UK Shopping Experience 2016

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I have a love hate relationship with shopping. Hate it when I’m broke and love it when I’ve got plenty of money and can find something good to buy. Quite often I can’t find what I want and either have to travel miles on public transport or take the easy way out and buy from the Internet.

Time was my local town shopping centre sold just about everything and you could have a good day out indulging yourself or your home. Now, like most British High Streets there are many empty shops and a growing amount of pawnbrokers, charity shops and bookmakers in my town centre. A sign of the times really.

The recession caused a lot of High Street shops to fail and shopping on the Internet is being blamed for the rest of the High Street’s demise. I am guilty for shopping on the Internet and have been for years, mostly Amazon.co.uk, the wide range is astonishing and delivery times hard to beat. I don’t have a car so it’s easier for me to shop online.

The only problem that I’ve ever had with Amazon was a few years ago when I ordered a microwave oven. It didn’t turn up but when I checked on Amazon it said that my package had been delivered. I rang Amazon’s customer service and complained, they rang back and said that the delivery driver had annoyingly left the microwave outside behind my wheelie bin.  Amazon were really good and refunded my payment without quibbling, A few days later the delivery driver knocked at my door and apologised. He said that he had mistakenly left the microwave outside a house with a totally different address 3 streets away. If he did then somebody was dishonest and took the package for themselves. I ended up buying the pictured Russell Hobs microwave oven which is still going strong.

A lot of the time I search for reviews of particular products, for instance a new washing machine or television. I find the best products for my needs and then see if I can locate them in a local shop. However, there is only a handful of small white goods shops left in my local town centre and they just don’t carry the range that larger stores can.

Part of the demise of town centre shopping in my opinion was the building of industrial shopping estates out of the way, cheaper rent and with a handful of the larger stores. Hard to get to with public transport and they always seem to have over eager salesmen who won’t let you browse and make up your own mind. Shopping for a laptop was a joke, it turned out that I knew more about computers than the young salesman who was pitifully trying to offer me advice that he didn’t really understand himself. I ended up buying a decent laptop from the Internet, same with my latest washing machine which has in inbuilt tumble dryer just like the one pictured..

Taking a more detailed look at my local shopping centre it’s quite surprising how many coffee bars, and cafes there are. They always seem to be busy but more as a meeting place for young mums and their kids than a break in the middle of or after retail therapy.

Clothes and shoe shops are still plentiful which is pleasing for me. Occasionally I enjoy going round those shops and trying clothes and shoes on, then treating myself with my favourite outfits. There has been a lot of comment lately about people buying clothes from the Internet and then returning them for a refund, sometimes after wear. I couldn’t do that, I like to try new clothes and shoes on in front of a mirror before buying and sometimes garments that are bought on the Internet are nothing like the photos promise.

The umpteen charity shops always look busy. Apart from buying books for my mum sometimes I don’t really shop in them. Clothes for instance are so cheap nowadays that I don’t want or need to buy secondhand. That makes me sound snobbish but to me new clothes are a treat and I want to enjoy the shopping experience for them.

The covered market isn’t as busy as it used to be, but there are a diverse amount of products on offer. I was pretty shocked last week when I popped into the market to buy some fruit and veg and found that the sole greengrocer stall was closed. For many years there were several different greengrocers but as the big supermarkets opened on the outskirts of the town customers used those to buy their fruit and vegetables rather than getting them weighed out in the market or smaller shops. Most of the butchers stalls have disappeared too, but there are more cafes in the market!

Pawnbrokers seem pretty quiet but there are still a growing amount.  Never been in one myself, they seem sad to me in that people are so much in need that they have to sell or pawn their possessions. A friend’s ex boyfriend sold her gold bracelet (a treasured gift from her father) to a pawnbroker and she had extreme difficulty in proving ownership and getting it back. I’m not saying that pawnbrokers are dishonest, most buy in good faith, but I wouldn’t really want to buy things that might have a sad history.

There are several opticians, eye tests are one thing that the Internet can’t take over entirely though I wouldn’t be surprised if some of the bigger stares don’t start to include an Opticians service. Spectacles can be bought online but I like to try different pairs of glasses on and see what suits me before buying.

There are no large furniture stores left in the town centre. I like to see furniture before I buy it and a photograph on the Internet can be deceptive. I also like to see home decor items before I buy but there isn’t much to choose from in town. Same with home improvement, one wallpaper and paint shop and that’s it, very little choice.

Something that seems to be growing is online food shopping. Several of the big stores have an online ordering and delivery service and even Amazon have jumped on the bandwagon and recently started up an online grocery store in partnership with one of the big supermarket chains. I can’t see myself buying grocerys online unless one day I was too ill to go out shopping.

How I’m Saving Money

Last year I cut back my working hours to part time to allow more time for doing what I want. I decided to trial drawing the same amount of cash every week to spend on groceries instead of using my debit card. The results were amazing savings of up to £200 a month. Using cash made me think more about what I was spending.

I also stopped going to the big supermarkets as much because I always bought more than I needed. Instead I shop at the Co-op and Jack Fulton’s freezer shop mostly and take advantage of the special offers. I also use my local butcher shop more and get better quality meat which sometimes costs less.

In conclusion I like to do a mixture of online and offline shopping, but if I had access to more electrical and furniture stores I would probably do less online shopping. What do you think?

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