Cargo-cult capitalism

Witney’s branch of Cargo closed recently. Fair enough, I thought, but it did so only to reopen in a far bigger store space (where New Look used to be). I give it six months.

Cargo’s an odd store. It’s like something between an expensive Ikea for people unnerved by how the Swedish can implement elements of socialism to great effect, and a clattery undercarpeted Bhs for people who go shopping wearing jodhpurs. I’ve never really understood why people might shop in it, given the choice. In Witney there wasn’t actually the choice until they recently opened the Flood Precipitating Shopping Precinct, full of slightly smaller and largely useless versions of shops you find in Oxford.

It was the opening of the FloodWitney Emporia that I’d assumed had encouraged mini-Cargo’s to pre-emptively close: surely nobody shopped there anyway, stuffed as it was with overpriced furniture and unnecessary kitchen utensils. Not so, it turns out: they eventually opened a store only made more pointless than the previous one by an increase in quantity of floorspace rather than any change in the quality of goods.

Today I had a quick look round the new Cargo. I wanted to augment our Christmas decorations (more on my hopeless Christmassyness later) with a few bits and bobs, so that we didn’t have tinsel hanging awkwardly off bits of the house that might better suit something else, like a—permit me to wave my hands a bit—wallhanging thing. I also wanted some tiny baubles for our tiny tree. There’s half a dozen shops in Oxford you might get these things in, but I didn’t fancy making the trek over on the S1.

Cargo Witney was almost empty, with none of the few sparse customers actually heading towards the tills. I can’t say I found much to satisfy my own requirements. There were baubles, packaged as if they were intended as a Christmas present—doesn’t everyone unpack them at the start of advent, not at the end?—but they were huge, like you might see Stephen Fry placing on a Christmas tree in an advert for a better shop than Cargo. There were also either incredibly heavy or ridiculously huge wire and metal constructions that might suit if our house was five times the size. There wasn’t any tinsel I could see, or anything in the wallhanging department as worth buying as the oddities that you could even get in Borders’ Paperchase in Oxford—which is usually a source of nothing but tat. There was only one item I sort of grudgingly would have bought, a sort of colourful foam wallhanger for putting Christmas cards on. True to form, it was one of the few things in the shop that had no price tag. I would have asked a nearby member of staff for advice, but the nearest one was talking into what looked like a mobile phone and looked like they didn’t particularly want to give any actual shoppers a hand.

Dismayed by yet another failure of late-period capitalism to meet my seasonal needs, I went to Waitrose and got some mincemeat to make mince pies later. That, I felt, would cheer me up far more than wrestling with a store that seemed not particularly bothered about selling me something had depressed me. The way that putting something together yourself can offset the misery of shopping should prompt us to rename “Buy Nothing Day” as “Make Something Day”; given how hard it is to shop these days, no wonder Etsy’s taking off.

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6 Responses to Cargo-cult capitalism

  1. Brennig says:

    The only good thing I can find to say about the new precinct is that it has a cinema. Anything that means we no longer have to trog in to Oxford to watch a film has to be a good development.

  2. K says:

    Witney already has a cinema: Screen at the Square, inside the Corn Exchange. John Richards has been running it for years. The choice of films is pretty limited, mind you.

    I wonder how long Screen at the Square will last now that Cineworld has opened a five-screen cinema in the new precinct?

  3. K says:

    Oh bugger, I forgot to close the link. Maybe Mr Smallbeds could do it for me.

  4. sbalb says:

    Like everything else in Floodtopia, the cinema is something that Witney sort of had before, but which is now replaced with something not really as good as Oxford has, and ultimately disappointing for that.

    Was it really worth all that work to build many instances of ultimate disappointment?

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