The Women’s Hospital has allowed a market trader to set up on its premises. As you walk through reception and into the first part of the hospital there is a man with a big table covered in bottles of knock off perfume. Visitors and dressing gown clad patients mill around spraying scent at their wrists. It’s an endearingly amateurish first step to what I assume is the final destination of a fully integrated healthcare/retail environment. The new hospital is being built over the road – possibly the biggest building I’ve seen in my life. There’s something terrifying about the scale. I assume now that part of its vast footage will be set aside for designated retail space. Not just the usual little newsagent run by the Friends of the Hospital, but the full panoply of High Street concessions – Accessorize, Thorntons, Dixons etc. The logic seems undeniable. Someone, somewhere has realised that enforced waiting is the greatest facilitative environment for unfettered spending. If shopping as a leisure pursuit in general is seen as an attempt to fill some ill-defined gap, then perhaps the desire to shop grows the greater the misery.
By limiting themselves to shopping centres and high streets, retailers are missing out on a significant part of the population who are trapped in a community limbo somewhere or other – the most bored, the most dissatisfied and listless, the most open to the appeal of spending money and acquiring things. Old peoples homes, doctors waiting rooms, prisons – these are surely great missed opportunities.