Buying More Clothes Isn’t Making Us Any Happier

by: Rosie Dalton | 1 year ago | News

Image: movie still from Confessions of a Shopaholic. Image source.

According to Morgan Stanley analyst Geoff Ruddell, the days of “retail therapy” are pretty much in the past. And low prices just don’t spark as much joy now as they once did. “Consumers have reached peak happiness with clothing purchases,” Ruddell says in a new note. This is because, as CNBC writes: “consumers already own so many clothes”.

Fast fashion in particular is to blame here, with inexpensive clothing directly related to bloated wardrobes all over the world. According to data from Kantar, for example, the average American consumer purchases around 65 pieces of clothing each year. This has resulted in a new state of consumption fatigue, Ruddell says.

His theory here is based on the Law of Diminishing Marginal Utility: “as consumption increases, the marginal ‘utility’ (or happiness) derived from each additional unit declines.” And as a result, many consumers would now rather spend their hard-earned dollars on “going out for a meal, than on buying a 60th item of clothing in a year,” Ruddell says.

So, what is the solution here, then? Buying less is certainly on the cards for many consumers and so is buying clothes with ethical-values, as well as embracing the shifting nature of ownership. As McKinsey wrote earlier on this year, “younger generations are more interested in sustainable clothing than older consumers, and rental models lengthen the product life cycle while offering the newness consumers desire.”

When in doubt, then, just do as Dame Vivienne Westwood does: “Buy less, choose well, make it last.”

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