Sunday, 25 January 2009

Tourist shopping

I've never been one to go on holiday with the express view of shopping. In fact, shopping strikes me as the last thing I'd want to do when I'm abroad, when the prospect of visiting churches or museums, beaches or hill-walking country, or just sitting in a cafe watching the world go by, are the alternatives.

OK, so we've picked up the odd bit of pottery at markets when looking for the local 'colour' - difficult to avoid in North Africa, for example - and when in the USA I did buy a pair of cowboy boots - the sort of thing it's hard to get here, and which are particular to the place we visited. But the thought of going shopping for clothes or other items you can just as easily buy at home I find rather bewildering.

Clearly, however, I'm in a minority, if Oxford Street on Saturday was anything to go by. There seemed to be crowds of Dollar- and Euro-zone tourists on the tubes, buses and on the pavements, all shopping frantically while the pound is in such a miserably sorry state. Primark seemed to be a particularly popular destination judging by the crowds streaming in and out, as the normally very competitive clothes store had a sale on (as if it's possible to discount a £7 pair of jeans? Well, to £4, I suppose. At that rate the contents will soon be cheaper than the carrier bag you carry them out in).

I suspect this could become an interesting phenomenon this year: with no prospect of the pound recovering for some months, it may well be that London's retail sector is buoyed by the influx of visitors spending their hard earned cash here instead, while the locals stay at home. Why, it might even be worth sitting in a cafe in the West End, literally watching the rest of the world go by...

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