If high streets were struggling before coronavirus, you can be sure they're struggling now. Undercut by the low-cost convenience of online retail, and dogged by the continuing threat of Covid-19, it is with some concern that the nation's shopping strips have nudged open their doors in recent days…
But for many consumers, returning to the high street has been a joy unto itself. Here's why, at least on some level, online buying will never measure up to good, old-fashioned footfall…
1. We miss looking at physical items
If you're tall, or short, or broad, or slim, or diverge in any way from the shape of a generic storefront mannequin, ordering online clothes is a duck shoot of epic proportions. Yes, we're aware of online returns, but that's effort. We'd much rather look at real items and get a feel for the actual cut, colour and fabric, than just go on the very flattering website photograph.
2. We want it now
They say the internet age has led to short attention spans and a demand for instant gratification, but we're apparently fine waiting three days for things the local shop could source in minutes. Supermarket queues are practically intolerable, but the postal service is A-OK. Go figure.
3. Retail therapy works
Science has spoken. A 2011 study found that strategic shopping reduces poor mood, and that so-called "self-treats" rarely resulted in regret, even when purchased impulsively. They say materialism doesn't make you happy, but it sure can take the edge off in times of need.
4. Shopping is social
Life's rich tapestry is on full display in the nation's high streets, from eminently pettable dogs to ex-partners you cross the road to avoid. After months of solely communicating over the garden fence it's just nice to see people, albeit at a distance. You don't even have to buy anything, and Nineties kids will remember that vaguest of pastimes, 'crashing the mall'.
5. The price tag (almost) never lies
Hidden fees are the bane of the online shopper. We've all been suckered in by cheap flights, only to pay a king's ransom in booking fees and luggage charges, or accidentally bought a T-shirt that's shipped from Paris via New Zealand.
Online, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. In store you know it's true, because you're looking at it.
6. The personal touch
Our customer service is not world-leading, but there's something quite reassuring about a faintly obnoxious sales assistant. It's a rainy Monday at the end of a long shift and your enquiry probably isn't very interesting, so it's perfectly natural they're in an ambivalent mood.
When the world is reduced to a cacophony of generic robot voices and automated emails that are just delighted to be processing your cracked phone screen, we'll know human history is nearing its end.
7. High streets have history
High streets are often embedded in their communities, and a walk to the shops can be a stroll down memory lane. That's the pub where you knocked back your first pint, that's where your cousin broke his collarbone trying to skateboard down a handrail, and that's the bookshop where you bumped into your mum buying Fifty Shades of Grey.
8. Sometimes it's nice to be distracted
It is possible to 'window shop' online, but you'll quickly disappear down a rabbit hole of infinite possibilities, wildly varying prices, and scrupulously airbrushed publicity shots. It's all very well opening enough tabs to slow down your entire postcode, but you can't spot something nice in a charity shop, and then grab a coffee on the corner.
9. The smaller, independent stores
Sure, there are independent online retailers, but how many do you really peruse before Amazon auto fills your search bar for the millionth time? We're not saying smaller stores are necessarily better, but they might be, and without crossing the threshold, you'll never know either way.