Of all the mysteries in the world, one of the most profound is – why do women shop. A man can probably go through most of his adult career with a pair of conservatively stitched suits and matching ties. My old man still takes great pride in a dark, striped one that he got stitched when he had just been commissioned into the forces. I remember the time when he even had a slightly worn one handed over to me just before I graduated from college and was trying to land my first job. Barring a few roughish teenage years, where one probably was on the wrong side of everything, I’ve never felt any great urge to spent hard earned money on anything made of cloth or leather that one may not be able to use more than once a week.
But women – well … and pardon the cliché – they are a different ball of wax altogether. Women looooove to shop. You can pile a truckload of misfortunes on a man and all it will take him to make peace with the world and everything in it is two beers and a solitary walk in the night. A woman, one the other hand will require a couple of hours of manicure, pedicure, facial and what-not-cure (I guess they must have a great variety of such ‘cures’) followed by a few hours of shopping.
So we have a family function coming up. I’ll be faithfully sticking to a two piece that I got stitched for my wedding. She will, of course, shop for a new one. I remember my brother-in-law’s advice when I was getting married. He was a couple of years into his marriage by that time and much the wiser for it. He said, “look man – when women say they don’t have anything to wear, it typically means that they don’t have anything that washed and freshly pressed. But when they say they don’t have anything ‘nice’ to wear, that supposed to mean that you haven’t bought her anything new in a while”. And so, my better half made it apparent yesterday that she did not have anything ‘nice’ to wear to the upcoming function.
Infact serious debate has raged over whether the ‘lipstick index’ should be considered a valid indicator of tough times in the economy – data seems to suggest that when the economy isn’t doing so well, women tend to buy more smaller ticket items such as lipstick to compensate for the decrease in spending on other more expensive ones. The equity market tanked post the internet bubble in 2000 but looking at lipstick sales, one would’ve guessed otherwise. And if you thought that her cosmetics were burning a hole in through your credit card – think again. According to HBR, women now control (or should I say ‘control’) about $20 trillion in annual consumer spending and this figure could climb as high as $28 trillion in the next five years…In aggregate, women represent a growth market bigger than China and India combined – and more than twice as big.
And then there’s jewelery – gold to be precise. Their love for the yellow metal on many occasions outstrips the love for their spouses (I have never been showered with so much love and affection as the heavy necklace that she got at our wedding – I mean she go us both at the same time – and I do like to think that I can do much more than to just ‘hang around’)
The IMF recently sold off 200 tons of gold and guess who bought it all – the Indian Reserve Bank. The governor of the RBI, who is a very wise man, must’ve seen it coming. The all time high gold prices seem to have made bullion all that more appealing to the fairer sex. I am sure it wouldn’t be long before the wise man makes another round to the marketplace and gets hold of a few hundred tonnes more .. he’s not going to be a very popular man at his job otherwise.
But then these are just rumblings of a weak mind still unable to wrestle out an answer to the original question – why do women shop?