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Is this the end of the department store?

My one-year-old and I love the doorbell. It means there’s a surprise. Our ears prick up and we race to the door. A courier! The best surprise of all.

We sit on the porch and open the box. New shoes in a cardboard box. I love the shoes. My toddler loves the box. We’re both thrilled.

Shopping with my family has changed. A lot.

Years ago, a day at the shops with my Nan was the ultimate treat. We’d always come home with a handful of red and white bags from Gracies (i.e. Grace Bros), a stack of lollies from Darrell Lea and a belly full of house sandwiches from the DJ’s cafe.

I’ll never shop like that again. And I’m getting a little nostalgic after Premier Investments announced they’re closing up to 50 of their stores. These stores were the cornerstone of my teenage wardrobe. Just Jeans: my first pair of “cool” pants. Portmans: my first work suit. Dotti: my first party dress. But now, these shops – all shops – are an endangered species.

And I’m to blame. I grew up. I moved on. Online. It’s quick, sexy, cheap and exciting. A day at the shops is a thing of the past.

But sometimes I get the guilts. I see Megan Gale staring at me from the back of a bus or Jen Hawkins in some junk mail with a look in her eye that says “why don’t you want to be friends anymore?”

Days later I’m pushing a pram around an empty department store. And it’s hard work. Clothes are spewing from hundreds of sales racks, the counters look lonely and Kenny G-style tunes tinkle from the roof. Huff. So uninspiring. So desperate.

Who wants to drop their money here? I did, until about 18 months ago. I went to my favourite department store to set up our bridal registry.

The manager gave me a clipboard and a pencil and told me when I saw an item I’d like to add to our list, to “write down the 12 number barcode, the name of the product, the description and the price in the appropriate boxes”.

WTF? Isn’t there some sort of machine for this job? I didn’t complain and instead cursed myself for being typically Gen Y.

So impatient. But it was the beginning of the end.

Now, I buy everything online. And most of my neighbours do the same. Twice a week, the Coles and Woolies trucks sweep through the neighbourhood and every day there are at least two couriers delivering boxes with everything from furniture to frocks.

There’s no doubt, I owe a lot to Myer and DJs. Some of my fondest memories were spent at the shops with my Nan and my Mum. Not anymore. Dearest shops, thanks for the memories. Rest In Peace.

Because these days, I’m much happier shopping online at home. I save a few extra dollars buying at the cheapest sales and I have more time with my family. And best of all, every couple of weeks we take delivery of a priceless toy box for my son to play in.

Nicky writes: Alissa isn’t the only one leaving department stores behind. According to The Daily Telegraph, major outlets including David Jones, Myer, JB Hi-Fi and Harvey Norman have lost a combined $2.25 billion in their market value over the past three months due to a lack of sales. Retailers are also warning of job losses if a GST isn’t applied to foreign interest purchases under $1000, a measure they’re hoping will boost local sales.

As half-yearly and heavily discounted sales haven’t worked in winning back our wallets, retailers are trying to entice customers back in with a range of new services. Myer wants to make their stores into “theatres”, where shoppers can also run errands such as getting their breasts screened, check-in to weight-loss clinics and have their eyes-tested. And rival David Jones is considering 24-hour trading in their flagship city stores to allow customers to squeeze in a few hours of retail therapy after work.

There is no doubt the retail landscape will continue to go through some uncertainty over the next few months and the move to turn shopping into a more convenient and entertaining pastime will prove to be either a winner or a case of too little, too late.

Do you still shop at department stores? What would it take to get you back if you’ve left?