Shopping habits and the High Street

Instant gratification is the name of the game, and no, I am not talking about anything sleazy. Just as I was saying recently that the advertising tradition of two hundred years is outdated, so is the traditional High Street specialist shop. When I was a child we had in our village a draper, two ladies’ dress shops, and one that sold table linen and curtains.

The local shops that do well in most places are those which sell something we need right then, such as my favourite baker (because he is good), perhaps the newsagent though supermarkets are encroaching on their territory, and the fast food shops – the instant gratification shops. Those that struggle are those who do not sell things we need frequently (I nearly said every day but you would then think I lived on takeaways). Having a local gift shop or a china shop is OK if you are selling on-line, building a reputation and need a hands-on show case for some clientele. Having a gift shop with no on-line business is pretty hopeless.

We have an independent retailer with a shop full of  TVs, sound systems, gadgets and radios in our village. How do they compete against the big shopping park chains? Well, they don’t. They have a nice shop but the vast majority of the sales are mail order on-line or over the telephone and they have carved out their own niches.

Sadly those who always wanted to run a toy shop will have to make it a niche shop with a major on-line retail capacity. Of course the lack of real shops in any community lessens the sense of belonging, and means we are less likely to bump into our friends and neighbours than we used to. We did see our plumber in the village today, but there are far fewer shoppers than there used to be.

We have so much choice now so we should not knock progress even in the retail world, but gone are the days when my Mum could say “I’m going to the village and I’ll pop into Miss Shelley’s to see if she has a summer frock I like in my size”. That’s the price for a loss of innocence.

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