Lucy Tobin: Confession time – it’s my addiction to Amazon that’s killing the high street

Lucy Tobin
Lucy Tobin: Matt Writtle

The doorbell rang but I was too far away from the front door to answer it. Just over 200 miles away, actually, reading a news story about vulture Amazon feasting on the carcasses of the high street by bidding for bust Homebase stores.

But I heard the doorbell via the app for my newly installed “smart doorbell”. Ring ... owned by Amazon. Through it, I peered at the Amazon delivery guy clutching yet another Prime parcel, asked him to drop it at a neighbour’s house and realised my ethics about boycotting the fact-shy US high street-slayer are currently about as weak as American tea.

And that’s the problem for all of us, isn’t it? Amazon makes things easier than we could ever have imagined. Not just shopping, although the ability to Prime a light bulb at 10am and have it delivered five hours later still blows my mind.

But it enters every industry — the doorbell that I can tune into from holiday; the unlimited audiobooks I can endlessly stream; the Alexa who will remind me to take an umbrella and put the kettle on, before I’ve got out of bed.

I make the occasional concession — I don’t want independent bookshops to disappear so I shop in them. But it’s almost as an act of charity, because Amazon makes book-buying so absurdly easy.

Yes, politicians should change business rates urgently to give bricks-and-mortar stores a chance and force online retail to pay fairly for their stake in British society. And yes, shops aren’t helping themselves by refusing to change. Primark and Selfridges face the same bills House of Fraser couldn’t afford, yet they’re prospering because they’ve modernised.

But the high street isn’t dying as some independent phenomenon. We’re killing it with our addiction to Amazon and its tech-giant rivals.

Perhaps that’s OK; perhaps the evolution of our shopping — to a high street full of click ’n’ collect hubs, coffee shops and hairdressers — needs to be accepted, not fought.

But we do need to stop pretending to be uninvolved.


Think of the joy of a web-free hour

Cubans were given a brief taste of having the internet in their pockets over the weekend, with mobile data turned on for the first time in a brief trial by the state phone monopoly.

It triggered immediate chaos, with taxi drivers and office workers stopping everything in a desperate bid to access Facebook et al. Be careful what you wish for, Cubans.

Sometimes I wish phone operators here would switch off the net for an hour each day, Big Brother-style. We’d all embrace the novelty of actually looking when we cross the road, have to learn to navigate again and maybe have a real conversation.


Kanye’s new dress code: lounge suit and sliders

Kim Kardashian and Kanye West (Rex Features)

Kanye West and Kim Kardashian rocked up at the Gianni Versace Mansion in Miami for a celeb wedding over the weekend. But while Kim looked as if she’d spent a week getting ready, in a neon thigh-slit dress and stilettos, West wore a green suit with grey plastic sliders. He even wore socks.

Some commentators suggested it was a fashion-y attempt at “poverty chic”. Others said it showed “no respect” to the bride and groom. I reckon he just forgot to change into his shoes. I once drove to work before realising I still had Homer Simpson head slippers on my feet. But I went home to change.

“Lounge suit and sliders” isn’t a dress code I’d like to see, though.


‘Cheap’ hols that aren’t so cheerful

“Visit unsung cities to save on holiday costs!”, suggests a money-saving survey from the Post Office. It offers up the groundbreaking research that a beer in Belgrade is cheaper than one in Krakow and a croissant costs less in Toulouse than it does in Paris.

It might be cheaper but it’s not quite the same. You could pay less for a holiday in Middlesbrough than in London but I wouldn’t recommend it. My alternative cost-cutting tip is to economise by buying a few less croissants and beers, and actually holidaying somewhere you want to visit.