Now as a retailer, consumerism keeps me in work. Whilst, I think that quite a lot has been wrong on the high street for some time its important to still have a high street, for numerous reasons.
It has been estimated the country will have a £337 billion deceit this year. Which is 6 times more than the chancellor predicted in March. The majority of our economy is created by people spending money. Which is something until recently we have all been doing a lot, myself included. Children had to have the latest trainers, we all had to update our phones for the newer version. I had been having difficulties with my phone when I returned to the large phone company, I had purchased it from they told me my four-month-old Samsung phone was old, so it was not surprising it didn’t work. When did items still under guarantee become old? Years ago, you bought when you needed to replace an item that no longer worked not because you had to have the latest version.
We have been spending more for lots of reasons, but rarely because we actually needed something. Often, we buy clothing or goods that are “just okay” for no reason at all. Instant gratification and items buying for the sake of was the normal. Our ancestors saved up to buy and valued for many years the items they bought. I am sure they would be amazed by modern consumerism.
However, times are changing: job uncertainly, lose of earning, fear and caution have changed the high street. Some shops on opening, post-lock down had a flood of returning customers but many didn’t and the rush didn’t last long. A recent Instagram poll suggests that 67% of consumers are shopping less on the high street. On-line business had increased, but many companies had problems delivering and fulfilling the larger quantity of orders. So, buying online is not proving to be a 100% successful.
Now our spending was curtailed for several months, when shops, restaurants and pubs closed their doors temporarily. We couldn’t go out to shop, now shops have re-opened with restrictions in place, its not quite the same. Garments can’t be tried on; browsing is unfair when there is a queue outside waiting to come in. Prices in some cases have been slashed but in some sectors of the high street prices have risen. I think people have fallen out of love with shopping a little, having realised they didn’t actually miss shopping on the high street. Retailers will have to be inventive to coax shoppers back.
The larger high-street stores have been selling goods for less and less, usually by using 3rd world labour. But we are becoming aware of the human costs of having cheap clothes and the huge problem of land- fill with all our unwanted goods. Its been too easy to buy three items rather than just one. We have become a throw-away society. How we still consume but consider these factors is an important question.
In the 1950’s when we consumed less people were happier, so spending more didn’t make us happy. The lock-down was a wake- up call for us. Many big names are disappearing from the high street, although I would say that most of these were no surprise as problems had existed pre-lock down. Its awful that many people are losing their jobs and many more will most likely follow as businesses come out of furlough. The High street stopped listening to its customers a long time ago. Companies like Marks and Spencer’s have stopped making popular items to try to appeal to trendy, young customers disregarding the needs of their actual customers and wonder why profits are down! I hope than common -sense will out and they start making the right decisions.
I have always been a fan of smaller independent businesses; trade has been challenging for them. The constant price cuts and permanent sales have made it difficult to compete on a level playing field, with the high street. But customer service, passion, commitment and giving extra to their customers is what retail in the 2020’s should be about. These businesses implement customer- led changes quickly and are aware of packaging and the issues of sustainability. They may just be able to save the high street for us all.