Shoppers 'plagued by guilt' after splashing out

As dirty habits go, it is perhaps not the most unsavoury.

But according to a new study, shoppers are resorting to secrecy and lies to hide their splurges and are plagued by guilt each time they indulge.

And their pangs of remorse could be costing retailers dear - 17% of consumers have returned goods as a result, leading to an estimated £32 million in lost sales.

The study, conducted by comparison website uSwitch.com, found more than one third of shoppers (35%) feel bad after splashing out - meaning 17 million people could suffer from "post-purchase blues".

And for six in 10 people surveyed (59%), a trip to the high street no longer offers pleasurable retail therapy.

Meanwhile a third said shopping had become something of a "stealth mission" and admitted hiding purchases from their partner, family or friends.

Some 35% said they had lied about the cost of items.

The findings also pointed towards a reversal of the so-called "Primark Effect" and the trend for cheap "throwaway" fashion.

According to the study, half of consumers (50%) have stopped high street shopping since the start of the recession, unless they are buying replacement goods.

And more than one in 10 (11%) now prefer to buy one expensive item which will last rather than lots of cheaper "disposable" alternatives.

Ann Robinson, director of consumer policy at uSwitch.com, said financial constraints and a return to frugality meant consumers were "no longer in thrall to the high street".

"The recession has left a legacy of guilty shoppers in its wake and as a result the British love affair with retail therapy is beginning to pale," she said.

"For many, seeking escape through retail therapy isn't quite the remedy they expect.

"Instead of being a pick-me-up, a trip to the high street now only seems to bring them face to face with their financial worries, adding to their woes."

Of those who reported post-shopping guilt, 48% said they felt they should be saving, 32% felt they should be keeping cash back for "bigger priorities" including bills and mortgages and 27% simply felt guilty for spending unnecessarily.

Many shamefaced shoppers also attributed their most recent purchase to a "one-off moment of weakness", with 38% vowing never to splash out in the same way again.

uSwitch.com consulted 1,127 adults for the study earlier this month.

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