Shops are to blame for customers going online

Sandra Chapman
Sandra Chapman

I can’t believe I’m writing this, but so far most of my Christmas shopping has been done online.

This is due to another project I’m involved in which is taking up a lot of my time, something I’ve always tried to avoid coming up to Christmas.

Will you be doing your Christmas shopping online?

Will you be doing your Christmas shopping online?

Being someone who loves the festive season especially the trips to the stores which set up special Christmas shops, I feel deprived of that festive build up, as though I’m letting the traditionalists down because so many people these days rubbish Christmas yet eventually succumb to the atmosphere and even go to church.

The season has tremendous appeal; it’s hard to ignore even if the festive pop songs in stores really test us to the limit.

When the first gift I had ordered arrived I wasn’t even there to sign for it – the three to five day delivery promise was a bit vague and I didn’t have time to be marooned at home – so when I decided to chase up the missing present another half day was spent picking it up.

Fortunately what looked interesting in the catalogue was exactly that and it buoyed me up to continue the online shopping.

Another gift took 10 days to materialise but, hey, it was saving me time for other things; what’s not to like about that?

But I really was missing a proper Christmas shopping event, bringing home things I didn’t intend to buy, chatting with the sister and friends over coffee and mince pies, getting new ideas for setting out a festive table, spending money on fripperies which looked cute at the time.

My childhood Christmas memories involve seeing my mother ride her bicycle back from the shops on Christmas Eve with parcels of all shapes tied to the handlebars.

I know if she was alive today she would do it in the same way as she never liked Christmas traditions being watered down. We would have greeted her like the children in the traditional Christmas cards. While she was shopping we were decorating the house because that’s when it was done decades ago.

Today, already, I see Christmas trees in homes everywhere and this weekend the mayors will be out switching on festive lights. Some of them will have to do it several times as every village is entitled to its own tree these days.

London might look gorgeous at Christmas but the regions are getting their own slice of the action. After all they are ratepayers too.

In other ways I have taken to online shopping because it is easier and you don’t risk getting knocked down in a shopping mall by a child pushing a scooter with one foot or face the drug addled holding their hands out for money as shoppers have been in one of Belfast’s main shopping venues.

In fact a report out this week revealed that ‘hi-tech high streets’ are driving older shoppers away. Research by the Centre for Future Studies (CFS) suggests a lack of seating is one problem something I witnessed myself this week at an out of town shopping centre.

Last time I was there I was able to sit down to a light lunch. I can still have a light lunch and a table to eat it off, but no chair to sit on.

The few people there standing to eat were young and sturdy.

The store didn’t have what I had gone for, yet I was able to get exactly what I wanted in a much smaller shop near home. That has taught me a lesson – that the big store isn’t always beautiful or bountiful.

Last year I bought half of my Christmas presents in a shop/café just two miles from home.

It had a shelf filled with locally produced arts and crafts and I celebrated my good luck by having lunch there. So, if you haven’t yet done your Christmas shopping and are not a fan of online shopping then you might be surprised at how much you can buy locally.

CFS suggests that UK retailers who are not elderly-friendly are losing out on the £4.5 billion spent annually in shops, a lot of that at Christmas.

They’ve only themselves to blame.