I REALLY despise shopping. In fact, despise is putting it mildly.
Not because I don't like getting new things but mostly because of the process involved. In another era, I would have had no choice but to indulge my dispassion or face life without the possessions I covet.
I like to research my purchase well in advance, know what I will spend and then buy, so the modern online world provides the ultimate experience for those like me who like an easier option.
What I've realised in more recent times that the new approach to buying is possibly quite detrimental to the city I live in. Just imagine if everyone took the buy-online approach? The CBD would become the CD. Wendouree Village (yes, I still call it that), might become Wendouree Park.
Just last week I took the streets in search of some electronics. In the end I got what I wanted but the experience only served to reinforce the view that shopping isn't enjoyable as it should be. According to those who should know, it's an all too familiar experience, not only in Ballarat but across the retail sector.
It made we wonder just how local businesses are adapting to the challenges they face. And what is it that will convince time-poor people that they should take the time to go to a retail outlet instead of shopping via their home computer or tablet.
It can't all be about price. Or are times so tough that getting the best deal is so central to our buying decisions that it overrides all other principles?
Surely it must be all about the human touch. And if this is the case, why are businesses not investing in their own people to ensure that the old premise of the customer always being right is at the origin of the induction process?
A smiling face, an assistant who goes the extra yard or making a pitch which can't be ignored have forever been linked to business success. In the world we now live, these attributes have become more important than ever.
So where are the examples of such commitment in Ballarat - and what can we learn from these businesspeople and places?
Setting the standards of expectations for retail interaction in Ballarat should become a priority. Imagine the potential benefits if local retailers signed up to a charter of service which related directly to the expectations of Ballarat consumers. Yes, that might mean that expectations are high, but that's what we should be striving for.
The marketing potential would be significant. Guarantees of service levels unique to our city would create not only responsibilities but also anticipation.
And that can only breed positive conversations about why people not only should, but must, support local retailers.
Idealistic - yes. Difficult - yes. Potential - unlimited.