Digital solutions are no solution at all for shops - Kevin Buckle

I’ve been wearing the same make of Clarks’ Gore-Tex boot for the best part of a decade only needing to buy a replacement pair every three years.
Visiting 'real' shops rather than online retailers is a richer experience, says Kevin BuckleVisiting 'real' shops rather than online retailers is a richer experience, says Kevin Buckle
Visiting 'real' shops rather than online retailers is a richer experience, says Kevin Buckle

My latest pair needed replaced just as the first lockdown was about to hit so I made a point of visiting the Clarks on Princes Street just before they closed only to find they were no longer making the boot I wanted though there was a replacement that I wasn’t quite so keen on which given it is just a plain black boot was maybe a bit harsh.With no stock available online anywhere I decided to hang on and while the soles started to come away the boots were still comfy and miraculously waterproof so I just kept wearing them.This week though with the boots clearly on their last legs I decided to nip over while at work in the mall and buy a new pair. I asked for my usual size nine but the boots were definitely too tight. My waist may have got bigger but surely not my feet!Closer inspection showed these new boots were definitely a little narrower and the assistant told me the inner boot was now more padded. I tried a size ten and all was well.

Now others will say there was no real problem here to order online and then just return the nines and have size tens sent out. However it would have taken a lot longer than 15 minutes and what if the tens had been too big and there is no nine and a half so I’d be back to square one?

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Of course this is just a very obvious example why online shopping is no match for visiting a high street shop but it is about far more than just whether something fits.

Especially when buying gifts you can only look for things you know about online while visiting a shop for one thing may lead to discovering far more. Just this week I had a customer visit Avalanche to buy a T-shirt for his daughter and go away with presents for his wife and brother too and say he would be back for more.

After the disastrous Forever Edinburgh campaign which has still shown little improvement, a digital Christmas market for Edinburgh has been announced to “provide a lifeline to small businesses“ doubling down on an idea that completely misses the point that local businesses are open for business and just need people to safely visit their premises.

I can only agree with recent comments from Roddy Smith the chief executive of the city centre business group Essential Edinburgh, that city centre businesses large and small are very much looking forward to giving customers a different but exciting Christmas experience this year that they won’t get online.

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Those saying they are trying to help need to drop the obsession with digital answers that help those who mostly sell online already far more than shops with an added and expensive high street presence.