between shopping for clothes with me, or collecting infected bodies struck down by the bubonic plague without the guise of protective clothing, and my Other Half would opt for the latter every time. Of course if I was to suddenly throw in to the mix the possibility of visiting establishments housing the latest high-tech devices, video games or gadgets, then we’re looking at a whole different ball game. In these circumstances a herd of wild horses wouldn’t be able to hold him back.
The market has certainly improved since the early days of Selfridge. The range of goods available seem to be increasing at an exponential rate. But is this a good thing? Dr Sigman would think not, as he claims:
“Humans are only designed to process a limited amount of information. The number of choices we process in a day is often greater than a caveman would have taken in a lifetime.”
I have to say, I think some of those cavemen still exist. But maybe the process of evolution has stepped in to naturally redress the balance. With all progress comes change, and in the case of shopping this takes the form of the internet.
The internet has globalised our shopping habits. We no longer have to traipse a few miles from our homes to purchase from the nearest store, now we can go to the other side of the world with the mere click of a button.
This can only benefit us… right? After all it has further expanded the potential to source goods without a middle man or any conceivable obstacles: political or economic.
But as more and more of us turn to this medium, as an increasingly popular and cheaper way to shop, the incidence of abandoned premises is on the rise and stand like isolated rafts along the sea of high street shops. And with no resurgence from the recession on the horizon, those rafts will soon accumulate and begin to emulate a bloody big ship. Where will the window shopping weekenders congregate then?
And what will we be left with? No longer afforded the option to view or compare the goods before we buy; spending frustrating hours on the phone and email trying to organise a return to China; wasting valuable time queuing at the post office or staying in for collections; waiting another three weeks for your order to turn up, only to discover it’s the wrong one… again.
Would have been easier, and cheaper, to have just nipped down the shops… except there aren’t any. Oops! Sort of back where we started, wouldn’t you say?
Image credit: robbiverte / 123RF Stock Photo