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The Merits and Pitfalls of ‘Sip and shop’

Perhaps you have some spare cash and want to treat yourself or forgot to buy your mum a birthday present. You may be the weary boyfriend waiting outside the changing room. Whatever the reason is, at some point everyone goes shopping.

However, in recent years, the number of people on the street has decreased dramatically, while those behind the computer screens had risen. Stores are dying out, steadily withering away in the face of ‘The Internet’ and its plethora of online retail opportunities. Following the pandemic in 2020 the Office for National Statistics reported the largest annual drop in retail sales ever recorded, accompanied by a record high of 33.9% of all sales online. This is not only a national phenomenon but extends across the globe, with drops seen in countries such as France, Spain, Italy, and the USA.

However, many shops have concocted innovative ways to combat these declines in retail sales by shifting the way we shop, aspiring to make retail experiential as opposed to functional. Storefront makes the bold claim that ‘Experiential retail is the future’ and uses the term retailtainment to refer to unique, fun, in-person shopping experiences, which might encourage consumers away from the ever-tempting mouse click and into shops. Even the weariest of boyfriends and most impatient of children couldn’t refuse.

Some shops have even taken this one step further and introduced alcohol into the experience, offering a glass of wine whilst you browse the shelves - sounds even more appealing now, right? In the Essex town of Brentwood, Laundry and Latte offer an opportunity to drink whilst watching your clothes spin around the washing machine. In Nordstrom New York you can bypass the shoe aisle for the tempting Shoe Bar. Or if you’d prefer, spice up the weekly shop with a margarita in the supermarket Whole Foods. At surface value, this ‘sip and shop’ trend seems exciting and enjoyable - both words which don’t normally apply to grocery shopping.

However, what are the implications of consuming alcohol when you've got a credit card in hand? We all know how easy it is to click checkout online after a few drinks. It’s always a surprise, not always pleasant when the delivery van pulls up outside with twenty-five frog-themed Easter cards and a giant teddy bear. Scott Stump in Today warns against the ‘sip and click’ due to the risks of spending too much and regretting it the next day. If this sounds familiar, you’d be right - ‘sip and shop’ may seem like an innocent bid to elevate the shopping experience, but it is also a repeat of the ‘sip and click’ in-person instead of online.

The simple fact is, the more you drink, the more you spend. According to a study by Archstone Recovery Center, customers drinking gin spend £63 more, white wine drinkers spend £35 more, red wine drinkers £32 more, and £30 for whiskey drinkers - and that’s before you add the cost of the drinks themselves. Although this may be good for business, it may be bad for our global drinking culture. The BBC reports a twenty-year high for alcohol-related deaths during the pandemic, and countless health conditions (both physical and mental) are associated with alcohol.

So, although the ‘sip and shop’ seems like a stroke of genius when it comes to rectifying our increasingly barren high streets and shopping centers, the question remains whether it should be something we encourage. Should shopping always be accompanied by alcohol? Could it lead to excessive drinking and spending? And finally, can shopping survive without a shot of gin halfway down the pasta aisle?

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Tags: #alcoholism #onlineshopping #sipandshop #shopping #retail


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