End of the affair: Half of women find shopping a chore

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The Independent Online

Carrie Bradshaw and her friends may have slipped on their Manolo Blahniks for endless hours of retail therapy but a study suggests the love affair young women have with the high street is over.

Carrie Bradshaw and her friends may have slipped on their Manolo Blahniks for endless hours of retail therapy but a study suggests the love affair young women have with the high street is over.

Shopping does not provide many modern women with the "shopaholic's high" that it gave the Sex and the City generation, a study shows. It found that 47 per cent of women now considered buying clothes a time-consuming and costly chore.

More than a quarter of female shoppers were revealed to be "fashion phobes" who abhorred the prospect of scouring streets and malls for this season's "must-haves".

The backlash against retail therapy appears to be dominated by women aged 20 to 24 whose dislike of shopping has trebled since 2002. One in 10 now has a shopping phobia.

The report, Womenswear Retailing, by the research company Mintel, revealed that 42 per cent of women bought clothes only when necessary and did not spend hours trawling stores. Although one in five of the 1,685 women questioned counted shopping as a major hobby, an equal number said they did not keep up with trends.

Shaheed Alam, an analyst for Mintel, said the findings indicated women had shifted their leisure-time priorities. "There appears to be more pressure on women's leisure-time ... and many do not go shopping for fun. It is not necessarily the case that they do not have the time; they could be more inclined to go out socialising or seeing family than go shopping.

"Women are increasingly using the internet to shop and many are seeking a quick fix which suggests they do not enjoy it like a hobby. They do not want the extra stress and hassle of the crowded shopping centres," he said.

The number of shoppers in their early twenties putting comfort above style has risen by almost 60 per cent. Many buy clothes that last, rather than that seasonal fashions.

Sairey Stemp, market and merchandising editor of Elle magazine, said the tendency to put comfort first originated from the American culture of convenience last summer.

"Women's approach to dressing for comfort became prevalent last summer when the Juicy Couture label came to the UK, selling coloured velour tracksuits that LA stars such as Sarah Michelle Gellar and Gwyneth Paltrow were photographed wearing. They were the start of a big downward trend that took over from combats."

The survey found women to be increasingly discerning, more likely to shop during the bargain season than pay full-price on their credit cards. Forty-six per cent of women admitted bargain-hunting, which researchers said could be a reaction to growing debt and the weight of student loans.

Vanessa Gillingham, senior fashion editor for Glamour, said consumers could be put off by the bewildering amount of merchandise in places such as Oxford Street. "Even though we have the best high street in the world, it is saturated and maybe it gives the shopper too much choice," she said. "There are so many stores there that it may be a case of not knowing where to look."

Another factor that may affect shopping was body image and obesity, she added, plus pressure on women to look fit and healthy. "They may not want to go into the changing rooms when they don't feel great about their bodies. But many women adore shopping. We get phone calls from some prepared to fly to Italy to buy shoes they have seen in the magazine."

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