Donald MacInnes: Bargain basement loses its stigma and the big beasts perish
In The Red
Donald MacInnes writes Tales from the Water Cooler, which can be found every Saturday on page 2 of i. And, although a financial near-imbecile, he writes a weekly column in The Independent’s Money section, also on Saturdays. He writes regularly on a broad range of subjects in i’s Freeview section and occasionally fills in on Simon Kelner’s daily column when emotionally up to it. @DonaldAMacInnes
Friday 01 February 2013
In the past few weeks, these inches have borne much regret at the demise of various once-high-profile High Street shopping names. But I should really just dry my eyes and get on with it. There is no sense in any of us weeping whenever someone mentions the joy of getting your Pick 'n' Mix in Woolies when you were a kid.
Anyway, let's be frank about it: aside from the jobs which have been lost (and I would certainly hope that those employees of Woolworths, HMV and Blockbuster manage to find another job very soon), all that the demise of these names means is that natural selection is alive and well in the retail world. Blockbuster is just the poor old elephant which once made the array of Serengeti predators' knees tremble, but which now is just one sore foot away from being a Jumbo burger value meal for the local lion pride.
Bottom line: no one wants to pay over three quid to hire Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy for two nights when they can go to Amazon or Play or any other online retailer and buy the DVD for the same amount, even if it's used, as there's no shame in buying used goods… and more of that later.
Same story with HMV. The group had a hell of a good run, as described in these pages last week, but the only fact that matters now is that people just don't want to buy CDs any more. Spotify and iTunes make the HMV experience seem as archaic as your Gran tasting her first real pineapple at the end of the Second World War.
At the other end of the scale, there are the 99p and £1 shops. I remember when Lewisham in south-east London (where I do a lot of my shopping) had only one such outlet. Now, Lewisham isn't the most salubrious part of the capital, but even here, in the past its sole 99p shop had an air of the tawdry about it. It smelt a bit, the lighting was gloomy and the products had all the usefulness of gammon pants. In fact, I actually bought a three-pack of gammon pants in there once. Never again.
Nowadays, discount shops like this are pretty much everywhere. And the taboo factor in shopping there (especially, I would guess, for the self-aware middle classes) has evaporated into a sweet-smelling cloud of acceptance.
The recession may have brought a lot of misery to a great deal of people, but it has also made Mr and Mrs Range Rover perfectly happy to go slumming it for the sake of a bargain. No shame in being frugal now, is there? Nowadays profligacy seems altogether more embarrassing.
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