By Ruthie Friedlander
Updated Jun 07, 2018 @ 10:15 am
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Retail Therapy
Credit: Timur Emek/Getty Images

Did you know there was something called a “trend forecaster”? Contrary to how it sounds, this person does not utilize a crystal ball in his or her everyday life. Nor do they employ the use of Tarot cards. A trend forecaster, by trade, spends his or her time “scanning the external environment for clues that suggest consumers’ values, attitudes, or behaviors are shifting on a social, technological, economic, environmental or political front.”

That’s how Sheryl Connelly explains her job. Connelly is a Corporate Futurist for Ford Motor Company. And yes. That's her official title. In her role, she works tirelessly, mining data and insights from online research, interviews, workshops, field surveys … all to determine what trends resonate the strongest, where, and, of course, why. This, in turn, helps her tell her big bosses what’s important for them to know about their consumers.

So what could Connelly possibly have to teach an editor at InStyle? I mean, aren’t we, in a sense, supposedly “trend futurists” ourselves?

When I first met Connelly, I told her that I thought the biggest trend right now was white boots (the Stuart Weitzman ones I was wearing that day, if you want to get specific). Connelly thanked me politely for my wisdom and then got down to business, sharing a trend that she’s seen … one that I know all too well.

Retail. Therapy.

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Yes. The act of feeling as though by purchasing that one little (or big) thing all the worries in your life will go away. This type of therapy on the rise, Connelly told me. And not only here in the U.S. 84 percent of survey respondents in China, 74 percent in the Middle East, and 72 percent in Brazil told Connelly that they wish they were more disciplined in their shopping habits. Same.

Worldwide, shoppers like you and I are on the hunt for the latest and greatest, seeking physical products (like a Gucci bag or a car) or experiences (i.e. that First Class trip to the newly reopened Ritz Paris) that, in their heads, will bring happiness.

“But do they,” Connelly ponders? “How do products elevate our sense of happiness? If at all?”

Well, Ford’s research found that over 50 percent of people worldwide report that when they buy something, they typically think it is going to make them happier than it actually does. So maybe “retail therapy” isn’t actually “a thing” after all as much as it is a concept.

“Every woman I know would answer with a whole-hearted “yes,” Connelly said when I asked her if she, personally, felt shopping was directly tied to happiness. “There is nothing like the thrill of getting a great deal on a must-have item,” she continues. “The problem is that no matter how great the deal or special the item, the thrill always wears off over time. Unfortunately, as a form of therapy, the happiness that can come from shopping is always fleeting.”


With that said, there’s just so much on sale right now …