Posted by bussroot | Posted in Creative | Posted on 25-05-2011
Reading a report the other day about the demise of Britain’s High Street retail stores triggered a thought that we may be moving full circle in our shopping habits. The French have a saying which sums it up well; ‘plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose, or ‘the more things change, the more they remain the same’. When I was growing up (not all that long ago of course!) the self-service supermarket was a new and exciting concept imported from America. In 1951, the first supermarket under the Premier brand opened in Streatham in South London, taking £1,000 at the tills in the first week, when the average weekly revenue for a grocery story would have been £98!
Until then, shoppers relied on local suppliers, selling fresh and often locally sourced produce and hardware stores with a myriad of miscellany and DIY fixtures and fittings. Offering a personal service, butchers, fishmongers and bakers delivered daily. Hot Cross buns arrived at the door still warm from the oven on Good Friday morning and we visited local nurseries to pick our own tomatoes straight from the vine or a nearby farm for eggs laid that day. Our milkman delivered bottled milk to our doorsteps as regular as clockwork. We didn’t need ‘Sell by dates’ and these weren’t phased in until 1980 and ‘use by dates’ were only introduced in 1990. Relatively few families owned a car.
With the growth of the superstore, we began to shop as a herd. In through the automatic doors, tracking our way around the aisles with the crowd filling our trolleys with food we’ll probably never eat before it exceeds it’s expiry date and then queuing impatiently at tills displaying signs with ‘basket only’, 10 items of fewer, self-scan only, or even more frustrating ‘this check-out is now closing’. We’ve probably used up half a tank of fuel to make the return journey.
The latest statistics show that 15% of shops throughout the UK are now empty. For those who can’t face the parking, the traffic congestion and the uninspiring experience of High Street or out-of-town superstore shopping, the internet with the convenience of buying online from the comfort of the home has provided a solution. Fully functional e-commerce websites have been and without a doubt will continue to be the saviour of both the large corporate retailers and those with a niche product.
However, if the writing is on the wall for the end of the High Street CD or book stores, this promises to be the ideal opportunity for ‘old style’ retailing and a re-birth of the butcher, the baker and even the candlestick maker and for home delivery. The style of retailing and advertising is changing and for anyone with the ability to spot new trends and to provide an appealing place to shop that’s different, innovative and tailored to the customer’s needs, the future’s rosy. I’d give up my reward points for a taste of nostalgia. Wouldn’t you?