As always there is another side to the coin. I've had a few really soul-searching calls lately from those who have been hit broadside by the recession. Their main questions have been: Why me? What can I do about it? Is it happening everywhere, or is it just here?
The most recent caller trades in Doncaster and says it is "dire straits" at the moment. The bank, keen to lend him money a couple of years ago so that he could invest in what he fondly hoped would provide jobs for himself and his family, is now constantly on his back. Turnover has fallen from £10k down to £3-4k. He tried all the 'footfall tricks' such as DVDs and bill payments, lottery and in-store bakery.
Interestingly, he noticed that none of the non-food footfall measures led to any rise in other sales. He did his own poll. "One Saturday night I asked the queue 'Is there anybody here wanting anything other than the lottery?' and nine out of 10 said no."
He doesn't think that unemployment is any more of an issue than it ever has been in his area, but an air of caution pervades. People are limiting themselves to one treat or service, and that's it.
Similarly, I had a call from an ex-subpostmaster in a picturesque village near Wolverhampton. He lost his PO in the last round of closures. To make up for the loss he put in an off licence and has joined Booker's Retail Club scheme to get decent wine offers.
He did a complete refit and has off-road parking for seven cars. He takes in dry-cleaning (four items for £14). He has just put Payzone in and has lobbied Camelot, but the National Lottery operator requires a minimum turnover of £6k a week and he, too, is ticking over with a turnover hovering between £3k and £4k a week.
In his case I have suggested an ATM and an in-store bakery to tempt the locals into buying more than news, booze and cigs.