It comes as no surprise to find that our local shops, described this morning as being in terminal decline, are in need of a bit of TLC. With few exceptions, a walk into town past empty premises is increasingly disheartening, but we only have ourselves to blame. Whilst it seems that at every turn in the run up to this Christmas season we are bombarded with inviting window displays, it is TV advertising, in the breaks between the likes of Strictly or Corrie, that dominate. Predictions of a huge upsurge in the trend for online spending only serves to make me more fearful for the future, and the impact on our rapidly dwindling pockets. Where once we might have saved all year for that single much coveted "big" present, anything you wish for is now readily available, all at the mere touch of a button. At the time of the transaction, no "real money" as such is changing hands at all. How easy it is to be lured by messages saying "customers who bought this were also interested in..." on sites such as Amazon, recently lambasted by Panorama for their unscrupulous employment practices.
So, is this really shopping when the only window to browse in is the one on our computer screens or iPads? Present sorted, wrapped and delivered in one easy click. For me, it takes all the fun out of carefully selecting just the right gift for my loved ones, and doing the visiting rounds to ensure safe delivery. Many of us will also want to support charities. Christmas is after all the season for giving, and as tough as things might be for some of us, there are always those worse off. I do wonder however, at what cost. Almost daily, envelopes find their way into our letterboxes, with cards, pens, bookmarks and the like, accompanied by ... a begging letter. The cost involved to the charities concerned, in sending out this unsolicited material, is enormous, and rather than warming to the cause concerned, I am much more inclined to give to organisations that ensure that as much money as possible goes to those who really need it, not towards propping up their marketing activity.
The same goes for our local shops, who incidentally do not benefit from the same tax breaks as those used by charities. Rather than line the pockets of Mr Tesco, Argos and their mates, I'd sooner see the survival of the couple running my local corner shop, trying to keep their heads above water. However, the only way to do this is to ensure that they provide what the customer wants, when they want it, and service with a smile. Much is made of the discounted pricing of large retailers but I am always mindful that saving money is only one of many reasons that customers choose to shop where they do. For the sake of a few pence I'd sooner keep them in business than prop up their benefits when they find they've gone under, along with all the stress and strife that brings, which we hear of every day at Samaritans.