Are we a convenience society?

Some of the best inspiration for writing an article can come from just simple everyday conversations that we have ourselves or sometimes, those that you overhear on your commute to uni/work. The idea for this article indeed stemmed from a Sunday dinner conversation with my mother where we were reminiscing over memories of our first Saturday jobs; my mother worked for her local hardware store while I was a weekend girl at the now redundant childrens-wear chain Adams Kids. We were talking about how local family-run businesses such as butchers, greengrocers, sweet shops and specialist retailers are pretty much extinct having been swallowed up by supermarket chains and shopping malls. It made me think about whether we had become lazier as a society or whether convenience stores really are convenient for our way of life now?

We live at a much faster pace now, especially in cities and more industrial areas, everything is going at a 100mph and as a result, we are less patient and when we want something, we want it now. Nobody really stops to smell the roses anymore, we want them delivered to our door-step at 11am precisely, wrapped in cellophane in a filled vase with a pre-printed message, all within a click of a button. We simply haven’t got the time to go to the butchers for our steak, the greengrocers for our veg while waiting for Mrs Jones at your local bakery to bring you a fresh loaf of bread straight out of the oven and to be honest, it’s a shame.

Society has changed so much, even more so over the last 20 years when the dot com bubble expanded and exploded right in front of our eyes. I’m only 23 but even I still remember toddling into our local Happy Shopper, where the owner Dave knew all of his customers’ names and took time to chat with you at the till. Saturdays were spent going from one shop to another, buying fresh essentials for that week and most of them were family-run businesses that were established during the war. Now our nearest high street only holds empty shells and those that aren’t boarded up are betting shops, nail salons, 99p stores or Tesco Express’.

Supermarket giants have taken over local family-run stores and as the years have gone by, more and more of them have expanded their goods and services to include clothing ranges, travel bureaus, pharmacies and even insurance, mobile phone providers and legal services. We all expressed our sympathy when stores like Woolsworth collapsed but many of us also probably questioned when the last time we stepped foot into one. We’re all guilty of it but it’s just too easy to shop and get everything you need under one roof at a competitive price.

When I worked at Adams Kids, we sold everything from everyday essentials to occasion-wear, school uniform and toys but when the economy started to nose dive, people didn’t have the money to spend £20 on good quality clothing for their children. The recession has bred throwaway fashion and it’s no wonder that the likes of Primark is continuing to expand abroad as their sales figures are miles ahead of their competitors. Parents don’t mind spending £50 on an entire summer wardrobe for their children because their money goes further and kids, being kids are more than likely to end up covered in grass stains, paint and ice cream. It’s not a serious waste of their hard earned cash if a £5 t-shirt gets ruined rather than wasting £30 on a designer one. Similarly as adults, if we only wear an outfit for one season, it’s fine because it didn’t cost half of our month’s wages for it.

Realistically, it would probably drive us all mad to have to dash from one place to another on the high street when we can just park our cars, grab a trolley and fill it with everything we need so that we can get back to the office on time. However it’s just saddening to see local stores that have been around 70 years or so disappearing from our high streets, only to be replaced by another garish Cash for Gold or a Co-Op. Supermarkets are becoming clones of each other with all of them trying to out-do one another when essentially they all provide the same services. As supermarket chains expand and become bigger, it’s no longer a joy to play trolley dash around your local Asda on a Saturday morning, instead it is one massive, headache inducing frenzy that has convinced me that people should take some sort of navigation test before they crash their way around the aisles with their screaming twins in tow. Convenient it may be but sometimes too much convenience can become inconvenient.

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