Belfast Telegraph

You'll pay dearly to be entertained on the high street

By Robert McNeill

Elegies are being written for the high street. I won't join in. There's something pleasant about bobbing hither and thither on a sea of greed made up of your fellow shoppers.

The thrill of the chase. The anticipation as you cross the threshold of another store. The sight of one's fellows clutching their 'kills' in carrier bags. It's more real than shopping by computer.

But, increasingly, it's an indulgence reserved for those who can afford it. They're paying for the excitement of the experience - once more I drown the dessert in a surfeit of products from a hen's bottom - and for the antsy pleasure of getting their goods immediately.

According to a new study by TalkTalk and the Centre for Economics and Business Research, high street stores are charging shoppers up to four times more than online retailers for popular goods such as DVDs, CDs and video games.

The film High School Musical 3, for example, cost £2.99 on the website but £14 at Lord Sainsbury the grocer's. Things weren't much better at Mr Morrison's general stores, where Call of Duty: Nutter's Revenge Vol 3, was selling for £39.99, compared to £19.99 on yon

Indeed, on average, high street prices for entertainment products were 124% higher than online.

It's not all about money, though, it's about choice. There isn't enough of it in the finite space of a physical shop.

Even the biggest store is reduced to the size of a baby ant by the worldwide web.

It's still pleasant to waddle into Waterstone's and pluck a book off the shelves. You might even buy one. But, generally, you'd go home and check for cheaper online.

There's no point in even going in if your interest is slightly off mainstream.

If you've a fascination with obscure medieval oriental callisthenics - and which of us does not? - your chances of finding something in a shop are zero. Even tomes on something like yoga will comprise a teeny selection compared to what's out there.

My advice to Waterstone's: sell clothes as well as books, perhaps offering free socks with every novel. Citizens are wary of buying habiliments online. I recall the time I purchased a pair of trousers over the internet.

I cannot think what possessed me. I'm neither a frequent nor a cosmopolitan buyer of trousers.

I stick to the same ones for years and, indeed, used to buy all my trousers from Lowestoft Herring Drifters stores, situated on the waterfront of a small, smelly port in the far north of Scotland.

Perhaps that's where I got my interest in trouser waistbands. But I digress. On this occasion, there was something wrong with the garment - I think it had only one leg - so I telephoned to complain.

The lady on the other end became flustered - perhaps we'd got onto the subject of waistbands - and the phone was taken from her by a male.

You used to get a lot of that as a reporter: the office macho man coming to rescue the little woman. I always imagined he had a moustache and, sometimes, asked him to confirm this.

Long story short: it all ended badly, he making anti-Scottish noises and me accusing him of being hirsute above the top lip.

Never again.

Today, when I want trousers, I still plunge into the Sea of Greed and bob along the high street.


From Belfast Telegraph