There’s been a bustling air pervading Taipei’s street markets this weekend as people flock to get their provisions in preparation for the forthcoming Lunar New Year celebrations. Forget the city’s luxury shopping malls; the streets where the real action is: the cut and thrust of the haggling over prices and the excited voices and smiling faces of vendors and shoppers alike who both think they’ve got the best of the bargaining.
Will people still go out on the streets to shop when they can order everything they could possibly want or need using their smart phones and have it delivered to their doorstep – or perhaps even neatly placed in their refrigerator or closets? A lot of investors and entrepreneurs are betting that this will be the case by pouring billions into last-mile on-demand grocery and meal services.
I’m sure that these services will continue to gain traction, particularly among people who are too busy to do the daily shop and those who are too frail to get around and carry bags, but I don’t see them entirely replacing the shopping mall and street market because we all crave the social connections and feeling of community that even a short trip to the local convenience store brings.
I hope I’m right about that, at least. The world would be a much less interesting and colorful place if we let someone or some robot bring everything to us rather than venturing out to find something ourselves.
The Lunar New Year runs from Friday 25 January to Wednesday 29 January in Taiwan. Work recommences on Thursday 30 January.