Let’s bank on a bit of sun and fun
GRIM. It must be one of the most over-used words this year. It is trotted out repeatedly to describe the weather, financial outlook, prospects of certain prominent politicians and embattled airline operators.
The repetition induces the same bleak, battle-weary feeling in many of us as does the greyest of Monday mornings. All four of those in August, for example.
The long-term lack of optimism has led to the largest number of Britons emigrating this year since records began. I believe, however, that we may be close to recession fatigue. It appears from the latest John Lewis figures that we are about to cock a snook at the many Cassandras warning of impending doom by beginning to shop on the high street again.
After a poor summer, John Lewis announced much better figures for the beginning of September. Surprisingly, however, Oxford Street’s store soared by 16% on last year while Newcastle dropped by 0.8% on 2007 figures.
For a region which has long enjoyed spending its disposable money to look good and enjoy life, the need to count the pennies must be hitting hard to stifle the urge to visit the high street. When many families have stayed at home this year instead of jetting off to a holiday, retail therapy has a purpose over and above spending hard-earned money.
Shopping equals entertainment. It’s a good day out, complete with coffee, chats, people-watching and bargain-grabbing.
MetroCentre was conceived as a day out – with the family. Go along any Bank Holiday and you’ll see how many hundreds of families agree. The artificiality of it, always warm, dry, with ice cream and sweets every few hundred yards, reminds me of a theme park. People are encouraged to stay and to spend, and make it a real holiday with a visit to the cinema, meal and even a cocktail.
If this summer has resulted in many sodden stay-at-home people, I predict a rise in package holidays and shopping figures next year, whatever the financial predictions. None of us knows for certain what tomorrow will bring. Let’s bank on a bit of sun and fun.
Nicholas Craig is a partner at Watson Burton law firm