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Why I don’t buy on the High Street

By Dan Wilson August 7, 2017 - 11:26 pm

There’s a lot of cant and whinging complaining from retailers regarding why people don’t buy on the High Street these days. The blames laid at the foot of the internet. Down my way in Hove, East Sussex, shopkeepers on one street are arguing it’s because the street has been pedestrianised.

They argue that with more through vehicle traffic later in the day they’ll fare better. I’m not sure I agree. Here’s the local paper story: Campaigners unite to save their high street. Could a few extra hours of free traffic really help?

This weekend past I went out to buy a few things and I came back empty handed. My problem isn’t about car access or parking problems (I don’t drive) but because of the generally dismal experience of shopping on an identikit British High Street. Amazon is a real challenge but the shoddy in store experience so many shops offer is also part of the problem.

Too few helpful staff
The key point to make is that staff are too few. And those that are there are overstretched. My annoyance isn’t with zero hour, minimum wage staff themselves: it’s never been a good way of working. But it’s impossible to expect these people to be enthusiastic, knowledgeable and dazzling delegates for the shop they sell for on such parsimonious terms. Whilst asking a young man for a few details on Saturday regarding a product, it’s safe to say he didn’t have any more information than me. We examined the specs on the box together to little avail. Keen he was, expert he wasn’t.

There’s more information online.
I went home and looked up the item I was after online and found all the details I needed. Such information was not to be found in store. I bought via Amazon this time.

And then they tell you to buy online anyway…
In the big Marks and Sparks down my way I was looking for three items. I couldn’t find one of them in my size in store. I am hardly an impossibly huge leviatian, but the sizes I sought were not available. The shop assistant said: “You’re best to find the item code and buy it online over there.” She pointed me to an oversize console that looked like an iPhone. There you can order for home delivery or click & collect. Yet again I bought online when I got home.

Champions of the High Street need to understand the extent to which they are architects of their own misfortune. What say you?

  • Stephen
    1 week ago

    Main reason I try to avoid buying on the high-street is parking… there either is none (due to pedestrian zones or more yellow paint than a Liverpool submarine…) or you have to pay a small fortune for it! Some car parks can charge £5+ for an hour…

    Who wants to go and pay more for an item and have to pay £5 to park or £70+ in parking fines?

    • 1 week ago

      Part of the grumble in George Street in Hove is that the big Tesco car park metres away isn’t now offering free parking for an hour or so. You have to spend a fiver in store. (I’m sure someone local will recall what the terms of the planning permission were 20 years ago but I think free parking was part of the deal.)

      Whilst I’m with the traders, equally, that someone going about their daily life, driving a car, can’t see a way to spend a fiver in Tesco as they visit and park (what does a fiver buy these days? Scarcely a pint down here.) is also a bit peculiar.

      dw

  • Ross
    1 week ago

    I was in London at the weekend. I took my five year old to the giant Lego store in Leicester Square.
    I was surprised to see them selling big box items. I couldn’t understand why anyone would want to shlep a £200 Lego box across London when they can have it delivered anywhere in the world for less.
    The store does provide atmosphere and a uniqueness that can’t exist online.
    All the Lego stores offer something online can’t match, whether that comes up in sales I don’t know.
    It is something the “high street” will have to start copying. M&S scratch the surface with live events but there aren’t many examples out there.
    High streets and shopping centres do offer a physical presence that online can’t rival, they just don’t seem to be letting anyone know yet.
    Chances are we’ll end up with stores that rely on people needing to try more first, opticians, shoe shops, grocery, etc..

    • 1 week ago

      I think that something like a Lego shop can be really exciting and inspiring. They do ace displays and have opportunities to engage. But I’m with you: who’d carry those big boxes home , when they can be delivered?

  • james
    1 week ago

    there are notable exceptions of course, but my general experience of the high street these days;

    either the staff harass you with “do you need help?” twenty times in ten minutes,
    or hide when you do need help the odd time.

    half the price stickers are missing, and we all know, if you have to ask you cant afford it (which is strange in a stationary shop, i’d have thought i could afford pencils).

    what you want is never in stock, “but i can order it for a higher price, and it’ll take longer to arrive, than if you did it yourself from home”.

    the prices. the same store can be twice the price on the high street than if you went to the website, do i value their B&M that much? not really, no.

    forced inconvenience. the likes of tesco (but not just) move the shop around every 3 months to keep you confused, so you spend more. they keep the milk at the back so you have to pass everything else, and spend more. they pump the smell of bread from the bakery throughout, to make you spend more. i dont appreciate the psychological minefield shopping in person has become.

    chuggers, muggers, beggars, buskers, mimes, and other people in general.

    if you do get parked, there’s a warden hovering over your car like a vulture.

    in most smaller high streets, you’re spoiled for choice in wines, spirits, second hand baby toys and deceased OAP’s clothing. for anything else you’re travelling.

    the prices (again). as if i wasnt getting fleeced for what i came looking for, it’s now £1.50 for a can of coke, why? because it’s on the high street.

    do you want fries with that? or batteries? or an extended warranty? or a second mortgage? can i look at your gas & electricity consumption? NO! if i wanted those things i’d f**in ask for ’em.

    queues. especially when the shop is a ghost town, with tumbleweeds floating past, and they cant manage a “rush” of 3 people in the store at one time.
    – or the work experience guys running the store solo while 5 staff are on break simultaneously.
    – or you’re the only person in the place, and you still stand at the till for ten minutes waiting for attention.

  • DAZ
    1 week ago

    It is a shame what is happening to our high street, Stirling which is a tourist town with obvious attractions looks terrible these days. Charity shops, VAPE shops, bookies, Travel agents WHo are really just online shops have taken over (they will all be gone in 3 years), and I know phone shop retailer looking to get out.
    Half the town is boarded up now also.
    Thing is the independent shops cannot compete with US tax avoiding multinationals like Amazon, (drove by that place the other day also on the way to Edinburgh 21st century slave house.) that is your MAJOR problem.
    Some retailers however still think just lying and sticking SALE sign up (Dixons carphone) works, people can see through it. Councils are full of idiots also and have no idea how to help shape up the town. Knowing one of our local councillors he is a total balloon, they just think of more ways to tax local business.
    Saying that we would love to open a Unit to actually supplement our online sales, employ people on “decent wages” but it is impossible. Your online is dominated in search by Google (another tax dodger) and Amazon sell at a loss just to put everyone out of business, nearly 10 years of a Tory Government for you, and it is getting worse, good jobs are being lost every day, shorter contracts, slave pay, all so Bezos can dominate the world, many companies would pay more but cannot because of the Amazons and their tax avoiding friends to many to name which they will continue to do because the get away with it.
    People think it will be cheaper on Amazon, like they used to do with eBay and they will get them also.
    However in a “must have society” there is the longer term social cost. Just think of that when your saving 50p on a toothbrush delivered by a 0 hours contract driver.

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