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Has shopping lost its sparkle?

10 October 2018 - Rosemary French OBE

I am in buying mode for our new home, which should be enjoyable, yet I am finding it fraught with difficulty.

My foray into buying large items online has not been good.  I ordered a garden hut which seemed a simple task.  I was presented with a myriad of huts and of course bought the one which was most heavily featured.  But when erected, it was certainly 8ft by 6 ft but nowhere online had it told me its roof height!  My longest garden implements cannot stand up in it never mind me! And the quality is appalling. The grandkids think it is a Hansel and Gretel hut. I was seduced online into buying as the result of a lovely but misleading photo.  I also need a greenhouse and there is no way I am going online for that.  There are two hut and greenhouse stockists close by with a wide range to choose from.  So what on earth made me order my hut online?   Lack of time?  Laziness?  Did I really think it would be more convenient when I now have to get it dismantled, try to give it away or use it as firewood and find a replacement.

I also need new sofas, but most of the online retail chains are selling on price and compromising on size.  So, hut lesson learned, I visited a posh furniture store.   That failed too.  I was given the free interior design treatment then the very hard (and uncomfortably embarrassing) sell, followed by a series of calls of ‘its 10% off today’, then a week later ‘it’s 20% off’.  I like their design, style and quality, and I do not even mind their price but I want to make up my mind in my own time, not be bullied into it.

Somehow, shopping, which used to be really enjoyable has lost its sparkle for me. I blame online shopping because it has reduced the activity to a transaction and not an experience.  I know that sounds contradictory when there are so many options online.  But I think many are like me where time is so precious that we cannot afford to spend hours searching for the right product, checking all the sizes and dimensions.  What I would really like is a High Street of shops without stock but which are showrooms with one of each product.  I would look, touch and feel the products on show, have a coffee and would be happy to order there and even pay for delivery to home or a shared delivery point.  

This was beautifully illustrated this week when I bought a new IPad from a leading PC retailer.  I could have bought it online, maybe even got it cheaper.  But I went into the showroom with clear point of sale, easily found what I wanted and then a wonderful assistant said she would give me £50 if I brought in my old I Pad and would even download all my Apps and do the transfer there and then.  Now that is what I call a great experience.  Pity they don’t sell sofas!

First published in the South East Business Magazine, August/ September 2018 issue

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