Went on my first proper out-of-town non-essential shopping mission yesterday. I’ve been wanting to buy a new laptop for months but needed to see it in the flesh. I thought I’d give what I imagined would be the busy Monday reopening a miss and drove up to Fosse Park yesterday afternoon.
There was a definite sense of normality returning as I saw the virtually deserted car park of the last few months now half-full. I was happy to see there was no queue at all outside PC World just a sign on the window saying the in-store maximum was 100 people.
With just a little hesitation I stepped inside waiting to be told what to do but there was no welcome party just a gathering of PC World workers chatting to one another in the doorway making it impossible to walk in socially distant.
There was a hand sanitising station near the entrance and the various two metre floor signs and tape with which we are all now familiar but apart from that everything was as it always had been.
Thankfully there were no arrows to guide us around the store which could have made for very long journeys to check out just one item. It struck me that the store’s preparations for this new world must have amounted to little more than usually takes place ahead of a big in-store promotion.
There were a few staff and customers – no more than 20% I would say – wearing face masks, I overheard one very comically muffled conversation taking place between two of them.
I eventually found the area with the Lenovo Yoga laptop I had my eye on. Didn’t want to touch it at first but needed to see it on so pressed the power button to no affect. Stood there awhile before asking an assistant who did the same only to announce that there was no power in that whole area and that he’d be back to sort. He never returned.
Just for something to do really I walked round the rest of the shopping park. It struck me that socially distant shopping would be very easy to manage in some of the big furniture stores such as Sofology and DFS.
It was busier in the clothing part of the shopping park and there were small queues outside the likes of Primark, Next, River Island and Foot Asylum but not particularly lengthy ones.
There was a different atmosphere here too with people seeming to be in more of a rush with the one-way signs being ignored and people sitting on the ‘out of use’ benches. It wasn’t too long before I found myself feeling grumpy about how people were behaving.
For me I think “non-essential” shopping will stay just that, something to be done only when it’s absolutely necessary. I get little pleasure out of being amongst strangers – unless food or drink is involved – and the queuing and etiquette around social distancing gives me extra reason to avoid the experience.
I’m sure the shopaholics amongst us will return to their spiritual home with vigour but for many of us this three-month lockdown will tip us even further towards online shopping. These are worrying times indeed for our High Street retailers.