Just as filling stations now sell newspapers, milk and even freshly baked doughnuts alongside the petrol, the Future Foundation think-tank is predicting "multi-functioning" as the way ahead. At a conference on the 24-hour society tomorrow, it will describe how increasingly flexible services - from hairdressing salons on trains to beauty parlours in pubs - will go hand in hand with a growth in the 24-hour society. Our shopping and sleeping habits are about to be transformed.
By 2010, predicts Michael Willmott, co-director of the foundation, we will be able to see a film, go for a swim and eat out in a restaurant at any time of the day or night. Grocery chains that have introduced round-the-clock opening will be followed by department stores, pharmacies and electrical outlets, he believes. The widespread demand for such services is already there, according to a major survey it has carried out into consumer attitudes. Tomorrow's conference, organised in London by British Telecom and the Confederation of British Industry, will hear that only a quarter of the population consider themselves to be simply a "normal day person".
Almost half of those questioned want grocery stores to open later in the evening. A quarter wanted them open all day and night. Two-thirds would like doctors' surgeries to extend their hours and more than half want dentists to do the same. One-fifth said they even favoured flexible hours for schools, as already happens in San Diego where parents can choose whether their child attends the morning or afternoon package of lessons.
A significant proportion of consumers also want pharmacies, newsagents, garages, clothes shops and record shops to open later. Most enthusiastic about such developments are people in the 18-24 age group - who are also the people with most experience of having actually shopped outside normal hours. Mr Willmott said businesses would need to respond by being less rigid in their perceptions of time and place, and by creating time-saving opportunities. "As a society, we are increasingly affluent, but the one thing that we lack is time."
The Future Foundation has identified four types of consumer distinguished by their attitudes towards the 24-hour society.
Fast Laners, are the keenest, enjoying a frenetic lifestyle and believing life would be enhanced if services were available around the clock.
Convenience-driven people, meanwhile, feel highly time-pressured and would welcome anything that helps solve their problems.
Pressured conservatives are equally oppressed by conflicting demands on their time, but opposed in principle to 24-hour services. Past timers also object to the idea and would like the world to regress to the quieter pace of eras past.
Ten years ago you could not:
1 Buy a can of paint or a television on a Sunday.
2 Go to a hairdressers in the evening
3 Buy newspapers at the supermarket.
4 Bank by telephone in the middle of the night.
5 Watch television news 24 hours a day.
6 Print your business cards at a motorway service station.Reuse content