shopping, recreational

shopping, recreational
   The term ‘recreational shopping’ refers to the experience of shopping as a leisure activity, and implies the satisfaction of personal and social as well as material needs. The rise of recreational shopping is seen by some as a victory for capitalism, whereby sophisticated marketing techniques have established a ‘culture of consumerism’ which will ensure its own reproduction. For others, however, recreational shopping is a characteristically postmodern phenomenon, in which the boundaries between work and leisure are blurred, and the locations for social interaction and ‘identity work’ become fragmented and dispersed.
   Recreational shopping is seen to be most clearly demonstrated in the phenomenon of shopping malls, which combine leisure facilities such as cinemas and restaurants with more conventional consumption outlets such as supermarkets and chain stores. In such spaces, shopping is rarely a purely functional experience; visitors drift from one shop to the next, browsing in many shops but often only making small purchases, and interspersing their shopping activity with eating a meal or going to see a film.
   Recreational shopping is assumed by many to be more common among women than men. Falk and Campbell (1997) suggest that women are more positive about a wider range of shopping activities than men, and are more likely to cite shopping as preferable to other leisure activities. Indeed they suggest that for women, shopping may have intrinsic recreational value, whereas men are likely to see it as comparable to work. It is important to add, however, that most people distinguish between different kinds of shopping (such as food or nonfood), and that women in particular often draw a distinction between ‘doing the shopping’ and ‘going shopping’, seeing one as a chore and the other as akin to an outing.
   Retailers are increasingly keen to exploit the concept of shopping as a recreational or leisure activity. Supermarkets in particular are attempting to find ways to make mundane grocery shopping more attractive, thereby extending the length of time that customers spend in stores; hence the development of ‘food courts’ in supermarkets, where customers can sit and rest or eat and drink, and the increase in ‘luxury’ and ‘exotic’ foods in supermarkets. The overall effect is that supermarkets may become more like malls, and the concept of recreational shopping may be extended to incorporate even the most mundane forms of consumption.
   Further reading
    Falk, P. and Campbell, C. (eds) (1997) The Shopping Experience, London: Sage.

Encyclopedia of contemporary British culture . . 2014.

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