How to buy a pair of shoes

Great news! I needed a new pair of shoes. It wasn’t a retail therapy thing; I actually needed something to keep my feet dry. It rains stair-rods in Auckland in winter and gumboots don’t cut it beyond the garden.

Following my preferred mantra — reduce, reuse, repair, repurpose, repeat — I set off to my local op shops in search of a lucky pair.

These shoes were a lucky buy from the Mission shop

Last time I shopped for shoes, I stumbled on a perfect pair of TOMs (brand new and in my size) at the local Mission store. Miraculous. Yesterday, I wasn’t so lucky. What was astonishing, however, was how incredibly busy the op shops were. They were positively humming with style-y individuals, couples, and families browsing for bargains and — this is the other remarkable thing — having fun. There was a sense of camaraderie so uplifting that I almost bought an endearingly soft and cosy knit dress five sizes too large, just because it was lovely and only six dollars. Someone else will re-home that dress and absolutely love it.

Back to the shoe search. Driven by a dislike of wet feet I traipsed to a nearby store where 60% off signs heralded the bargains inside. No one else was there. I heard several pins drop. No fun. No banter. I found the right shoes (last pair in the right style and size), paid, took my shoes, and left.

This morning US economists are saying that shoppers have been carrying the American economy [1]. Apparently, for as long as shoppers keep shopping, the economy will keep turning, and the US may avoid recession. Not cool. Not sustainable.

Consumerist capitalism is killing us and it cannot go on. We desperately need a new way of doing things — one in which we recognise the value of what Mother Earth gives us and cherish what we have without haranguing for more. It’s called sustainability and it can only happen within a circular economy. I’m glad that New Zealand businesses are onto it [2].

As individuals, with needs like shoes, our task is to build resilience in our communities so that we’re ready to move with the necessary behavioural changes and support the businesses that champion them. So go out and get into your community. Support ‘recycle retail’ with all your heart. Get your friends and family together for a fun and creative time.

My experience in those op shops gives me hope that we can create a new kind of retail therapy that will deliver much more than consumerism — it will deliver wellbeing.


[1] Dow Jones recovers from worst day in 2019 as recession fears stalk Wall Street

[2] Climate Leaders Coalition celebrates its 100th signatory

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