Posts Tagged ‘Shopping’

The demise of offline shopping

Well in case you’ve been living in a cave for the past 6 months or so, we’re in a recession, and it seems a big one! People I hear are staying away from watching the news, just afraid of what more bad news it may bring… Every time I go out to do some shopping, I’m reminded of the fact by the ever increasing numbers of shops displaying “closing down sale!” banners. With Woolworth being the first of the lot, more and more stores are facing closure due to decreased demand for anything  really; household goods, clothes, shoes etc.  People have diminished confidence when it comes to spending money; and that is what this economy really needs at the moment. If everybody hoards their money, it will be worthless. Money only has value when it is exchanged for goods or services.

So I did my bit today, going out to buy some clothes. Even though I don’t REALLY need any (according to what my mother would think – if it’s still in one piece and you can physically fit into it, it doesn’t need replacing!) and my bank balance is lower than it should be at this point during the month… But hey, the economy needs me! And I’m happy to oblige.

Although I’m a child of the “internet age” and very comfortable making online transactions, I do enjoy the activity of going out and browsing through physical stuff. Things I can touch and try on, before making a decision. Ironically, being an online entrepreneur as well, I still cannot imagine replacing the offline shopping experience with an online one. Sure you can order clothes and return them in exchange for a different size. But you still have to rely on usually fairly small pictures, in order to make your choice. And especially for girls, trying clothes on is a hugely important part of the decision making process.

But that being said, online shopping has its purpose. When trying on is not an issue (or not desirable due to hygiene considerations) I’m the first to check eBay and whatnot to see what the best deals are. And I’m not the only one. In fact many people, eager to save a few bucks, have started shopping for more and more items online. As the Telegraph writes, last year a 34% increase in online shopping was reported. As pretty much every internet-savvy person out there is aware of: online shops usually keep smaller profit margins, to pay for their much smaller overhead costs. Therefore, the real deals can be found online, no longer on the High Street. Even while I’ve known this for a while, I do catch myself getting outraged sometimes, when I’m looking for something and wander over to an actual shop, only to discover that the item costs twice as much as on some websites I’ve seen…
But to make a long story short, I believe the following – which many successful business people seem to agree with: This is a challenging time, which could open up interesting opportunities for those willing to pursue them. The number of people surfing the net, looking for various products, from clothing to shoes, electronics, CDs/DVDs etc. is set to increase further. Perhaps we will be facing a world in a few years where offline shopping has become outdated. The Ecommerce market is a crowded one to enter as a new player. But with low start up and overhead costs, what do you really have to lose. When 1000 people can survive already, what’s 1001?

And that is why, my new business is about to be launched – www.aelingerie.com –  For exclusive Lingerie, Swim wear, Club wear and fetish/alternative shoes!

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A break from the ordinary

Even though the idealist in me wants to reject it, Christmas holds dear memories and sentiments that I would like to hold on to. As a child I would be excited for weeks leading up to Christmas eve, could not wait to see what presents would lie under the Christmas tree. And the tree was special too. Being asked in office whether my family was a “real tree” or “fake tree” family, I proudly proclaimed “real tree with real candles!”. And I’m not exaggerating. There would be a pine tree, carefully chosen to have firm branches, full, yet widely spaced enough to allow real candles to be put on it, without burning the top branches off. Real little candles, either white or red (the whole tree should be coordinated in one candle colour!) in little metal clip on candle holders which could be golden or silver in colour.

The decoration would consist of various odd ornaments straying as far away from shiny baubles as possible (my mother would think they look cheap.. I can’t say I share her sentiments, but oh well that’s what parents are for). My mother was a fanatic when it came to protecting her own childhood memories and German Christmas traditions, and wouldn’t compromise one bit. So we had straw ornaments shaped like stars, angels and snow flakes, as well as some other bits and pieces, wooden angels, bells and wreaths. No tinsel, no electric lights and certainly no Santa in sight! (Oddly enough we did have lametta which in my book is just tinsel which isn’t tied up. But somehow my mother approved)..  Instead, the traditional decoration was offset by shiny, foil wrapped chocolates or mini wreath shaped chocolates with white sprinkles on them. It was the greatest thing in the world, being able to walk past the tree, and sneakily rid it of one or two chocolates, without anyone noticing (because there were so many!).

So that is my rationalisation, my reasoning for making Christmas a bit special, even if the atmosphere of it has been altered with all the shopping propaganda we get fed. My tree is still real, I bought one in a pot, hoping it would survive in order to be kept and reused (although the label says it will not live because the roots are too limited.. I’m still hoping!) It still has decoration on it which people may find odd; lots of straw. The odd Kashmiri paper mache hand painted painted star, but still some shiny, glittery baubles I could not resist. And electric lighting. I don’t care if candles are supposedly nicer. Electric will do for me.

But the real idea of having a special Christmas is not the tree. It is the company and the food. My company is already taken care of – just the two of us, spending some quiet days without office and other nonsense to worry about.. The food was more difficult. Apparently all of the UK eats turkey on Christmas day. I have nothing personally against turkey, but it just isn’t very flavourful to me. Just a big old bird, that cannot be marinated fully because the meat is too thick. And plus, what are two people going to do with a whole turkey. So it had to be something smaller. Something more special.. Chicken is of course smaller, has better marinating possibilities, but it’s not special to me.. If you’re going to look for special birds, it has to be either duck or goose, something you would not eat every day…

My irrational, short-attention-spanned mind however wanted something much more unusual. Something without wings, yet small enough to have a full animal on the table for just two people. The only possible conclusion I could come to given a limited budget as well as time frame was : Rabbit. For some reason, in this country, rabbit is seen as something odd to eat. Apparently it is budget meat (well I certainly didn’t find that so much while buying it – chicken is much cheaper), and not readily available. But to me, simply because it isn’t that available, and I’ve never cooked it before, it seems exclusive and special. A break from the beef, lamb, chicken and occasional pork we eat every day. Something that lived and grew up in the wild, and is now going to be enjoyed, just one special night this year.

Considering I live in a place surrounded by Halal Butchers that will sell only skinned chicken, lamb and goat, I had to travel a bit and hunt for my rabbit. Although not armed with a gun and surrounded by some dogs… My hunting ground became Borough Market. And I was victorious. My weapon was a wallet with £5 in it. And now my prey is awaiting preparation in my fridge. I will try my best to remember and click some photos while making it.. That shall be the topic of my next post…

Merry Shopping Frenzy

So it’s almost Christmas. And as I’m sitting, waiting for my last two days at the office to finish, the mood is all around; nobody really feels like doing anything. People are just waiting to run off and enjoy their holidays. In certain cases they already have even; my office is working at less than 50% capacity. And perhaps the word “working” in that sentence should have been put in quotes.

As I see it, Christmas, especially in the UK, is a highly romanticised yet commercial affair, that gives people an excuse to go out and hike up their credit card debts. But the effect of the global economic (F*cking) crisis is evident all around us. People are not spending like they normally would this time of year, and are even trying to be a bit more rational when it comes to their shop-a-holism. People are out looking for bargains on major purchases they need/want to make anyway; be it TVs, electronic gadgets, mobile phones or house hold appliances. The consumer is aware that Christmas during a recession will tempt the retailers to put prices down further, in order to make the most of what will be the only profitable period for some months to come. Or so you would think!

As one of the biggest retailers has already gone into administration and is desperate to sell off all their stock until early January (Woolworth), are there really bargains to be had?

I for one am not sure! During the week of the 8th – 14th of December, the Woolworth bargain-hunt mood was in full swing. There were queues outside the shop, people waiting for maybe an hour or more to get in. Queueing to get into WOOLWORTH?! I wish I was joking. During the days before and after this insanity, I went to check it out myself. And I found that nothing that was of any use to me, was actually that cheap. No bargains for me at all!

Looking for videogames, I spent ages in that shop, trying really hard, to find something or the other that would attract my attention. But none of the titles I found there were reasonably priced, even after the measly 10% discount they gave. Woolworth’s biggest sale ever (as it’s proudly advertised throughout their shops), is ridiculous to say the least. They must expect consumers to be total idiots – drawn in by the “(up to) 50% off” signs. Well I guess they must be, if they queued for that! I personally didn’t see anything useful that was at 50% off. Greeting cards – well alright maybe that is useful if you would like to stock up to cover your needs for the next calendar year…

But people did indeed come. And they shopped. And the shelves are getting emptier – (mind you I haven’t seen them properly stocked even in the best of times)… So much so that I heard the latest news is Woolworth is selling the display shelves as well.

So if anybody out there wants to take the plunge and open a shop in these tumultuous times, get your display shelves at Woolworth.. where I imagine they may still be more expensive than elsewhere!

Analysis of a Selfish Shop-a-holic

I am aware of how shopping is an important bonding activity for women. Supposedly. However, this concept has been lost on me for as long as I can remember. Perhaps going shopping with my mother as a teenager ruined my perception of shopping together. I remember going through the racks of clothes, with my mother standing somewhere behind me, arms crossed, looking completely bored. Every shopping trip would end in disaster; whatever I liked, she hated and vice versa. So I ended up frustrated, and she wouldn’t pay for any of the clothes I picked. I insisted I should get a clothing allowance and shop by myself. Of course the simple fact that she hated everything I liked, delayed any chance for a positive decision for a few years. In the end I got a job after school, and she had to give in anyway.

Now don’t misinterpret the above paragraph: I love shopping! Any number of fights could not ruin the shopping experience for me! It’s just that I got used to shopping alone. When I was in high school, I would go to the shops and roam around, treating myself to a large banana milk shake after I was done. Or a softy. And sit on a bench on the main square, blissfully happy, having spent hours looking at clothes and whatnot. The only thing that could possibly ruin it for me was running into someone I vaguely knew, who would want to make conversation. I would try my very best to prevent such a thing from happening so if I saw someone from afar, I would wander off trying to be casual, in order not to be seen. And this would happen a lot because the city I stayed in was tiny!

Either way. My anti-social shopping behaviour is still strong today. My husband hates shopping, so he wouldn’t want to come anyway. And to be honest, I find it easier just going by myself. Grocery shopping being the exception, because I don’t want to carry it all by myself either! 😉 But I can still spend hours, walking around shops, looking at stuff I’ll never buy, all alone. And I escape into another world.

There have only been few instances where I enjoyed other people’s company while shopping. And even then, at times I tend to ruin it by being a bit too direct expressing my opinion. I’m sure Odzer knows what I’m talking about! Overall, I’ve found that shopping with girls is quite hard. Everyone has a very clear idea of what they want to shop for. And those ideas usually clash. For me it’s easier to shop with men. If you decide to shop for things that both can enjoy, the experience is much more relaxed, and there are less expectations from each other.

To me it’s often unnatural, being social and enjoying it. The only people I can truly be myself with, are quite weird in some way or the other themselves. The so called “normal crowd” I cannot get used to. I simply don’t understand the social expectations and behaviour patterns you’re supposed to follow.