I love shopping.
I don’t mean the dreary what’s-for-tea trail around Tesco. I mean the bright lights, big city kind of experience that involves department stores and boutiques.
I love the pursuit of it all. There’s nothing like finding those perfect shoes or browsing the rails to unearth that ideal dress.
I adore the buzz of the bargain, the endorphin release of spending my hard-earned money, the changing room conversations with like-minded souls, the chit-chat at the till and then coming home with armfuls of bags to explore my purchases all over again.
I am an ad man’s dream. If shopping was a Mastermind topic, I’d be reigning champion.
But last Christmas – when I usually reach joyful maximum retail – something very odd happened.
Weeks before the big day, when I’d usually be limbering up for a marathon spend-a-thon, I abandoned the high street for my laptop and bought at least three-quarters of my festive shopping online.
The reason? I simply no longer had the time to trawl the shops.
Life – as it is for so many of us these days – was just too busy and, for the first time, the idea of spending hours in John Lewis had lost its appeal.
I know. It came as a revelation to me too.
I couldn’t face battling to park and then battling the crowds. I didn’t have the room in my day for wandering around shop floors stacked high with stuff and then standing in huge queues for the privilege of handing over money for it – that’s if I found anything in the first place.
The alternative – sitting at home, brew in hand, I’m a Celeb on the telly and hopping virtually from store to store – was too tempting to pass up.
Was it a bland, soulless experience? Yes, it was.
Did it save me a mountain of time and shoe leather and stress? Absolutely.
Now if a stalwart like me can turn turtle on a lifetime habit is it any wonder the high street is in such turmoil?
Last year saw a slew of big brand names disappear. House of Fraser, ToysRUs and Maplin all collapsed. A host of others began contracting.
The picture hardly looks rosier for the coming 12 months. Only days ago, the retail giant that is even Marks and Spencer announced further store closures in addition to ones slated only months ago.
Of course, we can all blame the internet for this state of affairs but there’s more to the collapse of our high streets than that.
Up and down the country town centres have been allowed to fade away while the big-wigs wring their hands and ask what can be done.
Well, I’ll tell you. Shoppers like me need to be incentivised to return to town centres, starting with re-opening so many of those banks and post offices which have been shut.
We need to get there easily and cheaply – improved bus services and cheaper parking would help.
It needs to be an “experience” complete with the opportunity for coffee or a movie or even street entertainment.
And stores need to work harder at offering what online can’t – a friendly face to talk to, to engage with, to care, to say thank you to.
We live in an age where we can buy literally anything online except the human touch.
Shops need to capitalise on that hole in cyberspace – and quick.
VEGANUARY. I can’t even say it let alone know for certain what it is.
As far as I can make out it’s a bit like Movember but with less hair. It’s also apparently the on-trend fashion in food.
Now I’ve never really understood how the contents of your fridge can be subject to the whims of style. Jeans, bags makes-up? Yes. But beans? Not so much.
Veganism seems to be everywhere – despite the fact you can fit the number of vegans I actually know in a phone box and still have space to eat a Big Mac.
Still, at least they’ve taken the heat off the vegetarians.
Published Liverpool Echo 20th January 2019