When I was younger, I used to love nothing more than spending my Saturdays at the shops. Whether it was hanging out with friends or family, there was nothing more exciting than shopping. Looking for that new outfit for a Saturday night, the perfect make up and accessories, gifts or shoes. Then as I became a student, I'd love pouring over second hand book shops, marvelling at the dusty tomes. When I started a family, it was a whole new level of shopping - cute toys, clothes, bedroom furniture, the must-have pushchairs...the list could go on. You get the idea....
Nowadays, unless I'm looking for something specific, shopping has a tendency to bore me and I try and avoid it if I can. I don't buy magazines, I mute the adverts if they come on TV and I spurn commercial radio stations.....what changed?
The first step was working in retail. Seeing the effort and wizadry (for want of a better word) that goes into advertising and promoting products. The tricks that some advertisers use to persuade audiences that they must have the latest gadget, fashion item or toy. I've lost count of the times that I've fallen prey to this. Only this week, I've decluttered kitchen equipment that I've never used (spiralizer, anyone?) and clothes that have rarely been worn. Yesterday, I listed the latest, most fantastic ceramic hair straighteners on eBay....I was sucked into buying them last Christmas for almost £100. And just listed them for £10. They have, as yet, no watchers or bids.
Then I worked as a mystery shopper, and that really made me think. We were to check if the advertising was right, the customer was greeted correctly, enough attempts were made to sell and upsell....the list goes on. After a while, it did leave me with some cynicism.
Then there's the all out advertising we see for the holidays....It's August, the end of summer is barely approaching, and I don't want to see it end just yet - but already I've seen mention of autumnal Halloween. Don't get me wrong, I'm all for carving out a pumpkin and having fun... I just don't enjoy all the add-on "must-have" purchases we'll no doubt start to see soon.
These days my shopping strategy has changed. I still need to shop, and if I'm buying something special then I do enjoy the process, but I like to think more about what I'm buying. Here are some of the principles that I try to follow -
Buy less and buy better - I want to buy the best quality items that I can afford and to buy once. I want products that last and do what they're supposed to do. Last year, a big success was my son's BMX bike, he's played and played on it. Fails? All the extraneous add on gifts I felt compelled to buy, the stocking fillers, the mini figures, the clutter... I probably had more fun buying it than the kids had playing with them. Lesson learned.
Brand loyalty is back - if I find a product that I love then I'll stick with it. An example would be my iPhone - I know it works, it does what I want it to do and it's easy to use. If it breaks (read - if I drop it down the loo or let the kids meddle with it), I get it fixed.
Keep it simple - These days, I like to buy all I can in smaller stores. The independent traders in our street have great, quality produce and I love to buy local if I can.
Value your time - If I need to do a big grocery shop, then I'll head to our local discount store (in the UK my local is Aldi)... there's less choice and less time spent shopping. If I want baked beans there's regular or value - not 25 different tins from different brands to choose from.
Keep it natural - if something is wholesome and good for you, then there won't need to be multiple health claims or bylines. Research where your items come from, where they're made and who benefits. I'm starting to love smaller, independent retailers and stores.
Get involved - my favourite place to learn about new products is Instagram, which may sound a little strange. Why do I love it? It's a great place to make connections, get involved in conversations, meet independent retailers and get product recommendations from real people.
I'd love to hear how you shop - do you love it or hate it? Do you stay loyal to brands or do you prefer shopping around for the best deal? Please join the conversation below.