Online shopping is convenient, but it's putting many women out of work – Susan Dalgety

The roll call of stores forced to close down because of the cost-of-living crisis and changes in our shopping habits is depressing.
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Household names like fashion retailer M&Co, Paperchase and Hamleys in Edinburgh’s St James Quarter are just three of the much-loved brands who are shutting up shop in the region this month. I can’t say I am surprised, if I am anything like a typical shopper.

We were all forced to buy almost everything online during lockdown, and even though I am now living only a short walk away from the shopping delights of Morningside and George Street, I have found myself sticking to my Google searches.

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My MacBook is my own personal high street, from books to paint, dresses to Christmas gifts. The only shops I visit regularly now are charity ones and discount supermarkets, with the occasional foray into M&S if there is a sale on.

Shopping on the internet took off during the Covid pandemic (Picture: Leon Neal/Getty Images)Shopping on the internet took off during the Covid pandemic (Picture: Leon Neal/Getty Images)
Shopping on the internet took off during the Covid pandemic (Picture: Leon Neal/Getty Images)

And Gumtree has proved the perfect marketplace for ‘gently used’ household goods. I am particularly happy with a cream-painted, French-style kitchen dresser that proved to be the perfect addition to my new kitchen. Now all I need is a floor.

Waiting in for the Evri courier can sometimes be frustrating, particularly when a text lands at 6pm to say there has been an unavoidable delay and the delivery has been put back until the next day. But on the whole, online shopping works.

But at what cost? The closure of M&Co alone means that 2,000 jobs will be lost across the UK, with scores of them in the Lothians. And it will be women who suffer the most. Retail has traditionally offered women reasonably flexible job opportunities, whether as a Saturday girl while still at school or college, or shifts that can be fitted round caring responsibilities.

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According to Usdaw, the shopworkers trade union, when town centre chains like M&Co close, women find it much harder to find new employment that fits in with the rest of their life. Amazon may be very convenient for its millions of customers but working 12-hour shifts at a 24/7 fulfilment centre miles from your home is anything but – something to think about the next time we log on to do our shopping from the comfort of our sofa.