I had some grocery shopping delivered last week from one of the major stores, all of which now reach my little coastal backwater. When I was trying to arrange delivery to take place at the weekend, this was the beginning if the week, I was surprised to find most slots were booked. Quite apart from the fact that this rather detracts from the convenience of the whole thing it does show its popularity. Who would have thought that having built these enormous stores the operators would now be discouraging us from visiting? To the point where one large operator offers a ‘call and collect’ service such that you can drive to the store and collect your groceries from a delivery truck parked at the rear of the car park. The later is not for me as it always seems somewhat nefarious collecting from a truck that has driven 20 yards from the store.
It has now occurred to me that we are witnessing yet another massive socioeconomic change that will affect the next generation. We must drag our youngsters into the superstores as an important part of their education before it is too late. The town that I live in has, for many years, relied on a small co-operative store* and that means people have learnt the etiquette of shopping in a co-op. when you transplant someone who has not shopped in an out of town behemoth it is like changing countries. The traffic rules, the time allowed stationary, the layout are all different and bewildering. I remember taking my mother, many years ago, to an out of town superstore and she stalled at the door, terrified by the size. When I got her moving I lost her for the best part of three hours as she wandered aimlessly looking for flour. When we emerged my mother was bruised, exhausted and in need of a lie down, I was never quite sure if I had done her a favour or a disservice that day. I would like to point out now that whilst I can parallel park, as a man I am woefully under qualified in superstore traffic rules.
If we rely on home delivery then we will be the only generation that is comfortable in large out of town stores. Our parents were intimidated by the sheer size of them and if our children learn to shop from home so will they be. Everything is neat and tidy on a computer, there is no traffic carnage with shopping carts or confused layout simply type and click. The branding is followed through to the small local express stores so they will think that they know but when they enter the monster store all sense of normality will be lost. If you don’t want your children falling like lemmings at the door to some out of town superstore then act now and teach them the way of the shop.
It does strike me as peculiar that we have shrunk the globe through faster and cheaper travel but we are bringing up agoraphobics. Children can shop from home and socialise online, if they want to explore the world then the web means that they can do it from the safety of their own home. I was actually walking alongside the river Lea in London on Wednesday this week and was surprised to see no children sneaking over fences to play in the dirty and dangerous brackish water. It would seem even my childhood play areas hold no interest for this generation.
*For those outside of the UK this is nowhere near as grand as it sounds and is readily summed up as the small store, remaining firmly behind the times and dying in the face of competition