A holiday for shopping?

The old idea for retail was to sell more food, drink and gifts for Christmas at full price before 25 December. Stock left over, damaged, or seasonal was then offered at a discount to get rid of it in the January sales. The shops could stock up for November and December, hope to achieve decent prices in the best trading season of the year and could then get rid of any surplus at a discount . They could enter the New Year with lower and better stock after the  strains of the Christmas rush and the hurricane of the post Christmas sales.

Today several changes have occurred to alter this pattern fundamentally. The arrival of on line shopping has given many more people the chance to shop at their convenience  at week ends, late at night or whenever. This year has seen a further big switch from in store to on line purchases.

The second thing that has happened is customers and retailers now play a game of chicken with each other over when the big surge may occur in transactions. More customers hold out for discounts before Christmas to tempt them to buy. More families seem to share the present buying with more consultation of the recipient, so there are more people buying presents for each other on line or post Christmas to take advantage of better prices.

The third thing is American influence with the advent of Black Friday, a new mega shop day based on special discounts. Some get caught up in the spirit of this “give away” and rush to the shops. Some get stuck in huge traffic jams trying to get back again.

It is doubtful that the advent of Black Friday does add much to total retail spend over the period of the Christmas season. It may simply reduce trading margins a bit, where genuine new discounts are offered for items which people were probably going to buy anyway.

The biggest issue is the future of the town centre. With Internet market share rising so rapidly it points to fewer successful shopping centres, and to shorter or more compact High Streets in some places. The Town Centre managers have their work cut out to promote and promote their venues for shoppers, who want a high proportion of cafes, entertainment, coffee shops, restaurants and the rest to make shopping more than a trip to the shops. For the shops themselves they now have to battle against people seeing and learning about the merchandise in the store, only to buy it back home on line.


  1. Mark B
    December 28, 2015

    Good morning.

    What is also effecting retailers in the high street is the local business rates and other costs imposed by local government. That and, the cost of parking and car unfriendly attitudes. When shopping over Christmas and New Year, people tend to by both more and bulkier items, this makes traveling by public transport difficult so people will go to out of town places where there is free parking to do their shopping.

    It is a classic case of governmental greed and the need to find more ways to extort money from people to support high levels of Local and National Government spending.

    1. Lifelogic
      December 28, 2015

      Indeed the parking charges, excessive fines, bus lane fines, constantly red light, OTT health and safety, daft employments laws, a lack of deterrents for shop lifters and all the rest kills the towns and puts shop out of business. Now even empty shops and flats still now have to pay excessive rates and council taxes to the council for their dire non “services” – all those huge salaries and pensions to pay you see, (often to well connected people) with complete joke non-jobs and their interesting non-job titles that we see in the Guardian and similar.

    2. Lifelogic
      December 28, 2015

      The old story of the government killing the cow that it feeds off by endlessly over milking it.

      This while doing very little that is positive with the money anyway. Perhaps hiring some more traffic wardens & bus lanes and mugging cameras with it? What a great investment for the rate payers that is!

      I notice parking notices have now sometimes been worded in rather clever ways so as to trick motorist into getting fines when they think it is free (such is their contempt for the public they allegedly “serve”).

    3. alan jutson
      December 28, 2015

      Mark B

      Agreed, why purchase bulky branded goods from a shop in Town and get ripped off with parking charges (if you can find a space).
      When you can either shop out of Town, or purchase on line.

      Town centres are changing from shopping centres to entertainment centres.
      The only thing keeping most of them going is the Town Centre supermarket when it has a large car park attached.

  2. Margaret
    December 28, 2015

    Personally I don’t like shopping on line . The goods which I have bought have been sub standard and they were delivered without all the parts , however I can see the benefit for busy or immobile customers .Buying on line with such enthusiasm ,may just be a passing fad. It is relatively new and a ‘must do’ to try out, like having grocery delivered , where fresh products cannot be carefully picked.

    I went to Debenhams on boxing day where in the clothing section there were many good bargains. I was really upset by the lack of respect for the clothing by customers. Beautiful clothing from many display rails had fallen on the floor and people were simply walking on them, as though this is only fifty quid I will kick it away from the path I walk. Too lazy to pick it up the same people will be asking for a free prescription for paracetamol to fill their stock cupboard in the new year.

    The management of stock is as important as the management of money itself. The stores should project their respect for sale items by arranging the displays in a similar fashion to the non sale items , not overcrowding the rails , keeping sizes together and generally showing respect for others hard work in making these items. The creation of wealth is only as important as the respect shown for those helping to create it.

    1. Lifelogic
      December 28, 2015

      Paracetamol only costs about 20p if you buy generic and from the right places. So anyone actually paying for such a prescription is being rather over charged.

      True you can now only buy such things in rather small quantities due to regulations to prevent self harm. This as clearly the governments think these people would not go to more than one shop or would merely pocket the tablets.

      1. Margaret
        December 28, 2015

        19 p only and the NHS if prescribed costs £8.00, which is why I only prescribe to children really needing it.

      2. Lifelogic
        December 28, 2015

        not merely pocket – I meant

      3. Margaret
        December 28, 2015

        Sorry I didn’t realise boxing day was today , I thought it always came the day after Christmas day ?

  3. Lifelogic
    December 28, 2015

    You say:- For the shops themselves they now have to battle against people seeing and learning about the merchandise in the store, only to buy it back home on line.

    Indeed but they even wander round the shops and order it more cheaply on their phones even while in the shop or perhaps at the wifi cafe next door. Book shops are hugely affected as they simply cannot compete on range or price with on line offerings of new, second hand and digital books. The shops almost need to charge an entry fee (refunded against purchases) but would anyone pay it!

    Supermarkets too are loosing out as their tricks for selling things that are just mainly processed packets of air or water, or putting things all round the shops in silly arrangements to waste your time and silly sized packets or things wear rather thin. All I tend to want is decent fruit, veg, fish, meat, diary, decent bread, dried goods, pulses, legumes and nuts, loo roles, toothpaste and washing powder. Decent bread especially seems to be totally beyond them.

    It is reported that “Lynton Crosby knighthood discredits honours system, say Labour MPs”
    Perhaps it would, but surely it is hugely discredited by about 75% of the sorts of people who get one. Just read the lists of hangers on, purveyors of the EU and green crap alarmist drivel, TV celebs, time served failed civil servants & politicians, people who failed hugely at say the Bank of England, the Treasury, HMRC etc, party funders back scratchers and the likes.

    But surely the people responsible for Cameron scraping home to victory anyway were Nicola Sturgeon and the total uselessness of (the would be landlord thief) Ed Balls and perhaps (wrong on every issue but civil liberties and tuition fees ratter) Nick Clegg. Now it seems Osborne is doing this robbing instead.

    Cameron was dire, but rather better than a Labour dog called Ed wagged by an SNP tail. That and the fact that many UKIP voters held their noses and voted Tory in many places due to the FPTP voting system.

    1. Lifelogic
      December 28, 2015

      John Selwyn Gummer, (Baron Deben as he is now) was yet again on radio 4 this morning. Has this purveyor of green tosh not reeked enough damage already? He certainly has an interesting list of outside interests.

      At least we are not building the absurd Severn Barrage I suppose and finally quietly cutting the nonsense green crap grants. Just the absurd Swansea Lagoon and endless other wind and PV lunacies littering the countryside and towns – wasting tax and bill payers money hand over fist.

      This when better flood defences or more appropriately designed and positioned housing was a far better investment. As indeed are most other sensible investments as just pissing money down the green crap drain is never really a sensible investment to make, unless perhaps you perhaps live off that drain.

      1. Bob
        December 28, 2015

        Flooding is often blamed on AGW and gay marriage, but rarely does the European Water Framework Directive get mentioned.

        1. Lifelogic
          December 28, 2015

          Needless to say – The flooding in Cumbria and Lancashire is entirely consistent with the current availability of gay marriage – as it is indeed with most things.

          Do politicians have to go to special classes to learn these vacuous phrases that say nothing what so ever?

      2. Ken Moore
        December 28, 2015

        You would think that it would be sensible to invest serious money in flood defences instead of spending billions on ‘green subsidies’ that will/have destroyed our steel and coal industries.

        How bad is the flooding going to be in 20, 30 or 50 years time when yet more green land is compacted by excavators feed an almost unlimited demand for new houses

        I see the direction this country and I don’t like it – JR help please!

        1. lifelogic
          December 28, 2015

          Exactly. The government is very fond of the totally vacuous phrase that “The flooding is consistent with Climate Change” designed to imply it is caused by man made CO2 emissions, without actually saying anything of the sort. Thus pushing their damaging & unscientific Climate Alarmism religion.

          The question we should ask is should we spend money :-

          A. on flood defences, building in the right places and building ground floors that can flood occasionally, but with little damage to them.

          B. (as Cameron, Liz, Truss and Amber Rudd seem to prefer) send lots of green loons to Paris on a beano to agree to restrict and tax CO2 emissions, litter the country with pointless wind turbines and PV panels and spend a vast fortune pushing up energy costs and providing huge subsidies for these complete nonsenses.

          No sensible engineer or scientist would suggest B as the better solution for people living in flood areas in the UK, would they?

          Cameron, Liz, Truss and Amber Rudd have degrees in PPE, PPE and History I understand so perhaps they really do absurdly think B is best?

          Perhaps not much history of climate thought, as such floods have been very common indeed throughout history. It is just that now there are rather more people living in these flood planes. And with rather more that gets damaged in their homes.

        2. Dame Rita Webb
          December 28, 2015

          I cannot see what the problem is? Osborne and his ridiculously named “Office of Budget Responsibility” have absolutely no intention of balancing the budget. So why not do the typical Keynesian response and engage on a big public works program? The voters would get more value out of having their homes flood proofed than some crappy rail line that will get you into Brum twenty minutes quicker.

          Mind you I would make sure the work is not contracted out to Lord Smiff and his agency. I was out and about in Keswick over Xmas. The flood defences where of no use with Desmond, the river just climbed over them. As I write the town still has no petrol station and the two supermarkets are out of action too.

    2. Dame Rita Webb
      December 28, 2015

      “Lynton Crosby knighthood discredits honours system, say Labour MPs” you have got to be kidding! My former Labour MP got one simply for being a MP for eleven years. I do not think his previous careers in the public sector would have counted for much in anybodies eyes.

      1. lifelogic
        December 28, 2015

        I estimate that about 75% of these honours are totally undeserved or bought with about 25% deserved.

        The 75% are usually celebs, air head “actors”, TV personalities, political hangers on, back scratchers, failed (and proven wrong) politicians, fans of the EU, green alarmist loons, time servers in the state sector and the likes. Plus the few token people from certain “minorities”.

        The 25% are usually from the fields of medicine, engineering & some proper (non alarmist) scientists plus a few sound business people. We shall see what we get this time.

        1. Dame Rita Webb
          December 28, 2015

          I noticed this first of all with Blair. If you managed to hit the headlines on a slow newsday you were guaranteed at least a CBE in the next honours list e.g. you obtained a bronze medal at the Commonwealth Games in some obscure sport. I think the true snob value with the honours system is attached to the people who turn them down or do not go seeking them in the first place.

        2. Lifelogic
          December 28, 2015

          It is usually very easy to distinguish the 25% from the 75%.

  4. Kenneth
    December 28, 2015

    I think there is a great future for bricks-and-mortar shops in the UK. Whereas supermarkets are merely traders with no specific expertise, I believe there will be a growing demand for specialist shops which will take us back in time to the era of the fishmonger, delicatessen, greengrocer etc.

    Anyone selling branded, manufactured goods will struggle with the on-line alternative (as these products are all the same) but anyone selling goods they have made themselves or have procured through their own distribution channels will thrive.

    Shopping centres need to offer plenty of car parking and for those who would rather not haul shopping around there should be a collectively funded same-day or next-day delivery scheme such that shoppers may browse and discuss their requirements and have them ‘sent on’.

    It is true that people browse the shops and then go back home and order on line. However, this can work in reverse, with the internet acting as the shop window. If the customer cannot buy your speciality cheese from the supermarket as you make it yourself – or it comes from the farm down the road – then they cannot go elsewhere.

    Finally, the shopping experience should also be a fun day out. Although eating establishments are already in good supply, shops should consider setting some space aside for fun fairs, street entertainers and other attractions.

  5. Ex-expat Colin
    December 28, 2015

    High St is about selling food, drinks and clothes as far as I can see. Dismal places doing more or less the same thing. Prices include overheads which I don’t want to pay repeatedly. Stock is nearly always too small or large sizes by the time we fight our way there. The store buyers don’t seem to learn much about the business. Yet a POS system is telling them normally?

    Buying on-line is about buying when you want to at the price you like rather than… take this and pay the price you don’t really like. Delivery to store is very good.

    And whoever measured up the car park slots needs a real good kicking. Something that really prevents me from going to the High St along with the expensive dross thats awaiting.

  6. bigneil
    December 28, 2015

    As can be guessed from my blogname, I’m on the large side and need 3xl in padded jackets etc. My clothes cannot be got just anywhere. Some years ago, just before xmas I went into a small local shopping centre and saw a padded jacket in my size. I left it in the hope that it would decrease in price in the sales which opened on boxing day, risking that someone else would buy it – -it was the last one. On boxing day I set off and walked into the shop. There was the same jacket – hooray – -until I picked it up and saw the new ticket attached. The ticket prior to xmas was £40. This ticket said £70 which was crossed out and “reduced” to £55. I gave the assistant who was watching me a disgusted look, threw the coat back over the rail and started to walk, when she suddenly called me back and asked what was wrong. I told her, she fetched a very embarrassed manageress who I gave a good earbashing to – in a VERY loud voice so other customers could hear – and she reduced the coat to below the pre xmas price.
    I have also seen this done in a shop where I was buying a new tv in the “sales” – I did the same when I loudly said that the tvs on “sale” were cheaper before xmas than they were after. The assistant said I was wrong – -until I produced out of my pocket the very brochure with the prices HE had written on from my pre-xmas visit. There was the proof. He then claimed they were new models – no they were not – same as in the brochure. The other customers watched and listened with the assistant going redder and angrier by the minute. Again the item was brought down to below the pre-xmas price – -but 4 other couples looking at the products had walked out already. He couldn’t get me out of the shop quick enough. How much damage did the other 4 couples do to this shop, when they had told all their friends what had happened? Greed sheer greed, all based on lies.

    1. alan jutson
      December 28, 2015

      Big Neil

      Your explanation is one of the reasons my wife and myself have never purchased anything in November or the weeks to the run up to Christmas for years, unless of course it is required in an emergency.

      Very often a sale price is not a bargain at all as much is bought in especially for the sale.
      When it is a genuine reduction you cannot help but feel conned if you had purchased at the pre sale (often inflated) price.

      If we really want or need to replace something (branded goods), we tend to track the price on the web first, for a short time before purchase
      Supermarket shopping is done at the German Discount Stores first ,with any top ups or non available items made at the larger outlets afterwards.

      Judging by the fullness of the car parks in the discount supermarkets, many others are now doing the same.

      For specialist item shopping, we always try to purchase locally if we can.

  7. APL
    December 28, 2015

    JR: “customers and retailers now play a game of chicken with each other”

    Here is a tip for frugal Christians in Western Europe

    Celebrate the Greek Orthodox Christmas. January 7th 2016.

    You can pick up all your Christmas presents in the January sales and a Turkey after Christmas can be picked up for pennies on the £.

    Added bonus, there is little chance of anyone being prosecuted for heresy by either of the main Western Christian establishments.

    1. APL
      December 28, 2015

      “and a Turkey after Christmas can”

      and a Turkey after December 25th can

      Fixed that.

  8. Denis Cooper
    December 28, 2015

    Well, one advantage of shopping online is that you can do it when you find it convenient rather than being constrained by shop opening hours. Another advantage is that you can more easily consult the intended recipient and/or his family members over the internet rather than having to arrange to go along to a shop together to check that the proposed item would be OK.

    However perhaps the greatest advantage is that you can let the courier sit in the constant traffic jams created though idiotic anti-car government policies rather than having to venture onto now inadequate roads yourself, and nor do you have to struggle to find somewhere to park at the cost of anything less than a small mortgage thanks to the same idiotic anti-car government policies.

    And here the name of that oaf “Two Jags” John Prescott springs to mind, it defies belief that he could ever get to hold even a junior post in government let alone become Deputy Prime Minister.

    1. Anonymous
      December 28, 2015

      Denis – Having sex in work premises during work time is subject to summary dismisal in my company. Followed by such disgrace that an offender would never be taken seriously again.

      Just a random thought unrelated to your comment, of course.

      1. Denis Cooper
        December 29, 2015


        I think it got a senior person at the Bank of England into hot water.

  9. Pauline Jorgensen
    December 28, 2015

    We were having just this discussion last night having returned from a walk in London with a bottle of port and some cheese. I think Kenneth may have hit the nail on the head, specialist retailers will find it easier to survive and at least in London seem to do quite well if they have an established reputation. The cheese was bought from two shops, one a high end grocer where we had previously ordered the same online and the other a shop which sold nothing else (apart from port and cheese ephemera).

    M&S food continues to be popular (and unavailable as yet for home delivery) because you know it will be good quality and you can’t get it anywhere else. In the non food area Blackwells continues to sell me books I didn’t know I wanted until I saw them and yet I also buy books online.

    I agree traffic and parking are an issue, I would prefer to go to a farm shop or suburban retailer with parking than drag myself into Reading or fight the crowds in the Oracle.

    So that’s one shoppers viewpoint. For a treat there is nothing like a specialist shop.

  10. Bert Young
    December 28, 2015

    I am not a religious person but I agree with the criticism raised by the Archbishop of Canterbury that consumerism at Christmas time has gone through the roof . The number of presents my 8 year old has received ( they are put under the tree a few at a time over the course of a week ) is incredible . Quite apart from the cost of these presents , there is also the enormous volume of wrapping paper ; the garbage bin is already full and there is another week before it is collected ! As a boy my sister and I received one present each together with a stocking of fruit and nuts ;we were as excited and thrilled with our gifts then as much as my daughter is today .

    The scenes of the Boxing Day shoppers going mad drove me to distraction ; we have become a credit card nation of maniacs .

  11. DaveM
    December 28, 2015

    You didn’t mention the voucher factor John, which accounts for a high number of Xmas presents.

    Vouchers can be redeemed in sales, so most people wait till January to spend them on summer clothes. By putting sales on early and getting people to buy actual goods, the shops then have the cash in their accounts for longer, hence more interest. And of course they can take the hit on that because there is an astounding number of vouchers which don’t get used which translates to direct cash profit for the retailers.

  12. Antisthenes
    December 28, 2015

    Progress has enormous benefits as it makes consumer and producers lives better but like everything it has it’s downside. Socially in the short term it can be very disruptive and it changes behaviour. Change is something humans are not usually very comfortable with but even without science and technology change occurs except with it it changes must faster and therefore much more difficult to adapt to.

    Adapt to it we must. Resistance is futile so we have to learn not to and to embrace it and make the change happen as smoothly as we can. What we have had before we must reuse in different ways or discard and move on. Every change throws up a new set of problems usually more complex and more dangerous than the ones preceding it. How we deal and cope with those problems defines and shape us. Our track record on this is both encouraging and discouraging as some things improve other things move in the opposite direction. So far we have muddled through and we have seen more good progress than bad.

    However if humans do not start being more rational, logical and objective and use progress in ways that are less dehumanising than it is being used now then in the end we will be irrelevant. We would rather not care to be responsible for our own actions or wish to provide for ourselves but until now we have not had the technology that progress has given us to achieve that. Now we have it and it may not bode well for us because if we become nothing but automatons as everything is done and decided for us then we will have arrived at a socialist nirvana and then will human life have any point.

  13. Anonymous
    December 28, 2015

    Isn’t it rude of people to try out wares in shops with the deliberate intent of buying the same product elsewhere ?

    Isn’t there a civic duty to pay that little bit more to support local business and local employment ?

    The councils need to be aware of modern commercial pressures when they set business charges.

    Perhaps it is time to turn high street shop space into much needed housing.

  14. Ken Moore
    December 29, 2015

    Having witnessed the annual Christmas buying frenzy I’m left asking myself if we have really earned the luxury of buying so much food and goods we don’t really need?.
    My view is the positive ‘mood musi’ coming from the government about the economy is a con designed to keep us spending so the pretence of normality can continue.

    The economic guru, Dr Tim Morgan put it well.

    “According to OBR data, household spending will exceed income by 40Bn in 2015 and reach 50Bn by 2020”.

    “Any country which promotes “growth” on the basis of ever-expanding debt is following the philosophy neither of Adam Smith nor of John Maynard Keynes, but of Charles Ponzi”

Comments are closed.