We often hear about all kinds of addictions, alcohol, drugs but we hardly give the same importance to a buying addiction. The truth is that fast fashion buying addiction is still an addiction.
The research found that compulsive buying is estimated to be between 6% to 7% and proves that younger adults are more prone to develop this compulsion. According to European studies, compulsive buying in adults has increased over the last 20 years.
Is fast fashion an addiction?
Consumers end up on a hedonic treadmill in which the constant search for new stuff leaves them not only unhappy but also unfulfilled.
Then why do we constantly buy new things if that doesn’t make us happy?
Apparently, that is something that comes naturally to us.
According to scientists, the reason for this is that our dopamine level increases when we experience something new or exciting. Dopamine is in charge of the brain’s reward and pleasure center, it doesn’t only help us in identifying a reward but also to move toward them.
Our brain’s reward and pleasure center are way more active when we see items in sales. We are easily convinced to purchase that because we have an instant reward. This means that we don’t even stop to think if we need that or not.
Even though we have parts in our brain that are helping us to rationalize a decision, that region of our brain is barely active when we have a discount.
That’s why in many cases, we buy impulsively and when we get home we realize that actually, we didn’t need that or that we don’t even like it that much.
There is, however, a part of our brain that has an uncomfortable feeling similar to pain, that is triggered when spending money, but due to the use of credit cards instead of cash, we can barely feel that anymore.
A big reason why we constantly want to buy new things even though that instant happiness ends after the purchase is done is because dopamine is released in anticipation of the reward and not during.
That’s why we keep on going for more, because the moment we have purchased it, there is no more dopamine in our brain to make us happy or excited. It works just like a drug that’s what makes this a real addiction.
How is fast fashion contributing to consumer buying addiction?
“You see this a lot with clothing. Part of the joy you get from shopping is not just that you bought something that you really like and you’re going to use, but also that you got a good deal”- Tom Meyvis professor of marketing at NYU’s
Fast fashion understood this neurological process very well. The fast-fashion brands not only sell clothes at an extremely cheap price to start with, but they also use marketing schemes, such as red sales boards that persuade the consumer to buy even more.
The brands know that when consumers are trapped in this fast fashion buying addiction, they are constantly coming back to check for new items. That’s why brands, such as H&M get clothes delivered daily to the stores.
This is not only increasing an addiction problem to consumers but also an environmental issue, 92 million tonnes of textile waste is created every single year which is equivalent to a rubbish truck full of clothes ending up in a landfill every 2 seconds.
Now that we see that fast fashion buying addiction is a real thing.
Let’s check out some crazy facts:
According to a report by the Urban Land Institute, 45% of Millenials spend more than an hour each day looking at retail sites. This obsession with constantly checking products even if buying is not the end goal happens among the generations that were raised with the internet.
A total of 70 % of women and 50% of men consider shopping a form of entertainment. The research explained that searching for the best products, best prices, envisioning how clothing or accessories would look on them is part of what we consider to be entertainment.
This particular research makes us understand why there was such a big increase in purchase in the last 15 years. Something that used to be done just out of necessity has become a type of entertainment which in some cases even leads to addiction.
The digital era also made it extremely easy to purchase, we now don’t even have to make time to go to the store to purchase from the fast fashion companies. With a simple click, we will be having our new trendy clothes at our door.
The issue with that is, that our purchasing addiction can easily increase because we are constantly bombarded with all kinds of deals and sales throughout the day.
According to a report entitled “Digital dopamine”, researchers found out after interviewing a total of 1680 people from four different countries (the UK, US, Brazil, and China) that consumers are more excited when purchasing online than when buying in the store due to building in anticipation that the wait creates in the customer.
As consumers we have no control over how fast fashion brands operate, we have no control over what type of scheme they use to increase sales.
However, if we are well informed about this topic, we understand why sometimes we have this rush to buy and why it’s so easy to fall into this trap of constantly wanting new things, we can control it better.
If you are someone that just buys what you need, you have nothing to change, however, I believe that the big majority of us do not fall into that category.
Most of us buy way more than we need, and might even have an addiction that we haven’t even realized. I am not saying that you should become a minimalist, but I do encourage you to think about your purchasing habits.
To find out more about your purchasing habits, just ask yourself:
- Do I buy when I need something?
- Do I buy out of boredom?
- Do I buy because I have a rush of happiness before I acquire something?
- Do I buy because I found a good deal? (Was that deal something that you needed, or you didn’t want to miss it?)
- Do I buy because I like having the latest new trend? (Why do I need that latest trend?)
I believe that these questions will help you find out more about yourself and hopefully in the end will motivate you to purchase less of the things that you don’t need. Because that will not only be good for the environment but also your budget.
Neuroscientist Christian Elger, believes that it’s warning signs when you have a lot of unopened stuff never touched from a year ago, however when you have more unused garments than used ones you already have an addiction problem.
What solutions are there for fast fashion buying addiction?
I personally believe that these tips are good even for people that don’t necessarily have an addiction but after asking the questions from above, they will see a change in their purchase habits.
Unsubscribe yourself from all those newsletters that constantly remind you of the new amazing deal that you can’t miss. That only makes you buy things that in reality you don’t need.
Change your entertainment hobbies, instead of going shopping for new trends, just spend some quality time doing a fun activity with your friends. Spending money on something that you can share with the people you love, will bring you way more satisfaction.
Make a list of things that you truly need and stick to it when you go buy, don’t just buy impulsively when you see a discount.
This challenge is great not only for your budget but also for you to understand what are the things that you actually use and need in your life.
You can do this challenge for a month, a season or a year, it’s up to you. How you want to go about it.
I think that this no shopping challenge is so great, because as the time goes by without you buying anything new, you start giving more value to the things that you already own. Hopefully, you might also realize what you love the most in your wardrobe.
When you do buy something new make sure to put it on a list and keep track of the items and the money you have spent.
The no shopping challenge is great for your budget and also for the planet.
As mentioned above in the article, our brain reacts differently when we give cash to when we pay with our card.
Even if we have a discount of $100, if we have to pay another $100 in cash for the item, we will feel that similar feeling to pain in your brain when giving up the money. Which then will make us think twice when purchasing something.
It has been proven that we give up less easily physical money to money that we can’t see even though it’s still ours. That’s why starting to use cash when we shop for clothes can help us reduce impulsive purchase.
When you are in the shop, and you see all those discounts of cute garments that would look so cute. The moment that you are feeling very tempted just go outside the store.
Going for a walk, or going to have a coffee, makes you less emotional about the purchase and more rational, as you don’t have the item in front of you.
You will see that after being a bit outside the store you have realized that half of the things that you wanted to buy you actually don’t even need and most probably you just wanted to buy because they would give you a great deal.
During that break, think about how those cheap garments were probably made in sweatshops, probably using child labour and harming the environment during the supply chain.