Thursday, 28 April 2016

Are Shops Getting Too Big?

As another long standing British High Street store is under threat while people complain that the High Streets are dying, I wonder if it is because too many stores are trying to please everyone.

Shops that were once mere grocery stores now sell everything from clothes to electrical goods. I’ve bought a television in Morrisons. Now Sainbury’s are selling clothes. While I like the idea of not having to go to the butchers, bakers, greengrocers, fishmonger and delicatessen to buy my weekly groceries, I don’t want to be lured into buying other things at the same time. If I want new clothes, I will go to a clothes shop. If I want new shoes I will go to a shoe shop. If I need a new TV I will look in Curry’s or Argos. These are the shops that used to be on the High Street. If they are not there now it’s because people aren’t using them.

I was watching people being interviewed in the street after the announcement that BHS had gone into administration. Most people seemed sad but there were also comments like “I can never find anything I like.” Well, maybe you are looking in the wrong shop or you are too fussy. I rarely come out of BHS without at least one thing I didn’t go in for.

And that brings me to the point that major stores are trying to be everything to everyone in their search for customers. It doesn’t happen. I recently went into a large M&S on a retail park, the first time I had gone to an M&S since the small store closed in my local town. I felt overwhelmed. It was so big, so many things from which to choose, it was almost impossible to find anything because there was too much choice.

The fact is young people wear different clothes to older people. Quite possibly people in the North have different needs to people in the South (I’m thinking weatherwise here. It’s much colder the further north you go from London). By trying to entice younger people into a shop that caters for older customers you alienate those older people, without necessarily getting the younger ones who consider it a shop for oldies. Likewise, you won’t get older people looking in shops for youngsters. Trying to cater for everyone is costly and a gamble.

This massive shop I was in didn’t have any more cash points than my local BHS, and wasn’t as busy as the now defunct M&S, so despite its size I’m not sure it is doing any better. Maybe it was the time and the day, I don’t know. I hope for their sake it does get busier. In such a large store I expected to see two or three points to pay for your goods, but there was only one with only about four or five tills, and no long queues.

And then there is the cost of providing all those items in multiple stores. I know there is supposed to be economy in bulk buying, but if you end up buying too much as a retailer, what happens to all the things that haven’t been sold at the end of the season. Are they binned? Donated to charity? Sold on to market retailers?

Tesco learned to its cost that having too many choices does not always work. Giving the customer choice is one thing. Giving the customer five types of the same thing is something else entirely. So no doubt the smaller producers will lose out to the big brands because they are no longer wanted.

Internet shopping is being blamed for the demise of many stores, and in some respects this may be true. It is easy to find things on the internet, especially unusual things. I spent all of one Saturday afternoon trawling through my local shops looking for something very specific and couldn’t find it anywhere. Got home and went on the net and found it within minutes, if not seconds. But there has always been an alternative to buying clothes in shops. I bet there isn’t a home in the UK at least that didn’t at some point subscribe to a catalogue store like Kays or Freemans. That was the internet of the past, where you could get an endless choice in multiple sizes all delivered to your door. Such catalogues still exist, possibly even more, plus they have an online presence, too.

So are we heading for a completely shop-free world. Do we even need to go out to the shops? Personally I’d be happy not to but I’m weird that way. But to keep shops going people need to use them. It’s no good saying ‘it’s a shame’ when a shop closes if you haven’t supported it on a regular basis. Shops are there to sell things, not look pretty and fill a space. A small shop cannot give the same choice as a massive store on a retail park. It is not possible to cater for every taste in one place, so BHS, M&S, HM, and all the other retailers, make up your minds who your customers are and try to please them. Not an easy task, I know.

Where will I shop? Well, I’ve probably got enough clothing to last the next twenty years and I’m happy to wear the same thing year in, year out, so I’m not really bothered. I’d just like to put my winter stuff away and wear something light and only have one layer instead of three!

Wednesday, 6 April 2016

Meet the Author!

My sister-in-law came over to take some photos of me for promotion purposes a couple of summers ago. I still look pretty much the same. Still got the skirt but the tree has gone!

This is Mutley. Like all dogs she wanted to get in on the act.

It's not often you can get out in the garden in England but this was a nice sunny day for a change. Even had a skirt on so it must have been warm. Never been able to figure out why garden centres have so much garden furniture for sale. Never really figured out who actually bothers to buy it, but that's another blog!

At one time I belonged to a recorder group. Believe me a group of recorders can sound really good when the instruments are not being played by 8 year olds.
They invested in this huge instrument (can't remember what exactly, it was called) and I gave it a go but must admit I never mastered it.

Looks like I'm doing some editing.
Looks like it but I'm just posing!!

Ah, that old netbook. Brings back some memories. Use a Surface now. Love it.

I TOLD you I was working. Where's my cup of tea?

Mutley again. Thinks she is the centre of attention.

Have no idea what I was laughing at. Probably Mutley attacking the photographer!

This is a very dangerous position to be in with Mutley. You NEVER want her rear end facing you.

Well, I can't think of anything else to say. Hope you have enjoyed the trip around my garden.
Now let's see if any of these photos pop up when I post things on Facebook!

Interesting Stats

I'm just killing time here to see if my attempt to get some different pictures stored works. Although you can upload pictures for posts and then use them again because they are stored, I have no idea if you can store them without using them. So you might see a post that just consists of pictures of me. Don't spend too much time looking at it.

I had a look at my stats for this blog and it proved very interesting and a little confusing.

First I looked at the stats for 'all time'. I was impressed by how many people looked at my blog from the US, thanks guys. You came out top.

Surprisingly Russia and China came third and fourth, that was a surprise. Better be careful what I say!

Strangely in the All Time stats there was no sign of Spain, which surprised me because I know my good friend Mike Church, often looks at my posts and he lives in Spain.

But then I went on to the stats for last month and there was Spain. And top of the chart Israel. Yet that country doesn't show up anywhere else.

Interesting stuff. Must look more often. What it does show is that my humble ramblings are seen all over the world, including Indonesia, Ukraine and some other really surprising places. Thank you all for taking the time to look at my work.

I'll add a photo here, just to get it stored!

Monday, 4 April 2016

We Get What We Deserve

As the steel industry collapses around us and people bemoan that we have lost coal and all sorts of manufacturing to cheap imports, I ask if we have brought this upon ourselves.

Over the last few years we have demanded cheaper and cheaper goods in our stores.

Supermarkets are in competition with each other to sell cheaper food, at a cost to the farmer or producer. We moan about cheap labour being brought in to pick fruit grown here, but we won’t work for that rate ourselves, yet we want the fruit as cheaply as possible. And we want everything, now! Gone are seasonal products. Gone is the joy of waiting until summer to have strawberries for tea, you can have them at Christmas if you want. But only if they are cheap enough.

We want cheap clothes and shoes, so shops bring stuff in from places where labour is cheap, because we can’t make things for the same price.

Fifty years ago my mum used to work in a London sweatshop (you couldn’t call it anything else) and made dresses for Marks & Spencer. Everything was made to the highest quality, all the dresses had proper hems not just a running stitch around the bottom. Even in those days competition was stiff for the cheapest products. Even in those days the skills needed for making clothes was being forgotten.

Once upon a time, not long ago, the area in which I now live was the centre of the UK hosiery and shoe business. Both industries lost out to cheap imports. You can probably buy tights and pop socks at the same price as you could ten years ago.

Where wages are reasonably high we have become a throw-away society. Cheap clothes that are worn a couple of times are easily replaced instead of treasured for years. Too much food is bought because it was cheap and didn’t really break the bank, so it doesn’t matter if it is thrown away; except it does because it has cost farmers and fruit pickers money to produce it in the first place. Gadgets are bought and replaced with a click of a button on the internet. Shipped in from China, Japan, India or Korea. Nothing is made in the UK.

The mantra of “Go compare” has replaced value for money. And there is a difference between those two even if they sound the same. We are encouraged to seek the cheapest rates/deals/products in every walk of life. To some extent this has always been so, but now it has become so intense it risks wiping out the profits of every industry on which we depend. Business is simply that. Business. It is there to make a profit for its shareholders and for future development and although that has become a dirty word to some, without profit there can be no tax gathered from it. Without tax the infrastructure of the country is dented. Without infrastructure the country cannot survive. Pensions depend on profits from shares and investments. The future of our food and welfare depends on being prepared to pay the correct price for the things we need and allowing business to make a profit instead of a loss.

Our future also depends on said businesses paying their dues, too. Stop all the legal tax avoidance that has been going on for years.