In Bury, a CeX department store, its windows filled with bargain-priced gadgets and banners boasting of “buying things for money” seem unnaturally quiet. Last time I visited, just before Christmas, the store was stable with shoppers desperate to save money on their Christmas presents.
Many people suggested to me that the store would see an influx of customers after the lockdown. But as food prices, gas and energy bills continue to soar, it seems even bargains and second-hand goods are becoming luxuries that people simply can’t justify buying. to buy, as buyers find it difficult to pay full price for consumer items.
Listener David Lord, 50, is one of the handful of shoppers and walks out with a few Blu-ray DVDs. He shows them to me and says, “These Blu-rays would cost £30-40 at HMV, here they’re £1 each.
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“Online they would have been £7 or £8 each so that’s the difference and I have a receipt for these items so I could take them back if I needed to.”
I ask if his bargain-hunting is fueled by soaring prices of living and he nods miserably. “That’s terrible,” he says. “Gas, electricity and the cost of food are going up. I’ve noticed food at Aldi going up 10p and 15p – soon they’ll be close to prices at other supermarkets.
“But the wages are not going up – and you have to choose: do we eat or do we warm up? – it’s hurry, hurry, hurry. It’s like living in a third world country,” he said, shaking his head. head of despair.
“It’s a different situation even from five years ago. We live in a very dark and unpleasant place and I don’t see a turning point happening anytime soon.”
He shows the DVDs in his hand, which only cost a few euros, and admits, “These DVDs might be a luxury I can’t afford by April.”
Inside, store manager Chris Gillett, 29, paints an equally grim picture – recalling how a customer walked in just as he was closing the store.
He says: “A man had come to sell his phone and was panicking because he had had his electricity cut off but we were closing the store. I don’t know what happened to him or if he managed to get electricity.”
Chris says that while he’s seen an increase in people bringing in items to sell, paying customers have dwindled – apparently as people struggle to spend. As I look around the store, the neat, sparkling aisles are almost completely empty and we can stand and chat uninterrupted at checkouts.
He says: “After Christmas, after Covid, the store picked up a bit as people were venturing out a bit more. But then it quieted down and now, as far as customers buying items, it’s really calm.
“People don’t come to buy that much, but a lot of people are selling stuff – consoles, phones and tablets. People bring a lot of games, but you don’t get that much money for them.”
A few doors down, looking in the window of Mays Pawnbrokers and Jewelers is Julie Hill, 53, mother of eight, shopping with her daughter-in-law. I ask her if she’s ever taken any items to herself and, discouraged, she says she has – and often says she hasn’t been able to redeem them.
She hooks her fingers into a gold pendant she’s wearing and says to me, “See, my mate bought it for me and I had to pawn it. I brought it back then I bought it back, but I couldn’t get the back chain.”
I ask her how she felt exchanging valuables for cash.
“I felt degraded,” she says sadly, “Especially if you see someone you know when you walk out of the store – but I needed to buy food and electricity, there just had no money.I have lost quite a lot of things over the years,just like my husband,I feel drained when people buy me things as gifts.
“You think you can get the money to buy it back, but then it’s another week, and another week, and another week….” his voice trails off. “I see the price of gold now,” she says, and I think, “Flipping Heck, I wish I had that now.”
I ask her if she thinks she might have to take jewelry to a pawn shop, but she says she hopes not.
“I don’t have so many kids at home now,” she says, “I hope I don’t have to come back here.”
Leroy Talbot, 74, from Salford, tells me he’s ‘old school’ and likes to shop around for cheaper prices. He travels to Bury to visit the market and shops at stores like Cex to buy tools and phones.
“You might find a good deal,” he said. But he adds: “At one time I could buy a TV for £90 and now it’s doubled.”
A jar of his favorite honey went from £2 to £2.30 in a matter of months, he says. He is scathing about the state of the country and the rising cost of living, saying of the government: “They don’t care about people.
“England was once a country for the people. Now it’s like the people are a commodity. Politicians are the biggest crooks in the world. Things have gotten worse, but what can you do?”
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