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Tuesday, 9 February 2010

It was an unsettling sight to behold. Highlighted cruelly by the sharp winter sun, there it stood alone. Empty.

For anyone who has struggled through its thronging masses on a peak Saturday afternoon, the sight of a soulless Queen’s Road and Park Street would probably fill you with immediate terror- cowering down before the arrival of the undead invasion soon to start pouring from alleyways and rooftops.

In fairness, this was to be seen at early morning on New Year’s Day. Still, even blighted by the traditional hungover stumble to work, it was a sobering sight to behold. Where were the hordes of shoppers so often prevalent on these pavements?

By midday, any fears or hopes for a cultural abstinence from retail activities were soon extinguished. At Sainsbury’s, where I am grateful to be employed, customers appeared in droves, filling our tills until we closed six hours later.

Of course, a grocery store like ours is a necessity in most people’s lives; our dependence on food marginally more important than our need to aimlessly shop. But I wouldn’t be surprised if we are soon undone. On the next step in our evolutionary progress, we will soon be able to derive all nutritional needs from a 5-a-day of H+M, Jack Wills and Primark.

Before this is dismissed, quite fairly, as the ramblings of a disgruntled shop assistant, take heed from the department of National Statistics. Year on year, ‘the volume of retail sales in November was 3.1 per cent higher than in November 2008’. Indeed food sales were on the increase too, albeit by a considerably smaller 1.7 per cent increase.

If a national, nay global, recession doesn’t curb our consumer habits, surely it is something that we should be concerned about. Given the abundance of health warnings and finger-waggings doled out concerning smoking and drinking, I am surprised by the lack of cutting Government TV adverts trying to wean us off our mindless spending. Except, of course, the government’s need at present is to have us pour money back into the economy, at any cost. Never mind how the proceeds are then being spent by the Government - be it to fund an ongoing war overseas, or to help feed its own people - the support we give by shopping will never be curtailed, nor will we know how the taxes from this are spent.

All of which means, sadly, that we will never switch on to the advert break to see a homebound shopping addict trying to ring up their selection of mugs on an imaginary kitchen till.

To be honest, if I’m going to waste my money on the government, I’d rather ply myself with alcohol and cigarettes than try to derive equal pleasure from a cashmere sweater.

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