They call me the anti-shopper. Actually, they don’t. But since my good friend Jane and I discovered Middlesbrough’s first charity shop back in the late ’70s, when we were at Sixth Form, the high street lost me for good.
I don’t do high street clothes shopping. I’ve loved charity shops and vintage outlets for almost forty years. Ebay is my online home. I dislike having too many shoes. One handbag at a time is quite enough. I don’t drive because public transport is fine, even in supposedly remote North Devon. Our current flat screen Sony telly is fifteen years old, still going strong. I never upgrade my mobile – why bother when it works?
We’re not the only ones. There’s a growing segment of people who feel runaway consumerism is a silly system, a bandwagon that we can’t all step off because if we did, the whole crazy edifice would collapse. The internet has made things worse in some ways. Yes, you can buy anything you like on it, and that’s brilliant. But during the next big solar flare we get – which is only a matter of time – the world’s electrical grids will fry in seconds and we’ll be left with nothing but the old-school physical world. Or that’s what the scientists say, anyway.
Taking anti-consumerism to the max
Some people are taking anti-consumerism very seriously indeed. They’ll keep a car going way beyond its expected lifespan with string, spit, sellotape and goodwill rather than buy a new one. Environmentally it makes sense, since buying a new car means you’d spend years working off the CO2 emitted by the manufacturing process. These people are paying through the nose in terms of repairs and maintenance, and some call them idiots. The anti-shoppers call them heroes.
Fifteen years of not watching TV ads helps my household shut out the advertising noise. We always turn the sound down when the ads are on. We consciously avoid brands with bad human rights reputations or investments in fossil fuels. We seek out brands that do the decent thing. And there’s no such thing as ‘retail therapy’ in our world. Just stuff we want, and stuff we don’t.
How do marketers reach the anti-shopping target market?
On the other hand we can’t avoid buying some things. The anti-shoppers of this world are not totally out of reach to marketers, assuming they feel we’re worth the bother.
We all need food, shelter, warmth. And because plenty of us also have a deep need to be surrounded by beautiful things, we buy retro, antiques, art, craft. We make things and mend things. We do it ourselves. We grow food. And that’s where your magical marketing skills come into play. If you want to engage with the anti-shoppers, that’s where you’ll find us, and there are more of us to target every day.