The Demise Of the High Street…

As ever I find myself indebted to the guru that is the one and only Mr Chris Cheek who has recently revealed that a staggering one third of bus passengers are no longer going to the shops to make their purchases. Over the last ten years the traditional high street has been decimated and for once there is now real and decisive evidence that explains the significant reduction in spending in shops and conversely spending money on bus journeys.

In many ways there is probably little surprise, indeed when I review my own shopping habits, they have changed dramatically from shopping almost every other day, to barely doing any shopping at all. Indeed most days there is a nice man or woman who knocks on the door with a delivered package. Amazon, DPD, the list is endless of supply Companies who have singlehandedly changed the habits of a nation that the late great Napoleon Bonaparte once called a nation of shop keepers. Well, not any more, not only are we not shopkeepers, but clearly we are no longer shoppers, as we no longer shop in shops.

Indeed it would be more accurate to describe ourselves as internet buyers, where a staggering one third to a half of items actually delivered are returned as not wanted or required. Amazing really at how we have quietly but gradually changed the way we live, and the former habits that we fostered . To be honest these days I try to avoid going to shopping centres, the last one that I went to was Merry Hill in Dudley. It is not bad to be fair, large, clean, well supervised with an eclectic mix of shops catering for almost everything. However, if the truth be told I cant be bothered to drag myself around trying not to bump into people walking at a snail’s pace. In addition I cant be bothered to deal with stroppy shop staff. Case in point I recently popped into Debenhams to pick up a couple of smart, short sleeved shirts, that I can wear with my PICC line, and my chemo bag.

I was deliberate dumbed down in terms of my clothes, wearing black sweat pants, as they are the most comfortable pants by far when you have to wear a storma bag (someone I know recently called it a lucky dip bag, frankly that is last bag on earth that you want to go dipping into). Anyway, I digress. The chap serving potential customers like me was on the phone to his wife, as I walked toward him, he gave me one of those top to bottom looks, his demeanour and body language suggested that I was clearly a low life and should not really be in the shop. I waited patiently for him to finish his call, which he did not do, instead he turned around, so I walked around him and stood in front of him. Eventually he stopped, so I stepped in and said hello and asked him where the short sleeved smart white shirts were. He scornfully replied we dont sell them, never had. I replied well that is odd as last year you sold me a pack of 3 Geoff Banks shirts that cost me sixty quid.

Look of surprise, one at the posh accent and secondly the smart arse reply from me. He then said well, we have not got any, and with that he picked up his phone and walked off. So, there you have it, that is why I cant be bothered to go shopping anymore, when I can click 3 times without any human interaction with some angry bloke with an attitude problem. Sadly my new habits are shared by a significant percentage of the population, and that of course is partly why one third less bus journeys are taken and why the charity shop and boarded up frontage are now so common place across the length and breadth of the nation.

It is both worrying and disturbing that we have this situation with the UK bus industry, Agatha Christie used to famously say; Find the motive, and you find the Murderer”, now, thanks to the efforts of Chris we have some hard data. This massive decline in shopping journeys not only threatens the longevity of the bus industry, but it also impacts on the future of Britain’s essential retail industry. Either way no one wins out of this scenario, which is not just about the commercial success of the shops, it is equally about giving the lonely and depressed the chance to meet and mix with people. Arguably that human interaction is crucial for people’s well being and sense of belonging, and consequently a truly essential and vital component part of the human condition.

Written by Austin Birks

March 13, 2019

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