Blaise Tapp: We'll still have busy high streets in 50 years

In this life there are two types of people: those who use self checkouts and those who don't.

Monday, 7th March 2016, 8:38 am
Updated Monday, 7th March 2016, 8:41 am
Blaise says there are two types of people in life, those who use self checkouts and those who dont.

It is a very clear division and not one which can be explained away on the grounds of age, social demographic or whether or not you have watched every single episode of Breaking Bad – in one go.

Some shoppers want to grab their avocados and Sugar Puffs and get the hell out of Dodge, preferably without having to pass the time of day with the cashier with the nervous tick.

These are the same people who don’t insist on queuing up at a bank and don’t lie that ‘the machine once ate my card’ when the nice banking assistant asks if anybody would rather get on with their life and use her automated service instead of standing behind the scruffy chap with 20 bags of loose change.

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These folk are modern day pragmatists, the ones who choose coffee shops by how good their wi-fi is as opposed to the taste of their brew.

Personally, I sit with, what I suspect is still, a sizeable majority who are not fussed by technology and really don’t like being told by a computer, which sounds like a bored librarian, that there is an item outside of the bagging area.

But it is unfair to dismiss us all as Luddites just because prefer to do things much the way we always have. It is because of ‘old fashioned’ people like me that I am dubious whether this nation of shopkeepers will necessarily lose the best part of one million retail workers in the next decade.

Of course I have been wrong before: only a month ago I would have put money on Tony Blackburn getting a knighthood and that I would still be eating frozen crispy pancakes well into my retirement.

The grim warning from the British Retail Consortium, the body which fights the corner of shops of all sizes, takes into account the likely impact of Government initiatives such as the living wage and also the changing ways that people do their shopping. If nothing else I live in hope that the warning there will be 900,000 fewer shop workers in 2025 than now has been exaggerated to make both the powers that be and the man in the street sit up and take notice.

The fact remains that there are millions of us who have endured the agony of an online food shopping order crashing at the last minute or receiving an unsatisfactory replacement for the out-of-stock item which we ordered and would rather be advised by the expert behind the counter as to how best to cook a joint.

Even I must concede technology has enriched our lives and will continue to do so but there are many things too precious to be wiped out forever in the name of progress, including the independent trader, the quality retailer and, while I’m at it, the good old traditional newspaper.

Of course, all of the above can be enhanced and aided by science but do we really want to explain to our grandchildren what supermarkets used to be for or that people used to try on eight pairs of jeans in a tiny cubicle before deciding which ones to buy?

I have a sneaking suspicion that in 50 years’ time we will still have busy high streets.