Shopping Smart In The Cart: A Survey Of 5C Students’ Shopping Habits

It’s 12:08 p.m., and I’m in class, anxiously waiting for lunchtime. As I’m drifting off, I look over the shoulder of one of my classmates only to find her online shopping, scrolling through never-ending pictures of dresses and tank tops.

I was tempted to shop alongside her, but alas, I contained myself and shifted my focus back to the professor.

For me, shopping is a guilty pleasure. I recognize, however, that the act of shopping takes on a different role in each person’s life. So, I decided to find out how and where 5C students are shopping for clothes to gain insight into their habits.

From a recent online survey by TSL, I found that shopping online was the most popular method of buying clothes among students. Of the 58 survey takers, 47 (that’s 81 percent) said they shopped online.

For Sabine Scott PO ’19, online shopping provides a particular benefit — the option to wait for discounts.

“I’ll save things to my wishlist,” Scott said. “And when they go on sale, then I’ll look at them.”

However, shopping online also has its risks, so students are generally more wary when buying clothes online.

“You can’t exactly try on the size, so there’s a bit of a risk involved because it’s a hassle to send things back,” Miles Robinson PO ’18 said. He buys sweatshirts and band tees online, since such sizes aren’t as important.

Money was a common theme among the students that I spoke to. “Because we’re in college, obviously our budgets can be a bit constrained,” Millie Hillman SC ’21 said.

It’s a no-brainer, then, that shopping at fast fashion stores, where clothes are abundant and cheap, is common among students — 66 percent of survey respondents said they shopped at big-names stores like H&M, Forever 21, and Express.

Forty-seven percent also said they chose to shop at fast fashion stores more frequently than at others.

It’s important, however, not to discount the thrifting and the “5C For Sale/For Free” Facebook group community. For Ace Elliott PZ ’19, her experience working at a big name fast fashion store has actually led her to develop an aversion to large retailers.

“Just because [an item of clothing is] 60 bucks doesn’t mean it’s well-made, and it doesn’t mean it’s going to last a long time,” Elliott said.

As a result, Elliott almost exclusively shops through 5C For Sale/For Free during the school year.

“Knowing that summer is coming up, a lot of the fast fashion stores will mark up their summer clothing,” Elliot said. “So that’s generally when I start buying summer clothing from 5C For Sale/For Free.”

For Hillman, thrifting and buying high quality clothing is part of her personal movement toward zero waste. She avoids spending money on unnecessary clothing.

“I would rather save up money and spend more on things are going to last [for] me, that I’m going to like for a very long time,” Hillman said.

Like Elliott, she also buys clothes from 5C For Sale/For Free.

“It’s a lot cheaper to do so. It’s good because it helps the student make some money, but is also kind of like thrifting in the sense that they’re worn clothes,” Hillman said. “So I think it’s a very ethical and sustainable thing to do.”

The students I spoke to also expressed that they have shopped less since both middle school and high school. For them, there has been a shift in their shopping mindset — a gravitation toward quality over quantity.

“I feel way less pressure to go out and needlessly spend money,” Scott said.

Whether students preferred to shop online — at fast fashion stores, thrift, or even browse through Instagram accounts (@fivecthrift) and Asian Night Markets (as one survey taker responded) — it was clear to me that Claremont students are incredibly conscious of their shopping habits.