Belfast Telegraph

Time for slow Europe approach to shopping

By David Elliott

Good in small doses, would be the perfect description for my thoughts on shopping. Now that may surprise you because rather than having a complete aversion to it, as most men do, I can actually put up with it in the right shop and under the right conditions. The right shop would tend to be one selling food and the right conditions would tend to be quickly.

Retailers will hardly worry about my thoughts on the matter because latest data shows they've got enough to worry about. The British Retail Consortium said sales on the high street fell 2.1% in May compared to the same period a year earlier and reflect 'tough conditions' in the sector.

It can't be easy out there for the supermarkets or, more importantly to the local economy, the small retailers which litter our own high streets.

But I have an idea, one which should attract more shoppers to our independent retailers, particularly those which deal in food. If I'm honest it's stolen from Europe but it could work just as well here.

Working on the business desk means it's often after six in the evening (well after six if the boss is reading this) before we tear ourselves away from the job.

Anyway, on the journey home thoughts turn to the evening meal and as I drive through my local town I look longingly at the award-winning butchers, the artisan bakery and the vegetable shop. The one thing they have in common is that they're closed, and I'm forced to drive on to a supermarket still open.

This may be a naïve suggestion but could our local independent shops not stay open until perhaps 8pm to catch commuters arriving home? While it might cost more it would surely be made up for in extra revenue? Alternatively open later or follow the Spanish and French model of closing down for a couple of hours over lunch.

The rush hour of people coming back from the day job are presumably the exact type of people retailers want to target i.e. in work and with disposable income to spend. If so then why not make it as easy as possible for them to buy your products?

As I say, this is probably a simplistic answer and we welcome your thoughts on the matter. Anyway, it's well after six and I need to get thinking about tonight's dinner.