September 15, 2011

Being a consumer – leisure or hard work?

Filed under: Uncategorized — by xrematon @ 11:36 am
Tags: , ,

The opening of Westfield Stratford City, the largest shopping centre in Europe, reminded me of the time when glitzy malls first began to capture our imagination. The example of Bluewater comes to mind – at the time it opened (Spring 1999), I was working at The Futures Company and a team went on a ‘retail fieldtrip’ to get firsthand experience.

What made Bluewater so striking was that it tapped into a growing trend: the idea of shopping as a leisure activity. Indeed, on its site, Bluewater proudly states how it has successfully combined retail and leisure to offer a destination day out and that people spend on average three hours there.

Fine – ambling around a huge, sparkling state-of-the-art shopping centre can count as ‘fun’. However, I am also struck by an opposing trend: how being a consumer is increasingly hard work. Maybe what I am thinking of is the dark side to ‘collaborative’/ ‘co-creational’ consumerism. It’s about the fact that we are being encouraged to work the tills ourselves (think of all those stores now that have hand-held barcode scanners for you to pick up when you come in and self-service checkouts at the end); we are our own delivery service (the ‘Click and Collect’ option is being promoted more and more, whilst Amazon have recently started offering lockers for order pick-up); and then we need to review our purchases (I have been asked to do this for a number of recent purchases, ranging from curtain hooks to getting a plumber).

Of course, there is also a bright side to all of this (greater convenience, lower costs, better information etc). Perhaps it’s just that I am a lazy consumer who grumbles about doing ‘their bit’ for ‘consumer society’!


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