Americans are portrayed as the world’s ultimate consumers, with the oversized homes, walk-in closets, overflowing storage units—and monstrous credit card bills—to prove it. We must really love shopping, right? Then why is it that in a new survey, consumers in India and China were more than twice as likely as Americans to say they enjoy clothes shopping?
In a recent Harris Interactive poll, residents of various countries were asked whether they liked or disliked shopping for clothes. In the U.S., 39% said that they either liked or loved hitting the shops to hunt for clothes, while 30% felt neutral and another 30% said they disliked it. But in India, 58% said they love shopping for clothes, and another 34% answered they liked it, for a total of 92% falling on the shopping=fun side of the spectrum, and only 1% said they disliked clothes shopping. The Chinese also get their kicks from clothes shopping, with 79% saying they like or love it.
The only country surveyed that liked clothes shopping less than in the U.S. was, bizarrely, a nation known to be among the world’s most fashionable, France (38% enjoy it).
So what gives?
Putting France aside for a moment—perhaps they’re too snooty to admit to enjoying the crass bourgeois activity of shopping for clothes—one might theorize that, human nature being what it is, whenever something is new, it’s more exciting and enjoyable. What with the economies in China and India booming in recent years, for the first time ever huge populations have found themselves with that rarest of treasures: disposable income. And, as anyone who can recall his first paycheck can attest, it’s a lot more fun spending money the first time you’re able, rather than the tenth or 3,000th time. Disposable income is never more fun than when you’ve previously never had the option to dispose of it however you please.
Residents in China and India also feel strongly about brands. When asked how they felt about brand names for clothes and accessories, 72% and 74% in China and India, respectively, said they were important. In the U.S. and throughout Europe, meanwhile, less than 30% felt the same way, with roughly 75% answering that brand names were not important.
A survey from earlier this year highlighted in a WSJ blog post shows that the Chinese are shopping and consuming at a much quicker pace than Americans, and that 36% of Chinese consumers will pay a premium for a product with a major brand name, compared to 24% in the U.S.
So it appears that shoppers in China and India not only enjoy shopping more than in the U.S., but that they’re consuming in particularly conspicuous, showy fashion.
Here in the U.S., meanwhile, we’ve been conspicuous consumers for so long that perhaps it’s gotten boring. The average mall shopper already has a closet full of clothes, so it’s hard to get too jazzed about another sweater or pair of shoes to add to the collection. It’s as if American consumers are just going through the motions, shopping out of habit and faux necessity, rather than actually enjoying the activity.
The question is: If you’re not truly enjoying it, why are you doing it?
(MORE: Why a China Slowdown Will Happen)