‘My name’s Diane and I’m a shopaholic…’
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If the syndrome was applied to a scale, I’d be at the lower end. I don’t spend lots and lots of money for the sake of it—I still make conscious buying decisions, and I won’t spend above a certain amount on any one item, a threshold that would be low to a lot of people.
However, I can’t deny that I buy many things that I don’t need.
I admit, I get a buzz from buying things. It doesn’t matter if it’s a Costa coffee or a new top, if I want it, I will justify the expenditure. Though, as mentioned above, I wouldn’t spend more than £20 on any one item out of principle, in my mind, it’s okay to buy a few £20 items. I know this doesn’t make sense…for example, I’ll baulk at an £80 price tag on a single product and refuse to pay such an amount; however, my brain doesn’t see an accumulation of products that equal £80 as a bad thing. I have no idea why.
My wardrobe bulges. I even have half my husband’s hanging rail, as he’s the exact opposite to me, and not interested in spending any money at all, if he can get away with it.
I know that I over-consume. Clothes, experiences, food, you name it. I always have. I don’t know how to stop it, and I don’t know that I’d want to, as I feel that my life would be very drab indeed.
My decisions don’t just impact me and my family (particularly my long-suffering husband), but also society as a whole.
Retail overconsumption has become a growing problem in the UK, leading to a range of negative consequences. From the overproduction and waste of resources to the exploitation of labour and the perpetuation of unsustainable consumer habits, the consequences of our dependence on retail overconsumption are felt both locally and globally.
One of the most significant issues is our dependence on fast fashion. Fast fashion refers to the trend of rapidly producing and quickly selling low-cost clothing, which encourages consumers to frequently update their wardrobes with the latest trends. Whilst fast fashion may be popular with consumers, its negative impacts are felt by the environment, workers, and communities.
For churning out fast fashion items, foreign workers are often paid very low wages. They also work long hours in unsafe conditions. The use of synthetic materials and chemicals in the production of fast fashion also has a significant environmental impact, which includes the pollution of waterways, soil degradation, and carbon emissions. Once consumers have tired of the latest trend, and to make room for more fast fashion, they send tonnes of textile waste to landfill.
The overproduction of fast fashion also contributes to the depletion of natural resources—including water, energy, and raw materials. Textile production is known to be one of the most polluting industries globally, with the production of a single cotton T-shirt requiring 2,700 litres of water. Fast fashion’s global supply chain also creates a significant carbon footprint, as goods are transported across continents and as products are shipped to retail stores.
The constant bombardment of advertising and marketing campaigns for fast fashion, which promote the latest trends and looks, encourages consumers to buy more than they need. The pressure to ‘keep up appearances’ only creates and perpetuates a culture of overconsumption and waste.
Online shopping has made it even easier for consumers to indulge in retail overconsumption, with next-day delivery and free returns making it possible to order and return items quickly and easily. It has led to the development of a 'throwaway culture', where items are frequently bought and quickly discarded.
Retail overconsumption in the UK is also linked to a rise in consumer debt. Access to credit is relatively easy, and the constant promotion of sales and discounts has led many consumers to accumulate significant amounts of debt, which can have long-term financial consequences. Credit also enables immediate gratification and allows consumers to purchase items they might not be able to afford.
To address the problems of retail overconsumption in the UK, there needs to be a collective effort from consumers and retailers. Consumers can make a significant impact by adopting sustainable and ethical consumption habits—such as buying second-hand clothing, investing in high-quality, long-lasting products, and reducing the frequency of their purchases.
Retailers can play a vital role by adopting sustainable production and distribution practices. This includes investing in sustainable materials, reducing waste, and improving working conditions for employees throughout the supply chain. Retailers could also encourage sustainable consumer habits by promoting slow fashion and educating the public on the environmental and social impacts of overconsumption.
I do peruse charity shops from time to time, and I can get as much of a buzz from buying a second-hand item than I do from purchasing something new. However, being a larger lady, there’s not always a lot to choose from in charity outlets, which limits what might appeal when I visit one.
I know I need to curb my habit, for my purse as well as the environment. To someone who doesn’t have an addictive personality, the solution must seem quite simple, but it’s not for me. I’d need to replace this ‘fix’ with something more socially, environmentally and financially acceptable.
If you have any ideas what this could be, do let me know…