ON my way to the shops for the weekly stock-up, I’ll dig in my coat pocket and pull out a scruffy scrap of paper with a list of what’s required.

It’s the same list I’ve used for months, but no less useful for that. With only minor tweaks – cabbage, say, instead of cucumber – it barely reflects the passing of the seasons. After all, when isn’t an oatcake the perfect accompaniment to lunch? And is there a time of year – says my husband – that isn’t greatly improved by a steaming bowl of lentil soup?

I might argue on that point, but the general principle is clear. Getting in and out of the greengrocer’s or supermarket in as little time as possible is the goal. There’s no idle browsing, no standing in rapt contemplation at the deli counter, weighing up the competing virtues of Manchego over Lanark Blue, or doing fiendish calculations of which four-pack of kitchen paper works out best value. I stick to what I know. Like sheep following the same path until it is trodden bare, so my foraging is as unvarying and blinkered.

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Dull? Undoubtedly. Cost-effective? Probably not, unless you factor in time saved plus no risk of impulse buying. The problem is, I miss the vital ingredient for this job: namely, enjoyment. It’s a chore, start to end, and the sooner it’s done the better. Obviously there are essentials that must regularly be bought, although sometimes not often enough. Occasionally my husband will open the fridge and aghast at finding it all but empty, organise an emergency expedition for provisions.

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When it comes to what you might call the completely unnecessary end of the spectrum – such as new clothes when the old are still holding it together – I lack the hunter-gatherer gene. The same could not be said of my nearest and dearest. Thanks to him, profits in the Borders branch of TK Maxx are probably neck and neck with that in Sauchiehall Street. Show him an outdoor market and he’ll find things he never realised he needed but can’t go home without. Our house is stuffed with novels, biographies and printed matter, but there’s no bookshop within a radius of 40 miles that won’t have something he must read.

Nor is he alone in his magpie habits. A recent survey showed Edinburgh and Glasgow as the top performers out of 11 British cities, including Manchester, Leeds, Birmingham, Cardiff and Belfast. Tracking economic recovery after Covid, the Scottish Retail Consortium published figures showing that in the year to February 2023, customer visits to retail destinations rose by 27.8 per cent in Edinburgh and 16.7 per cent in Glasgow. Both were ahead of the rest of the UK, as they were when comparing this February with the month before, when they showed better than the average growth rate of 10.4 per cent.

A note of caution: the Scottish surge looks stronger than elsewhere in part because early the previous year we were still under stricter lockdown restrictions than those south of the Border and unable to shop as much as we would have liked. Even so, there’s little doubt that the trend is up, as customer confidence grows and with it the joy of splashing out and thereby improving the health of our high streets.

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As with England, we could rightly call ourselves a nation of shopkeepers. But what comes first – shop or shopper? Like chicken and egg, it could be argued both ways. Thinking back to the earliest days of trading, though, I’d suggest the need to buy pre-dates the business of selling, if only, perhaps, by a matter of hours.

What’s not in doubt is that behind every successful shopkeeper is an army of consumers. For some of them, a day without visiting the shops is a day wasted. Buying is the least of it. It’s the excursion that matters: the sociable aspect of gazing with chums in windows, rifling through the rails, trying on and discarding countless items. Those who predicted online shopping would kill the real thing did not take into account the inordinate pleasure gained by touching and seeing goods on display, before leaving them heaped like coats at a party on the changing room floor.

What amazes me about those who spend hours hunting for a pair of shoes is their stamina, patience and faith. What could be achieved in minutes in a single shop can be stretched to last all day. Factor in coffees, lunch and after-purchase celebratory glass of fizz, and the best part of 12 hours can fly by. It might add pounds to the price of the shoes, but what an enjoyable day has been had.

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Those like me who prefer to make a burglar-like foray simply cannot comprehend this. I can sustain interest and focus for two hours at best, usually considerably less. This might sound efficient, but it feels like a personal failing, especially now, when retailers need all the help they can get. Nor can I claim any moral high ground, in terms of saving the environment. Although discarded clothes account for the heaviest carbon footprint of all our rubbish, donating them to charity shops, or to the burgeoning second-hand market, means those who pass on their unwanted glad rags can restock their wardrobes with a clear conscience.

Surely there has to be a sweet spot between folk like me who put off buying clothes as if it were a bungee-jump, and shopaholics who simply cannot help themselves. As has become evident in recent years, a throwaway culture is no longer sustainable or acceptable. Yet if everyone was as resistant to splurging as me, there’d be a row of boarded-up stores in the high street.

It's thanks to the nation’s shoppers that the retail economy is recovering, even though we’re currently still 11.1 per cent below pre-pandemic levels. If economists want to cheer themselves up, however, I suggest they stand in Buchanan Street or Harvey Nicks in Edinburgh on a Saturday afternoon. There, homo shopporoso will be out in force. Look at the determination in those peeled eyes, at the fistful of bags in their hands as they swerve from one side of the street to the other, tireless as bees in search of nectar. Would you put the future of the retail trade in their hands? Ask yourself, who better?