Thought Leadership

Shopping woes

By Colin Walls

Once upon a time, shopping was a matter of going out to exchange money for stuff that you needed. Then, as standards of living and disposable income increased, shopping started to include things that people just wanted. Nowadays, for many people, shopping has become an end in itself – acquiring stuff is a hobby. With the advent [in the UK] of widespread shopping opportunities on Sundays, I have heard malls referred to as “the new churches”.

I do very little “real” shopping, except for food. Most things that I need I can get online. When I do go shopping, however, I do experience surprise and frustration …

I would have thought that, in these difficult financial times, shops would work extra hard to try to obtain our business, but I was recently surprised to find that this was not the case. My wife and I went to a nearby retail park to make a specific purchase a few evenings ago. Having completed our task we thought that we would check out a few other things, as all the shops on the park are open until 20:00 on a weekday.

The first stop was a clothing shop. I am not going to name it, but UK readers will recognize it from the clue that its name is one word, 4 letters, one of which is X. I had seen some shorts elsewhere, which I thought might be nice for our upcoming vacation, and wanted to get my wife’s opinion. But this store closed an hour earlier than everywhere else and we were too late. Fail!

We moved on to another clothes shop. Again, I will not name it, but its nickname includes the word “Sparks”. I looked at 2 or 3 garments, which I might have purchased on impulse. I say might, because they did not have my size. Most clothing there comes in S, M, L, XL and maybe XXL. I normally take L. Everything I looked at was unavailable in M and L – the 2 “normal” sizes. Clearly the idea of stocking more of the common sizes had not occurred to them. I inquired and was told that I could order the items there or online and collect in-store. But the “impulse buy” moment had passed and they lost a sale. Fail!

My wife thought that a new swimming costume might be nice. The store is not too large, but we could not find them anywhere and, again, inquired. We were told that Head Office had decided to withdraw swimming costumes from this store. In the middle of a heatwave and prime vacation season! Fail!

We were about to go home empty handed, but decided on a visit to a pet store to obtain an item for the dog who was staying with us. I soon found the item, which was just what I was after, but had no displayed price. I figured out how much I was prepared to pay and took it to the register to find out the price. There was no line, so I got the answer quickly and made my purchase. I told the woman that there was no price on the item. She explained that Head Office [them again!] could not decide whether they should have small or large price labels, so, in the meantime, some stuff was unpriced. I explained that they almost lost a sale and she shrugged and commented again about Head Office. Almost fail!

It seems to me that shops are going out of their way to drive business away and the complaints [from them] that the Internet is stealing their business is becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy. Is this just a UK phenomenon or does it occur in other countries as well?

BTW, I bought a perfectly good pair of shorts in a nearby charity shop yesterday. I saved a ton of money and what I did spend went to a good cause. Success!

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This article first appeared on the Siemens Digital Industries Software blog at