Remember when people shopped out of necessity? When they bought what they needed, walked away from what they wanted and saved for a rainy day?
Now women list shopping for new clothes as a hobby - and it seems self-restraint has gone out of the shop window.
Yet another pair of designer heels, a new handbag to add to a collection already worth almost as much as their car, another new dress to save rifling through the wardrobe for the one bought just last week, the shopaholic female must be keeping the recession-struck high street afloat in troubled times.
Women are now predicted to spend an average of £83,498 in their lifetimes on a whopping 3,109 items of clothing, with shoppers in Yorkshire and the Humber only a fraction behind with a spend of £81,002.
Those under 25 are the worst culprits - across the UK, they are predicted to spend a staggering total of £129,903 on their wardrobes says research from Sure Women Linen Dry. Those aged 25-34 are not far behind with an average lifetime spend of £100,847.
Older women spend less; 45-54 year olds will splash out an average of £78,032 and women over 55 spend £63,571, less than half what women the age of their daughters are likely to rack up.
Yet the Sure research reveals it’s still not enough; despite their bulging wardrobes, some 60 per cent of women say they struggle to find something to wear for work or an evening out. Impulse-buying is becoming the norm; at least once a week, one in ten head off to shop in their lunch-break for something to wear that night.
Last month, Meadowhall Shopping Centre even made a light-hearted bid the get fashion shopping officially listed as a sport - and staged its own heptathlon shopping event, for which a flurry of female shopping addicts flocked to ‘shop for England’.
What fuels a woman’s frenzied spending? We caught up with three of the contestants to quiz them about their shopping vices...
To help women refresh their wardrobes for free, deodorant brand Sure Women are offering the chance to win a brand new outfit from French Connection’s latest collection every day until September 30.
Pick up a limited edition can of Sure Women antiperspirant, go to www.surewomen.co.uk and enter your code to be in with a chance of winning.
Retail therapy ‘is the new fitness workout’
Sinead Buckley reckons shopping is as good for her as exercise.
“When you find something you love, it releases happy endorphins, just the same way sport and fitness does,” reasons the 28-year-old marketing manager.
“It’s my Number One hobby, without a doubt. Staying on trend is important to me.”
To fund all that shopping, Sinead has two jobs. She also works on Saturdays on the BeneFit cosmetics counter at Debenhams in Doncaster.
“I love my Saturday job; it’s not like work; I adore beauty products and I get to put make-up on customers all day long while checking out all the new styles and colours. Plus it gives me money to pay for treats, like holidays and clothes,” says the single girl who rents her own ‘Carrie Bradshaw-style apartment’ in Bennethorpe.
All that work means less time for shopping, though. So she’s worked out a strategy: “I speed-shop. It’s like Supermarket Sweep weekdays on my 30-minute lunch-break,” she says. “I Hoover things up that take my eye and buy them even if I’m not totally sure I like them or that they will fit - I rarely have time to try things on. Usually most things are fine - I think I’ve got a good eye now. But I do make mistakes. My flat is full of things I’ve bought, never worn but didn’t get around to taking back in time for a refund. “
On Sundays, her one day off, she heads to Meadowhall, Leeds or York for a more leisurely and more focused fix - usually solo. “I can concentrate better if I’m not with my friends.”
Sinead rarely goes a week without buying some new fashion item. She can’t possibly need them; her wardrobe is so crammed full, the rail has broken and it’s listing to one side.
But when a girl hates ironing the way Sinead does, it’s easier - and more enjoyable - to pick up a new top on her way home to wear that night than rifle through an ironing pile so high she confesses “I’ve actually forgotten what’s in there.”
Monthly spend: “I don’t know; I’m too scared to add it up!”
Biggest vices: Sunglasses - she has 12 pairs. “And blazers; they are my latest thing. I have six in different colours.”
Daily search to feed addiction for bargains
Roxie Skinner cannot resist a bargain.
She buys clothes or accessories every single day, but rarely pays full price when feeding her addiction.
That’s because she spends up to three hours a day trawling ebay for cheaper versions of the must-have pieces she’s spotted on the high street.
She says the buzz she gets from finding what she wants at a discounted price is almost as exciting as the wearing of a new outfit.
Roxie has been known to stay up late so she can shop online when the clock strikes pay-day at a minute past midnight - and has a bargain codes app on her mobile phone so it’s always to hand.
Though she occasionally ‘borrows’ from the money she has set aside for bills and the mortgage at her house in Cantley, she manages to keep her fashion spending to a fairly modest - by young women’s standards - £200 on clothes every month.
Her passion for a bargain does cost her dear in other ways, though. The 24-year-old, a sales assistant for her dad’s computer company, spends hours of her life on the internet, has stacks of clothes she’s bought on a whim and doesn’t like - and has so much stuff, she has filled four double wardrobes.
It takes her extra time to re-list the things she’s tired of. She currently has to large binbags of unwanted pieces she’s selling on ebay.
“Most of my bargain-hunting is done in my own time, but I confess some of it is done when I’m meant to be working. I’m sat at a computer all day and it’s so tempting to start looking as sales and hunt for bargain codes,” she says.
Roxie puts her passion for fashion down to the constantly changing trends. “There’s always a new look to follow, which outdates what you already have,” she says. “It’s hugely addictive.”
Monthly spend: £200
Biggest vices: Going-out dresses - “I like to wear a new one each time.” Anything featuring a skull design - “I’ve got skull bags, jewellery, clothes - you name it,” she says.
What the average shopaholic buys in her lifetime:
271 pairs of shoes, totalling £13,898
185 dresses, totalling £7,699
145 bags, totalling £5,420
£5,905 worth of jeans
How my clothes-buying has become a problem
“I just love buying new clothes and hanging them up in my wardrobe. I’m a shopaholic - to the point of it becoming a problem...”
Sheffield recruitment consultant Hannah Demari-Thompson admits to her addiction with such cheerfulness, it’s hard to believe she really thinks there’s an issue.
She’s certainly not about to stop shopping. In fact, she’ll soon have two big reasons to spurge on yet more new clothes. Hannah, 26, of Auckley in Doncaster, is having a boob job in late August.
“I’m worrying that my blouses and jackets won’t fit afterwards,” she says, sounding not the least bit fretful. Certainly, it’s not enough of a concern for the mum of one to cancel the op.
“I’m going ahead. I’ve needed my boobs doing for ages; they got ruined when I was pregnant. I’ll just have to buy more things,” he laughs. “ I was born in Essex - and I’m definitely still an Essex girl at heart!”
Hannah reckons she spends around £600 a month on fashion - the equivalent of a sizeable mortgage - and that her passion now extends to her son’s wardrobe.
Finn is four and sounds like one of the best-dressed kids in Doncaster.
“He loves going shopping in Meadowhall with me; he’s definitely got the bug,” says Hannah, who was crowned shop-athon champion at the centre’s sporting-style shopping contest. - a title which won her around £300 of free clothes, make-up and shoes.
“Finn is happy to let me shop for myself because he knows it’s his turn next. I bought him four pairs of trainers the other day, but what he loves the most is a trip to the DisneyStore.”
Hannah says her fashion splurging is not out of control: “I spend what I can afford; I have store cards that I pay off, but I don’t spend on credit cards. I work hard and I love nice things.
“My new baby is my Chanel J12 wristwatch; I’d had my eye on it for some time. I had a very good month at work recently so I treated myself. I don’t see anything wrong in that,” she says.
Other adored new purchases include a pair of suede boots ‘as worn by Kerry Rowland on the X-Factor.’
“They’re gorgeous; I got them from Venezia boutique in Doncaster, which is one of my favourite shops.”
Hannah is ‘a high street girl’ when it comes to clothes, but a designer diva when it comes to accessories.
“I don’t mind spending a lot of money on classy shoes, bags, belts and jewellery because they transform any outfit and last for ages,” says the woman who is on first-name terms with staff at Meadowhall’s Mulberry concession.
She is the proud owner of a black Mulberry Bayswater bag, thanks to the generosity of her dad. But wouldn’t you know it, the woman with an eternal wish-list has another piece of arm candy in her sights; she’s lusting after a Hermes Birkin bag - her “ultimate acquisition.”
Monthly spend: £600
Biggest vices: High-end shoes, bags and jewellery.
The most common impulse purchases are on accessories (24 per cent) and tops (44 per cent)And some shopaholics do have a guilty conscience; 14 per cent of women have hidden purchases from their partners.