Level playing fields and the realities of retail

Patrick Hoskings, Financial Editor at The Times, writes a rational and thoughtful column on the realities of British retail (free registration required, I think).

The unpalatable truth is that online retailers by and large are winning not because of their tax advantage but because they are producing a better service compared with many traditional shops. Technology has transformed the business of remote shopping. Buyers can glean far more product information and advice with a few clicks of the mouse or swipes of the phone than they ever garner from an assistant in a physical shop.

For some merchandise, the shop is fast becoming an absurd anachronism. The very idea that a business would still assemble a narrow range of products in a not very accessible room miles from the ultimate buyer’s home and put an under-trained and under-informed youngster in charge seems as quaint as a cash register with a bell that goes kerching.

Accompanying the ongoing Death of the High Street is a chorus of wailing for a level playing field. But, whenever people call for “fairness”, we need to check our objectivity.

In truth, we all vote with our wallets.


Photo by Alexandra Kirr on Unsplash … which I recognise as Daunt Books in Marylebone, London.