Thursday 28 February 2013

Going Shopping Or Not

The story about the number of closures of High Street; that is urban centre shops tells us that another feature of our society may be changing forever, never to be reclaimed.  What it means is that there is a radical reshaping of the use of these premises and what they do for us.

Many are in effect quasi shops.  These are many to do with one sort of financial service or another where there is a need for not just an office to handle all the online and telephone matters but some sort of access for personal visits or for passers by.

Another is the many and various eating outlets, in our town the number of adjacent places like this almost amount to a huge canteen with separate parts for differing food tastes and preferences.  Then there are the gambling places, money transfer agents and a few bottom price shops. 

Also, while the old pubs have almost gone the number of “clubs” has mushroomed into the “night time economy”, some in former retailers which has the effect of siphoning large amounts of money out of town and into the accounts of people who are far from local.

What is being lost is the range of shops for all sorts of ordinary needs, such as electrical goods, furnishings, varied clothing needs and basic household requirements.  The consequence is that you either have to ride round the county searching the out of town shopping malls or go online.

Neither of these is really satisfactory if you have distinct or special requirements.  There are limited amounts of stock held and then only with produce that is quick to move and easy to replace.  Anything beyond that and you have to search online hoping to find somewhere in the UK that might supply them.

So in a world of abundance, allegedly, and with at least some cash to afford items at a reasonable price, it has become very hard often either to buy or to purchase exactly what I want.  These will come from “niche” suppliers usually in low cost locations with all the bother of delivery. 

Shops no longer routinely have a few of the less common or particular items for customers who are in a minority especially if it is a small minority.  In other words all this modern efficiency and high technology has done has to remove a great deal of real choice at the point of sale in physical terms. 

It means you have to take your chance with what might arrive in the post.  You can no longer look or handle at the shop.  Even the large shopping malls rarely have the range of small or middle range retailers or varied goods suppliers that was once common in most town centres.

Locally, it has meant that in our town centre the computer age means it is no longer possible to buy one there.  Indeed in the out of town facilities there are two retailers only, then side by side and with the chains both under the same ownership.  You get what you get and on their terms.

Long ago in the streets where I lived there was once a men’s clothing shop with a range of choice of essential items that announced “Why Go Up Town” over the window.  Now if you do go “up town” to the High Street and rest you still cannot find the range of choice that he offered just around the corner in an industrial area.

So much for progress and the consumer revolution; we are now substantially in the hands of the cartels and the monopolists. 


  1. And the further we all fall into the hands of "the cartels and the monopolists" the easier it is for them to dictate to us what apparel we will wear, what food we will eat (adulterated with God knows what) and just what technology we can buy.
    It is called Control.

  2. ALL economies are local (as you post so succinctly points out!)

    Yet another thought provoking read.