Sunday Column: I helped save Australia from recession. One shoe at a time.

Female shopping desire is a complex beast. And yet extraordinarily resilient. Regardless of most things, women will find a way and a reason (or twelve) to shop. It’s our sport. Our therapy. Our entertainment.

We shop when we’re lonely, bored, depressed, angry, elated and worried. We shop when we’re rich and when we’re poor. We shop in sickness and in health, ‘til debt do us part from our credit cards. And then we find one of those stores with ‘no interest for three years!’ and we shop some more…..

We shop for clothes and cosmetics and books and food and gadgets and vitamins and furniture and smelly candles. We shop for others. We shop alone and in groups. We shop with our dogs and for them. We shop to celebrate, to treat ourselves, to console ourselves and to cheer ourselves up. We shop for new underwear when we’re single and we shop for homewares when we’re loved up.

We shop to mark other new life-stages too, new jobs, new babies, new homes. We shop when we gain weight and when we lose it. We shop to go on holidays and then we shop again when we get there.


Generally, women just like buying stuff. Quick, grab a pen and write that down because it really is an astonishing and original revelation. You’re welcome.

So if you’re a woman, or if there is one in your vicinity, it’s time for a fairy clap. Because apparently? Australia has narrowly skirted around a recession. And on behalf of all women, I’m taking credit. When Wayne and Kevin said ‘shop for your country’, we listened, dammit. We understood it was our civic duty to go shopping, not unlike paying taxes or obeying traffic rules. We hit Target and Country Road and Borders and Dick Smith and we hit them hard.

For me personally, the PM’s exhortation to spend was beautifully timed. Now that breastfeeding is winding down, my desire to shop is returning, inversely proportional to the size of my boobs. While pregnant and lactating, I never wish to buy anything other than teeny tiny little socks. However, as soon as I start weaning, the contents of my kitchen, wardrobe and bathroom cabinet begin shouting at me. “Everything you own is WRONG! UNFLATTERING! OLD-FASIONED! And also? You are a LOSER who has a home full of ineffectual, uncool and generally dumb things.”

I hate it when my possessions mock me. They do it not infrequently and it’s annoying. The good thing though, is that their silent taunts propel me to the shops to try and remedy my material inadequacies. And when I get there, it’s crowded. Women everywhere have picked up the economic gauntlet that was thrown down by the GFC and we’ve merrily taken the gauntlet shopping with us.

As Australia narrowly avoids the recession this month after an unexpected economic growth spurt, the CEO of David Jones, Mark McInnes has confirmed that yes, we do appear to be experiencing an oestrogen-led economic recovery. "Women can only stop shopping for so long," he observed at the Australian National Retailers Association conference last week adding that young women were particularly committed to helping turn around the ailing economic forecasts as a selfless service to their country. "They still buy their Sass & Bide jeans on Saturday morning, get their hair done on Saturday afternoon and go out on a Saturday night. This market has not changed".

Of course it hasn’t. That’s because women are taking this GFC damn seriously and we’re mobilising the troops, conscripting our friends, workmates, mothers, nannas and sisters and marching directly to the frontline to buy, well, any old thing.

This is fabulous news for retailers but I do have one grave concern for the next generation of female shoppers. All this gung-ho, government endorsed retail therapy is threatening the survival of a crucial female skill: the ability to buy-hide-and-lie. This is one of my favourite sports and the only one at which I have ever excelled. Whether you play alone or in teams, the rules go like this: the shopper must attempt to smuggle new purchases into the house under the watchful eye of a male (father, husband, boyfriend, flatmate) and then use or wear said item without being busted. If accusations are levelled at the player along the lines of ‘Is that new?” she must instantly weave a convincing web of lies. The degree of difficulty can be high and requires the disposal of evidence (swing tags, shopping bags, receipts) and the covert importation of items into the house when said male is out or occupied (in the garage or toilet).
This ancient skill has been passed down the matriarchal line for generations and has kept millions of women mentally and physically agile.

But now there’s no need to hide-and-lie. Shopping is compulsory and not doing so is un Australian. Keep your money in your wallet and you may as well set fire to a pile of ANZAC biscuits.  So what will happen to the art of buy-hide-and-lie now that we can gaily wander in the door swinging our shopping bags and fend off any challenges with a dismissive “I'M selflessly working towards a budget surplus. What have YOU done for the economy today?”