I had a couple of hours to waste in London yesterday. I did think about going to the Michelangelo exhibition at the National Gallery. But then I decided that retail therapy in the West End was what I needed. I was wrong.
First I went to John Lewis’ flagship branch in Oxford Street. I used to love John Lewis; I know my way round it, it’s reassuringly middle class and it has plenty of toilets. Maybe it’s just me, but it all seems much more flash than it used to. The perfume bit is as brash as any other West End department store – I couldn’t find the cheaper soap/shampoo shelves that used to be there but there’s now a whole department just selling posh candles.
I did find a jumper I quite liked but then I saw the queue for the tills. I trawled around a few other shops but bought nothing. And frankly, why would I? It’s cheaper and easier to shop online as well as easier on the arm muscles. For example, John Lewis delivers parcels to my house for free as long as I spend £50 or more (not hard). I don’t even have to pay 5p for a carrier bag.
And there’s another reason for shopping online: cashback sites. Sadly John Lewis isn’t on the one I use – Quidco – but Marks & Spencer is and is currently giving 7.5% on purchases over £100 although that runs out soon. I don’t spend a lot on Marks & Spencer for myself but I do get the boy’s school trousers/socks/underwear there. As long as you’re buying clothes/home stuff or beauty then you can get your online delivery sent to your local store and you don’t pay anything. Spend £50 or more and you get free home delivery. And for flowers, there’s no minimum: so the £30 bunch I ordered online for a friend’s birthday tomorrow costs nothing extra and I get 4.5% of the purchase back via Quidco.
I realise that, given I am forever going on about the death of the high street thanks to banks shutting down, it’s a bit rich for me to stop buying things in shops. But just because I shop online doesn’t stop me going to the small non-chain shops. I’m hardly going to buy a loaf of bread or a birthday card online – even I can manage to carry those around with me. However, the big department stores are best for viewing, not buying: a bit like going to an art exhibition in a way ...