Retail therapy: A strategic effort to improve mood


  • The authors wish to thank William T. Ross, Harish Sujan, and anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments on an earlier draft; Eileen LaFauci for her help with the data collection; and the Pennsylvania Real Estate Investment Trust for allowing the field study data to be collected at one of their facilities. This research was partially funded by monies from the Smeal College of Business and the Schreyer Honors College at The Pennsylvania State University.


“Retail therapy” is often applied to the notion of trying to cheer oneself up through the purchase of self-treats. The negative moods that lead to retail therapy, however, have also been associated with greater impulsivity and a lack of behavioral control. Does this lead to mindless shopping when consumers are “down” and regret later? The current work documents that a bad mood does lead to greater purchase and consumption of unplanned treats for the self. However, it also provides evidence that the consumption of self-treats can be strategically motivated. Those individuals who do indulge can also exercise restraint if the goal of restraint also leads to improved mood. Finally, retail therapy has lasting positive impacts on mood. Feelings of regret and guilt are not associated with the unplanned purchases made to repair a bad mood. The implications of the research are discussed. © 2011 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.