Every November, millions of Americans gather all across the country to take part in an exciting event that has become a quasi-holiday for most of its participants. No, I’m talking about Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. The event that I’m referring to is Black Friday. Which has become more of a national event—than just a day for shoppers to take advantage of discounts.
The retail extravaganza is the shopping equivalent of the Super Bowl for the millions of Americans who begin anticipating the next mad dash to discounts the moment that it ends each year.
Despite the images we’ve all seen from afar or experienced first-hand of mad shoppers hastily bum-rushing department stores the moment they open; and the occasional fights over discounted electronics on Black Friday—shopping is actually a very therapeutic experience.
In fact, according to a study conducted by the University Of Michigan, shopping actually helps to relieve sadness. And while shopping is therapeutic year-round, here’s a few reasons why retail therapy is most effective in the fall.
1. It alleviates separation anxiety
Let’s face it, most of us that either majored in marketing or enrolled in numerous marketing courses in college—partly did so in hopes of learning about some top secret formula that would help us understand and attract customers to a certain degree.
And while we learned many effective marketing tactics and methods to accumulate and analyze consumer data from our professors and the required textbooks we read—we never did come across that top secret formula we hoped we’d find (it was fun searching for it though).
The truth is—there is no secret formula. However, I’ve discovered that when it comes to what truly motivates the vast majority of consumers to actually purchase a product—there are only three determinants: adulation, exhilaration, and alleviation. For the moment, let’s focus on that last one—alleviation.
For most adults, the fun distractions of summer often permits neglect; while the weather patterns of fall gives us more time to reflect. And what happens when we reflect? We tend to think about those that we’re separated from—either physically or emotionally; which often makes us sad. And when we’re sad—we search for dopamine that’ll alleviate that sadness.
Which is a huge reason why we tend to turn to retail therapy more so in the fall, than any other season.
“When someone purchases an item, this is recognized by the brain as a reward and chemicals are released, specifically dopamine.” Says Beth Gabriel, DNP, a psychiatric mental health practitioner. Shopping is an activity that provides temporary dopamine that helps us alleviate separation anxiety—which is very therapeutic.
2. Generosity is alleviating
Rewards come in many forms. In some cases, it comes as a result of receiving a prize for hard work. In others, it could simply come by way of no action at all by the recipient. But believe it or not—some of the best rewards come by way of simply giving to others.
Studies have found that when we give—it actually alleviates anxiety and stress. That, in itself—is a reward of its own. And there’s no time of the year for which we give more than the holidays.
Each fall, shoppers begin searching high and low for the perfect holiday gifts for family, friends, and coworkers. Whether it’s online or by way of brick-and-mortar retailers—shopping for others makes us feel better in a myriad of ways. One of those ways is subconsciously combating stress and anxiety by alleviating it through the simple act of shopping for loved ones—especially during the holiday season.
3. Black Friday is exhilarating
If you’ve never participated in a Black Friday event at a department store before —I suggest you do so at least once in your lifetime. Sure, there’s a good chance that you could end up at the bottom of a stampede. But boy is it a fun experience.
Black Friday has almost become an American sport. But instead of securing a victory by scoring the most points—a shopper wins by securing and purchasing discounted items before other shoppers can beat them to the punch. And much like the Super Bowl—Black Friday is typically a one-day event that occurs each fall (though the Super Bowl occurs during the winter)—which only adds to the anticipation for its participants.
Remember, people only purchase products for three reasons; and one of those reasons is exhilaration.
So, the next time you see a group of people camping out in front of a department store the night before Black Friday—try to view them more as athletes training early for the big game—as opposed to just materialistic consumers that’ll fight their fellow shoppers for the fifth flat-screen television for their home.
4. Aristotle was right…man is a social animal
Lastly, retail therapy isn’t just about purchasing products. A big part of retail therapy consists of simply getting out of the house and being in stores around other people. That’s because, whether they’ll admit it or not—most people yearn to be around their peers.
Which is why hanging out at the mall actually used to be an important event—especially for teens.
More so than any other season, fall is the time of the year when people are most likely to be surrounded by a vast amount of people in stores—which is why emotionally—people tend to enjoy fall shopping that much more.
Even if it’s only window shopping, getting out of the house and socializing with others in a public place is a very therapeutic experience—especially when you’re not competing against them for that last discounted flat-screen TV.