I had a fairly unsuccessful shopping trip yesterday. Well, I got the main thing I went out for, which was an electrically-heated hat for my Dad for his birthday. My sister is buying him a planisphere for showing the position of the stars, so you see, it all fits. Anyway, don’t tell him. His birthday’s next Monday.
But I had a couple of other things on my list, which meant going across the road to the B&Q DIY store. Well, allegedly DIY. I notice that over the years the focus of their stock has changed from hard labour to soft furnishings. And that was probably why they didn’t have the first item I looked for: a transformer for halogen lighting. Clearly, you don’t DIY that, you pay for an electrician. Aren’t these lovely cushions?
OK, they still have some items for the handyman. I wanted sanding pads for my little Black and Decker, and they were in stock. This is the B&D “Mouse” sander, for doing the little fiddly bits. The abrasive pads are just, oh, I don’t know, about twelve centimetres by ten, in the shape of a smoothing iron. (Oh, no, I’ve just suffered an autistic compulsion to work out the actual area. Umm. A hundred square centimetres. Well, call it 96.5).
In stock, as I said. Just over fourteen pounds for a pack of ten. They’re bits of sandpaper, with velcro on the back (the fluffy half), and they cost a pound forty each? I left without buying any.
The other unsuccessful part of my mission was more predictable, in that I didn’t really expect to be buying anything, but I wanted to check anyway. After all, they were having a sale at PC World. So: one stick of memory and one hard drive to look at, and yes, as expected: fully double the street price.
And by “street”, I mean “Internet”. You can buy pretty much anything on the Internet and even paying for delivery, it’s usually cheaper. You can see why: lower costs, more manageable stock levels, and so on. And I actually did come home, get onto eBay, and look for the items I wanted. My sanding pads were £12.60 for forty, as oposed to B&Q’s £14.35 for ten. Same brand, as it happens. The computer bits were pretty much going rate — no bargains — but acceptable. I bought them.
It’s clear that conventional retailing is doomed. Books and music most doomed and soonest, but a lot of the rest will follow. I can’t quite work out what shops will survive, although I’m sure some will. Clothes and shoes maybe? (Men might buy clothes unseen, but I can’t imagine women doing it.) Maybe your basic foodstuffs will arrive on the van from Tesco, but you’ll still buy special items from the local delicatessen. Let’s hope so.