Tuesday 7 August 2012

I Shop Therefore I Am

Shopping is not where I want to be.  Some of my “pairs” of socks are odd because it is preferable to making the effort to buy new ones when an old or too worn one has to be discarded.  Some of my shirts are almost in the vintage class and I am not talking about the manly smells they exude.

Part of the problem is that it no longer a question of making a choice between a local supplier offering a limited range or making the effort to go into town to one of the shops there.  The number of shops which stock a range of socks and a decent choice has fallen drastically.  So either I have to drive somewhere or go online in the hope of finding ones that might do the job.

This is becoming harder and the choice more limited because I want hard wearing ones that wash easily and are not packed with industrial chemicals aimed at neutralising my feet and probably my vital organs as an unintended consequence.  It is becoming more and more like the 1940’s when shopping involved patient searches and rapid decisions; buy now or wait until the next solstice.

There was a time not so long ago when shopping was easy and convenient and people became used to being able to source goods and foods from several and varied sources, sometimes from local shops and at other times from major stores.  It is now all becoming much more marginal.

What happens if because of international finance or the way the world works in the next few years all the choice and opportunities we have had now for at least two generations simply begin to wither away and try as we might, it becomes harder and harder to find the right item at the right price?

This could happen in different ways.  One is the power and control exerted by a limited number of major chains allied to price fixing and the obliteration of the small and medium sized retailers may mean that it could soon be a question of us only being able to buy what they want to sell.

In any case the power they exert over media advertising may be used to make us believe that only the limited number of their goods are the ones we want.  That these appear to be different brands sponsored by different celebrities may fool us into believing that there are differences but as they come out of the same factories with the same basic content these will be cosmetic for sales purposes.

Another is that in real terms shortages begin to develop for many reasons arising from the way the world is going at present.  We may already be beyond the point where growth or new development is “sustainable”.  In other words from now on it is downhill all the way.

So the occasional mad panics for hyped new gizmos or special brand offers or releases may become part of a shopping pattern whenever a product in really scarce supply appears in a shop somewhere.  This has happened before; just look at some of the archive material for UK 1940’s shopping experiences.

Imagine going around the local supermarkets when they have become clones of each other and while there appears to be a choice you find yourself being able to boy increasingly limited amounts of the same kinds of goods, all packaged and frantically marketed to make you think they are desirable. 

One thing I have noticed recently is that the space given to sales of fresh produce and especially local or UK sourced goods seems to be shrinking apace.  They are being displaced by aisles of manufactured items from an increasingly limited number of suppliers and with lengthening supply chains.

At the same time we are encouraged to identify ourselves with particular chains, or brands or patterns of eating, drinking and dressing.  This is reinforced by “offers” which are rarely to our advantage.  We are what we shop, if we can and when we can.

And we can only have what someone far away decides we might be given.


  1. So take up knitting. Or 'make do and mend' ( see 1943).

    1. Go on eBay. You could find what you want, sometimes in superb condition. I have hoarded since the War, and kept things (having lots of space) (my early experiences are of being in somewhat deprived situations). I used a sewing machine from 10, and knitted from 7. Have utterly failed in getting grandchildren to make ANYTHING. Money too available now. I sell a lot online nowadays - all my own -hoarded stuff and deceased relatives' things. England started buying the cheaper cotton from the Far East in the 80s and it has been downhill in actual quality from then. There is no point now in making things that last. I have sewed all my long life and made just about everything. You would probably be surprised how collectable some things like fabric are today.