Back in the 1970′s we had shopkeepers: green grocers, butchers, bakeries and general stores on our high streets. There were under 30 supermarkets in the UK in 1970; I do remember shopping with my Mum and going to buy fruit from the market, meat from the butchers and bread from the bakery – the shops were much smaller than the large supermarkets we have today. The average size of a supermarket in 1974 was a mere 260 square metres, much smaller than the supermarkets in the 1990s of up to 10,000 square metres.
By 1997 the number of supermarkets had grown to a massive 1,100 in the UK. Smaller inner city stores closed in favour of new and larger stores on the edge of town, allowing better access for delivery lorries and space for extra parking.
It is not just the supermarkets that have moved their stores to out-of-town locations – retail parks have also grown in number and size.
With the larger supermarkets opening 7 days a week and 24 hours a day from a Monday morning to a Saturday night, plus the introduction of internet delivery services there has been an increased need for staff. Grocery shopping online is now a part of life and the initial glitches have been ironed out. There were many amusing stories of the computer system substituting items for something completely unsuitable, I am still entertained by the lady that told me she had 24 packets of Angel Delight delivered as a substitute for 24 toilet rolls!
Internet shopping works very well now and saves us considerable time and money. It is so easy to compare prices and find the best offers and deals available. The cost of parking in many town centres is so expensive and the price of fuel ever higher, making the cost of postage and packaging seem small in comparison.
For me when it comes to my shopping, living in a rural part of the country, I have to travel to a city centre and then pay for parking. With children at school there are time restrictions, unless I fancy taking them with me! My youngest daughter is of pre-school age and so not that interested in shopping! Not only can I compare and look for the best deals from the comfort of my sofa when I shop online, but there are great sites offering extra discounts.
With so many advantages to shopping online it is no great surprise to hear that stores such as HMV have gone into administration. Unfortunately there have been many big names: Jessops and Comet have also suffered the same fate only recently. Improvements in phones with built-in cameras, the ability to download music in an instant and store huge amounts on an MP3 player, leaves high street stores unable to compete.
Fuel prices increase and then so does the price of the goods we buy – the goods we buy are more expensive so we need to search for better deals without travelling to do so. The internet can not only offer the best deals, but also printable vouchers to use in restaurants and other offers such as free delivery. I hope we will still have a high street to visit, a simple start would be to look at the price of parking in town centres.