If shopping doesn't make you happy, then you're in the wrong shop.
I don’t like shopping. I like buying.
It’s not about the hunting it’s about the gathering. In my many years in the fashion industry I was both a professional buyer and a professional shopper. I got paid to shop.
As a boutique owner, I made bi-annual trips to Montreal, Vancouver, Toronto and New York to buy seasonal inventory, timing the deliveries to ensure that there was always fresh product arriving. To the average shopper, the thought of flying off to New York sounds enticing; in fact, my days were quite gruelling. New York was not all bagels and Broadway. My days started early and ended late. Working months and months in advance I would make appointments with manufacturers and suppliers and in their showrooms, start sorting through the lines. Collections are made up of many different pieces. I would evaluate them based on fabric, line, shape, silhouette and value, bearing my clients pocketbooks in mind. It wasn’t about my personal taste; I bought with the commercial knowledge of what sells, what works, what doesn’t. On average, for every garment purchased, I would reject 40 or more. By the end of each buying trip everything started to look the same.
When I left the retail world to work as a consultant I was a personal shopper for my clients. I had no loyalty to any particular store and looked everywhere to find the perfect clothes for them.
These days I shop only for myself and I can assure you that I don’t think there is anything recreational about retail shopping. My idea of a good time isn’t trudging around a mall where you can’t find a parking spot and have to fight crowds of people only to end up seeing the same stuff in store after store. I do appreciate the small independent retailers that offer unique labels and great service, but they don’t always have the selection or sizes. Truth be told, I’m a Winners and Marshall’s gal at heart even though it is the most hit and miss of all because I never know what they will have in until I get there. But that’s half the fun.
I also love outlet malls. Who doesn’t? But, before you drop your hard-earned cash let me explain how they operate. The purpose of outlet malls is mostly to liquidate manufacturers’ overruns, discontinued designs, cancelled retail orders, damaged merchandise, incorrectly sized merchandise and one-of-a-kind designer samples. Just because you are in an outlet mall don’t assume you are in an outlet store. Usually only about half the stores are true factory discount places.
And never assume that you will find the best bargain even if you are in an outlet store. Sometimes you can actually find an item cheaper when it is on sale in a regular store.
Tags that say “Compare at” aren’t the same as SALE PRICE. It is a legal term that manufacturers use strictly for outlet stores. It also may be that it was manufactured specifically for an outlet store and, even though it may be brand name, it’s not the same product that you would get in their regular stores. It’s not a knock-off, it’s the real deal, but the quality may be inferior. Does that matter? Maybe not.
The reality is that you can’t find everything in one type of store. I end up buying in department stores, chain stores, specialty boutiques and discount stores — whichever type of store has what I want and need at a price I am willing to pay. I like to save but sometimes paying full price is still worth the cash and is the best value.
That means looking everywhere at every price point. And that’s work.
So, before you head out to indulge in some retail therapy remember this: Any item that is hanging in your closet that you are not wearing because it’s not quite right for you is expensive no matter how deeply discounted it was when you bought it.
Whether you are on a tight budget, or have money to burn, before you take that item to the till ask yourself these questions:
Are you hungry for something new? Bored? Do you want to feel better about yourself? You might be looking for more than just clothing. Searching for something new is often the start of the process of internal reinvention too. For many, stores are the promised land of possibility.
I do feel a need to be completely candid about my bouts with recreational retail these days. I am a chronic roam-through-the-aisles person to see if I can find a deal on things I don’t actually need — but — it might be a bargain too hard to resist, like on the third markdown. I try hard not to think with my sale brain (that’s the one I use when I lose all reason about why I should not buy it). Logically I know that getting caught up in pursuit of the almighty bargain, and buying an item mostly because the store is practically giving it away, is just wrong.
If I do end up buying something truly special on sale, OMG I enjoy a tremendous sense of pride and accomplishment along with the bragging rights on my shopping savvy.
Then when someone tells me how much they like the great skirt I am wearing, I caress the fabric, smile, and in a proud manner herald “Twenty bucks. Winners.”
Ultimately, we need to ask ourselves: How much will more clothing add to our happiness?
But if you can’t stop thinking about it … BUY IT.
An excerpt from Wear Your Life Well: Lessons on the Journey to Your Truest Self
Copyright: Helene Oseen 2017