As the 1970s stumbled into the 1980s, I would walk two or three times a week to the end of my street, left onto Fergusons Lane and buy a 10 pence mix-up from my Local corner shop.
A couple of cola bottles, some jelly teeth and maybe a chocolate mouse or two: while everyone else was contemplating the Winter of Discontent and the advent of Thatcherism, I was hellbent on ekeing out as much value as possible for the one coin I had in my possession.
The mental effort, combined with my chronic indecision and a terrifying fear that I would make the wrong choice, meant that I took an interminable amount of time to pick my 10 items.
It seems clear now, nearly four decades on, that my mix-up faffing would no longer be tolerated.
Back then, the corner shop owner sighed sarcastically, he would roll his eyes and possibly suck his teeth, but had no option to wait for me to take my sweet time.
Now it’s almost certain that a management consultant would produce a time-and-motion study involving a number of spreadsheets to show that the hours spent waiting for me to choose my preferred candies, when compared to the small margins on 1p sweets, rendered the whole transaction uneconomical from the point of the retailer.
The 10 pence mix-up is a thing of the past, and not simply because it is not good Business to lavish attention on indecisive redhead minors with low levels of cash.
Now retailing is about workflows, margins and cost differentials. Get the people in, give them what they want, get their money and then get them out. Even a little chat about the weather or the football is frowned upon. Time spent on jibber-jabber could be better utilised on getting to the next wallet.
Retailers are not to blame. The process is as quick and impersonal as possible because if shops don’t relieve people of their hard-earned as ruthlessly as is possible, someone will set up a Website to do the very same.
And yet what industry is struggling more right not than retail? Perhaps the crisis on the high street hasn’t actually been caused by the growth of online or rising Business rates but by the lack of shopkeepers willing to drop individual sweet treats into a white paper bag in exchange for a low value coin.
But you can’t turn back time. The sigh of the impatient shopkeeper has been replaced by a self-service till asking you how many bags you’ve used and, as a result, capitalism is probably finished.
Graeme Whitfield is Business editor of The Journal
Source : Chroniclelive