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{20/12/2012}   Shop opening times

I read with horror that Westfield Shopping Centre in Stratford is open until midnight tonight and tomorrow.  I expect there has been much distress amongst the staff who work there over who will get to work the graveyard shifts.  However, it being the run-up to Christmas and so many shops shutting at 5.30 pm, I guess it’s kind of a good thing.  I often think about shop opening times, which is a bit sad really, but it drives me mad that there is no consistency between locations and that a 5.30 pm closing time usually means I can’t do any shopping during the week, especially as I don’t get a lunch break in the conventional sense.

I think I will end up concluding that there is no win-win solution to this but it so often happens that can’t get to shops during the week so end up going to supermarkets.  That said, shops are clearly struggling, economic times being as they are, and I really don’t think most shops could contemplate employing more staff.  In Folkestone, where I live, as in most small towns outside London, the shops are generally open 9-5.30 and usually the same on Saturdays and those that are open on Sundays, it’s 10-4.

The other day, I decided to get a train to Stratford to do some early morning shopping before it got busy.  I arrived at Westfield at 9.45 am.  The shops didn’t open until 10 am, so I decided to go to Spitalfields market.  I got there at about 10.15 am and was even worse off for having done that as the market doesn’t open until 11 am.  I then started shopping in Westfield at 10.45 am, frequently muttering under my breath how annoying it was that the shops weren’t open earlier.

Likewise, I have got to Oxford Street for 11 am on a Sunday before.  But, no, the shops there don’t open until 12 pm.  Likewise, where I live there are a few shops that don’t open on Mondays and when I lived in Whitstable there were more that didn’t open on Mondays, but also a fair few who closed early on Wednesdays.

So, yes, I’m having a moan about the inconvenience to me of shop opening times.  I know it’s hard to get it right but in a way the Spanish and Italians could be onto something with their siesta times.  But like that would work in the UK as an awful lot of people rely on their lunch break to go out shopping.  I guess everyone is different.  I wonder how many people will go to Westfield between about 10 pm and midnight for their shopping.  They might catch a few drunken revellers who impulse buy, but are sober people who aren’t passing Westfield really going to stop in to shop that late at night?  I have been to Bluewater a few times between about 6pm and 8pm, though not near Christmas time, and it has been lovely; so much quieter.

In my ideal world shops would open at 9am and close at about 6.30 pm.  That said, if I worked in or owned a shop I would be appalled at the prospect of being open that long, despite it only being an hour more than normal.  I do, however, think late night Thursday shopping is a really good idea.  Surely enough people would go shopping to make it worth the shop owners keeping the shops open?

As I write this, I can see a lot of flaws with all propositions.  However, unfortunately for London shop keepers, I do think there should be certain areas, for example Oxford Street, that should open longer, say 9 am-7 pm every day.  Does that sound harsh?  I just feel that when I go abroad, shops seem to be open longer, or maybe I’m over-generalising.

Yes, see, I knew this post wouldn’t get anywhere other than to air the fact I am not happy about the opening times of shops!

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