Keith Newbery: Real life is diminished by closure of shops

WOOLWORTHS, Clinton Cards, Comet, Jessops – and now we may wave farewell to HMV and Blockbuster.

It’s the roll-call of the doomed and the damned, as the piecemeal destruction of Britain’s High Streets continues unabated.

Empty shops in an otherwise vibrant shopping centre are like decaying teeth in a handsome face; they tend to attract your attention to the exclusion of all else.

They are invariably replaced by charity shops, building societies or fast-food emporia, none of which offer what could be remotely described as ‘a retail experience.’

But I fear there is worse to come. How long will it be before even those companies enjoying relative prosperity decide to close their revenue-sapping outlets and focus instead on the fortunes to be made in cyberspace?

Nobody can blame firms for maximising profits by cutting costs in these straitened times.

They are not obliged to have a social conscience – which is just as well because few of them have.

But this shift in shopping habits is going to have far more damaging long-term effects on the fabric of society, as people retreat ever further behind computers and laptops.

Healthy social inter-action will diminish as shopping is done at the press of a button, and goods are delivered to the door by people who are often unseen and largely unacknowledged.

Such arms-length activities will simply exacerbate the corrosive effect anti-social media like Facebook and Twitter have on the ability of people to communicate on a conventional level.

Apparently, the wretched Facebook phenomenon has lost 600,000 subscribers in the past few months, but there are still many millions succumbing to its delusional charms.

These sad obsessives hunch over their computers, stacking up ‘friends’ like worthless chips and sharing confidences with phantom acquaintances they’ve never met and, in most cases, never intend to.

It is a form of shallow, sanitised discourse, which – unlike real relationships – can be started and ended on a whim with no thought for the consequences.

It can also provide an open platform for malign and scurrilous observations, often by those who would never have the nerve to say it face to face. What will pass for personal communication in 50 years’ time? I’m glad I won’t be around to see it.

THOSE requiring conclusive proof that people do not always learn from their mistakes need look no further than breakfast television – which ‘celebrates’ its 30th anniversary this year.

The duo who make breakfast TV grate

It started off on ITV with a celebrity-studded line-up, failed miserably, was rescued by a rat puppet, degenerated into a pastel hell of bickering, lightweight presenters – and now relies on a former choirboy and the most irritating woman on television.

Aled Jones is the presenting equivalent of cornflower paste, while Lorraine Kelly qualifies as a linguistic freak due to the fact that her Scottish accent has become more pronounced the longer she has worked in England.

Is it any wonder that early-morning programmes on a variety of radio stations continue to prosper?