The Herald

Shopping till you drop has benefits forallofus

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BY the time you read this over your Boxing Day breakfast I’ll have made my annual transforma­tion from the calm, canny, fair-minded Scot I like to see myself as into the hysterical, shamelessl­y ruthless capitalist I get to be on December 26. That’s right, I’m a devoted disciple of the Boxing Day sales.

Like just about everyone else around the dinner table yesterday I nodded my head sagely when the over-commercial­ism of Christmas was discussed, as it invariably is. I suppose many of us are hypocrites when we talk this way; certainly no one in my family goes down the “I’ll just make a nice donation to charity on their behalf route”, when it comes to presents, and as for the food and drink on offer at my aunt’s... suffice to say gloriously gluttonous became the true meaning of Christmas for us.

But I am the most hypocritic­al of us all, since every Boxing Day I get up at the crack of dawn and head back to the same streets I was cursing in agoraphobi­c frustratio­n only a few days previously, this time in search of the ultimate bargain. You know those strange folk you see on news footage standing – sometimes sitting in garden chairs – in queues outside John Lewis at 6am? That was me this morning.

I’m not entirely sure why I do it. I don’t normally go for the big ticket items like TVs and sofas that it’s probably actually worth queuing up for, and I know deep down that the half price dress I’ve just picked up was likely brought in specially for the sales from a warehouse full of rubbish that wasn’t good enough to go on the shop floor a couple of months ago, that I’ll never use that slow cooker I’ve just barged someone else out of the way to get my hands on.

But hitting the Boxing Day sales obviously satisfies some deep-seated need inside me. And, of course, I’m certainly not the only one who feels this way. This time last year 100,000 people flocked to Silverburn in Glasgow in search of a bargain, and retail analysts now rate the post-Christmas sale as the biggest shopping bonanza of the year.

At its peak on December 27 last year we were spending £344 million an hour, £5.75m a minute or £96,000 a second.

That also includes online shopping, of course. But for me the Boxing Day sales is about wrapping up warm, getting out there and braving the crowds. Although I don’t

‘‘ Our high streets represent much more than simply bricks and mortar – they keep our cultural and economic hearts beating

particular­ly like the part of myself that becomes the aforementi­oned monstrous capitalist at this time of year I’ve come to the conclusion that as someone who wants to see Glasgow and Scotland flourish, maybe taking pleasure in all this is no bad thing; maybe shopping till we drop in the high street has more of a social benefit than many would care to admit?

This time last year I remember taking a breather and standing on the steps outside the Royal Concert Hall in Glasgow, next to Donald Dewar’s statue, looking down Buchanan Street. The rain was sheeting down, but Scotland’s prime shopping street was buzzing, a mobbed sea of umbrellas, anoraks and wellies bobbing in and out of the shops.

Many of those I saw would have come from far and wide to shop in the city, drawn in by its reputation as the UK’s best shopping mecca outside of London. And although high street stores were likely the focus, our wonderful independen­t shops, cafes, bars and restaurant­s got a major boost too – the figures tell us as much. And that, in turn, raises people’s awareness of the cultural and historic reasons to visit Glasgow city centre.

Shopping is a means to an end in itself, of course, but it is also part of a much bigger and more diverse economic and cultural story, one that has seen Glasgow transforme­d from a dirty manufactur­ing centre, via wasteland, into the sophistica­ted and exciting cultural hub it is today.

Edinburgh, meanwhile, continues to pull in the tourists as one of the great historic gems of Europe.

But the link between shopping and culture applies to towns and cities across Scotland, of course.

Our high streets represent much more than simply bricks and mortar – they keep our cultural and economic hearts beating. Sadly, too many of them in outlying areas currently look like they are suffering from heart failure. That’s why we need to support them on Boxing Day and beyond.

If we don’t, if we simply stay at home and shop via our smartphone­s and tablets, we are doing ourselves a great disservice; filling our high streets with people ensures the wider culture and society thrive.

With this in mind, don’t be so harsh on those daft folk you see featured on the news queuing at 3am, felling all in their wake to get to that bargain: shopping till they drop benefits us all.

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