YOUNG BUCKS-Time to be your own Santa Claus?

Tue Dec 4, 2012 10:42am EST
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By Lauren Young

NEW YORK Dec 4 (Reuters) - It's the season for eggnog, mistletoe - and the mad retail rush.

This year more Americans are forgoing shopping malls for their favorite websites. They are also buying what they want for themselves instead of waiting for someone to present it to them as a gift.

Shopping guru Paco Underhill is the founder of consulting firm Envirosell and author of several books on consumer behavior including "Why We Buy: The Science of Shopping" and "What Women Want." He explains how and why consumption is changing in the United States.

Q. What's different about this holiday shopping season? A. Americans are very ready to come out of a recession, if the rest of the world would let us. We are tired of gloom and doom. Three years ago, conspicuous consumption was considered to be bad manners. People are tired of being restrained. More of us think: "If I have a job, I'm not as afraid of losing it as I was last year."

Some of us are doing just fine in this post-recession. The "haves" are back shopping.

Q. More of us are shopping online. What does this say about Americans - are we lazy, cheap or something else? A. Online shopping is female-friendly. But there's another side to this process - it's taken the cyber world by surprise and thrown the data mining community for a complete loop. The "retail therapy" women used to do at the mall is now happening online.

Retailers like eBay and Gilt are asking: Why is this woman looking at clothes but not buying? They don't realize that she's not there to shop; she's there to fantasize. Women are on these websites for two hours-plus at a time. Unlike going to the mall, you don't have to dress up, drive, park or put on lipstick when you look at eBay from the comfort of your bed on your iPad or iPhone. Q. According to the National Retail Foundation, 20 percent of us buy gifts for ourselves when shopping for others. What's behind self-gifting? A. Many more Americans are living alone, particularly women who are single and later in their lives, who have pots of discretionary income. This is the time for so many of them to self-gift, to be their own Santa Claus. The thinking is: "If nobody else will give me what I want, I can buy it myself." That explains marketing strategies like the right-hand ring (which jewelers target to single women).

Q. How is social media changing the way we shop? A. The wholesomeness of social media is rapidly being corrupted. People believe things online more than when they read it in a magazine, but they shouldn't. At least magazines make some semblance of fact-checking.   Continued...