No one can stop talking about how bad the retail outlook is. Everyone's worried that no one will buy everything up this holiday season, and already there are reports that buyers are putting in much smaller orders for Spring 09 as compared to past seasons. So this fact might sounds strange: Online shopping is up. In fact, overall, it's up 12% over last year. WWD attributes this to consumers saying they can find better deals online, can do more comparison shopping, and that the price of gas has informed how much/far they're willing to go for a party dress. Indeed, one could even attribute designers suddenly offering up previously unavailable e-commerce opportunities to their customers (Lutz & Patmos just launched a shopping component to their site, as well as Pucci, and Net-a-Porter continues to score site-exclusives from designers like Preen and Richard Nicoll) as an accommodation to this trend. But we have another, not at all scientific theory to propose: Shame shopping.
We think there's a growing population of people shopping more online not because of the reasons they say aloud, but because it's easier, it's faster, and in a weird way, it's guilt-free. Because the thing about shopping online is that you do it alone, you do it at night (assuming you have a day job to sustain all these purchases), and you pay for it with a credit card, which is always kind of a surreal experience in terms of your bank account anyway. And the most vital aspect? You still get to feel like, "Well, the economy's bad, so I really shouldn't be shopping," while still getting that beribboned black bag from Net-a-Porter on your doorstep just one day after a few hazy clicks. (Even WWD's expert on the matter points out that almost half of these shoppers keeping e-commerce on the rise are the "ultraaffluents" - those who make over $250,000 per year.) Yesterday morning, the first thing Britt said when she walked into the office was, "I spent yesterday around the Fifth Avenue shopping area, and it was so quiet. Nobody was out there." But we think those Barneys and Neiman girls didn't just disappear. We're pretty sure they're still shopping, just, in the closet. Because how else does one explain a $1,400 dress that no one's seen in person selling out in every size (in black) in just two days?