Last week I went to the Trafford Centre. I was wanting to get a pair of good quality jeans. My jeans always fall apart so I figured that investing in a 'quality' brand was probably a worthwhile investment.
Nudie Jeans had been reccomended to me, and so I headed to their nearest stockest to me - Selfridges.
I went in, found the jeans section, and was met by a very friendly female shop attendent. I asked her all sorts of questions about things that I had never previously cared about. She told me to try on various pairs of jeans, explained the various different brands, and pointed me in the right direction.
Now, admittedly I was not lying. After trying on 5 or so pairs of jeans, none of them fit well enough or looked good enough to justify the premium price of premium jeans. I thanked her for her help and went on my way.
It struck me that she was super friendly given that I had taken up her time and then not bought anything. Then I thought about it.
- She gets a salary (I assume), so probably does not care.
- She knows that the internet exists.
- It's her job.
Everyone does shopping online now. It is way cheaper. There are none of the costs associated with running a store on the high street, and offerings like Amazon distribution make it easy to scale.
I had not initially noticed but the shopping center was pretty darn quiet. Admittedly it was a weekday, but it still seemed apparent that not many of these shops could actually be making much money.
At this point I realised that shopping centres house lots of shops. I walked past a few shops, tried on various pairs of jeans, but still.. nothing.
I then stumbled past Levis. I headed in. The first pair of jeans fit perfectly. Relative to some of the jeans they had reccomended in Selfridges the £80 price tag was quite the steal.
I came out of the changing room and the attendent asked me what I thought.
A: "How were they?"
Me: "Great. They fit perfectly."
A: "OK cool. Do you want them?"
A: bemused look
Me: walks out
It hit me in this moment that the jeans were great, but I could still get them cheaper online. It dawned on me. We ruined the high street.
Now I imagine there are a number of posts from other publications about the downfall of the high street. I have seen them before, and can not be bothered to look for examples. It seems somewhat of a given.
It just seems like the logical extension that over time the high street will just disappear. My local town is undergoing 'regeneration' because no-one goes there. The problem is no-one goes there because there is no reason to.
I suspect that version 3 of the high street will just be glorified changing rooms.
The problem is that I work on a computer. I spend my free time on a computer. I can buy food on a computer. I can buy clothes on a computer. I can talk to my friends on a computer. I can buy a plot of land on the moon on my computer. There really is no reason to ever leave the house.
This is bad because I want to leave the house.
The obesity epidemic got a lot of press in the UK over the last few years. Removing any need to leave the house is not going to help that.
Does it matter
All that said, it may not matter.
Things change. The loss of the high street could be better for civilisation in the long term. Who knows.
Regardless, it seems strange watching things you have always lived with change and disappear.
Then I started thinking about premium brands again.
It has historically been the case that on the high street you can buy items at a variety of price points. On this occasion I wanted more expensive jeans (assuming that price is correlated to quality). I could have however gone to a much cheaper store and got jeans.
Selfridges is a premium brand. Everything that they sell there is expensive, yet one assumes that people go there (otherwise it would not still be in business).
They have a premium offering - they make you feel better than other people.. and then they rip you off. It obviously works.
When wondering around food was the most apparent 'overpriced' offering. People were coming and buying extortionate amounts for the same products that you could get elsewhere.
I can just about justify buying expensive clothes, but buying a £7 sandwich at Selfridges seems somewhat ridiculous.
NOTE: Apparently in 2006 you could get an £85 sandwich)
A little bit of luxury
I thought about it a bit more, and the first 'reasoning' that came to mind was 'a little bit of luxury'.
Sometimes it is nice to just enjoy a nice thing in a nice place regardless of cost. Eating some nice food at Selfridges as a one off is fine. Makes sense.
I guess the other end of the spectrum is the mega wealthy. Those people who really do not care, and have too much money. If it really will make no difference to their futures I guess it does not matter what they pay.
Then again I suspect (based on nothing) that some people act like that when really they should not. They can not afford it, and do it for appearances. More fool them.
What is your point
My point is that by my definition of worthwhile things, Selfridges should not exist. Selfridges however is extremely successful.
In the same vain I argue that the Internet means that there is no reason for the high street to exist, yet it probably still will.
I.E. By writing this post I have realised that I may have missed the point.
What have we done? We have done something. I am not sure if it is good or bad.