n recent years, the closure of many businesses was influenced by a combination of factors, including the Covid-19 pandemic, escalating expenses and a downward economic spiral. However, as consumers, our behaviour, sometimes indifferent and hypocritical, also played a role in this trend. Now is the moment for shopaholics like me to shed light on the pressing concern to awaken the urgency and to reminisce about vibrant streets, the bustling hubs of trade and the lifeblood of our local communities.
And as if that weren’t enough, there’s the vanishing practice of live-shopping (or window shopping). The melodious chime of cash registers, the symphony of crinkling shopping bags — pure enchantment, isn’t it? But alas, our sentimental reverie fades like morning mist, our community spirit loses its steam, and the next time we require a purchase, we mindlessly turn to the online realm, clicking and ordering without a second thought. Oh, the wonders of modern convenience.
As a high street hypocrite, while I yak about the lost physical shopping, I find myself scrolling through yet another retail Instagram page to order a pair of court shoes.
I’ve grown so lazily dependent on home deliveries that stepping into actual stores now seems like an alien expedition. It’s all too dazzling, too noisy, too kaleidoscopic. My senses are on the brink of revolt, and my brain is desperately waving a white flag. SOS.
I could be exaggerating but the chasm (consumer cacophony, perhaps?) between our faux lamentations and our deeds is nothing short of astounding. Why bother complaining the demise of high street shopping when we’ve all been part of this grand ‘murder’ conspiracy?
A myriad of reasons can be attributed to this: Covid-19, a shift in work practices, the cost-of-living crisis making every penny count, inflated rents, petrol prices, electricity bills, distorted government policies, abysmal tax contribution, all of which turn retail outlets into expensive housing skyscrapers; no free parking, and so on. The endless list sprawls forth like an epic saga.
Yet, we are all a part of the process: our collective swan-dive away from the tangible shopping to the contemporary urge to splurge online, even when the prices aren’t really thriftier and visiting a shop isn’t exactly an odyssey of inconvenience. Click and spend for no apparent reason.
While this may have led to certain shops closing down and resorting to creating a larger online presence, for the sake of staying commercially relevant, the sadness is almost tangible, only thinking about the people who work in them: they’re humans.
Of course, for the younger generation, the dynamics are different because they haven’t been steeped in the same wistful, habit-forming experiences. There might be no recollections of ogling at the sweet displays on candy carts in shopping malls or huddling with friends over a solitary cup of coffee at a café. Recently, a survey hinted that Gen Z may have a greater penchant for launching online business ventures rather than dabbling in casual (potentially underpaid and insecure) employment on the bustling high streets.
Are we witnessing a gradual transformation, from being primarily retail-focused to leaning more towards offering services and experiences? Is this an era of pop-up stores, nail salons and bars, blow-dry stations, vape boutiques, street food vendors, tattoo studios and yoga centres?
Setting aside the gloomy world of socioeconomics, it’s undeniable that the demise of physical fashion shopping will also lead to a loss of some noteworthy elements: community, tradition and even human interaction (even if, at times, we secretly yearn for a bit less of it).
So, why are people like me reclining in our non-ergonomic, desk chairs and idly allowing the ‘bad thing’ to unfold? Should we be blamed in equal measure? What’s this relentless fascination with loudly grieving the closure of businesses while not lifting a finger to actually back them? A rather unsightly cocktail of the aforementioned disharmony, a well-honed talent for laziness (you seriously expect me to get up?) and a hefty dose of denial, packaged in bulk.
Physical shopping has forever been a constant, perhaps to the point where our brains simply can’t fathom that, one fine day, they might just vanish into thin air.
Ah, its demise would be a mystery so elementary even Watson would be appalled. The culprits? Look no further than the mirror, where you and I, the slothful, cursor-clicking, self-deprecating masses, stand accused. Though, of course, we didn’t accomplish this feat entirely solo — we’re not that exceptional.
The writer is a content lead at a communications agency. She can be contacted at sara.amjhotmail.co.uk