Shopping. Girls of all ages love it! Ok, maybe some of them are middle aged, and do not qualify to be called girls. But just say the word, or let them loose in a mall or even a store, and the years fall away.

A sense of wonder takes over; they may as well be children staring at the array of glass bottles lined up in a sweet shop, trying to make up their minds about what to buy.

It really does not matter; the fact remains that whether they are 16, 30,or 55, shopping comes infused with adrenaline; the urge for it runs in every woman’s blood.

Women shop for different things. Essentials like groceries, yes. That’s a given. Some do it as a matter of course; the others make it an art, looking at colour, shape, size and weight before making decisions on whether they are worthy of shelling out cash for.

But even the most critical appraiser of groceries finds a strange abandon entering her psyche when she sets out to shop for herself. Clothes, jewellery, makeup, shoes and bags head the list of delectables, and good sense can be banished to slink away quietly as fantasy makes an entrance.

A woman can be princess, corporate honcho, Barbie look-alike by turn, and shopping defers to all her moods. The child looking at glass bottles holding sweets had to choose, but today’s woman, with money in her purse, often doesn’t make a choice. She buys it all; one for every mood.

Not so long ago, retailers knew their target buyer well. The demographics were clear. But online shopping has turned everything on its head.

Introduce a 60-plus woman, who claims to be gadget illiterate, to the simple act of extending the use of her smartphone to click on a shopping site, and paying for it online, and lo! a lost-to-retail generation returns dizzy with happiness to the joys of shopping! Daring where they have never dared to go a few decades ago, 60-year-olds invest in frilly long dresses, sequinned saris and Anarkali kurta sets, and plan get-togethers to show off their new buys.

Thanks to the .com, when it comes to shopping, for many 60 is the new 30.

This is not about city women of the higher echelons only. Women in two-tier and three-tier cities are as enthusiastic.

In the 11 days after a state government announced free-bus-rides for women, buses overflowed. Out of a total of 51 lakh passengers bussing about, 30 lakh were women…60 per cent, in other words.

Pushing the bus services to full capacity, forcing the introduction of new buses. And a hefty percentage of the majority were older women, stepping out to meet friends, and go festive season shopping.

Male shoppers

Men may be reluctant shoppers, especially when accompanying a wife on the prowl, but they are not averse to it. Not one bit. And the male shopper is changing! The man who went out with his wife, mother or girlfriend to buy shirt/shoes/trousers is a disappearing species. Whether he depended on the woman’s advice, or resisted it, this is no longer a situation that exists.

Men have found a refuge in shopping online. Safe and private, quick and easy, without worrying about parking issues and time away from other occupations. Statistics garnered across 35,000 respondents across 35 States in an online survey conducted by IIM-Ahmedabad says that men spend 36 per cent more than women on online purchases.

And they are not far behind in what they shop for either, as 47 per cent shopped for fashion wear as against 58 per cent women, while only 36 per cent shopped for electronics.

All of which boils down to this. Retail therapy is the new opiate. Online, with easy returns possible, painless, easy. Drooling over shops/websites and their booty… choosing, buying, returning… keeps the mind from angst over other issues.

Women knew it always. Now men know it too.

The writer is a Consulting Editor with Penguin India