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Retail therapy: Should we feel guilty about online shopping?

With people dying, a recession looming and workers at risk of infection, shopping for non-essential items seems reckless. But it also fuels our economy and helps small business stay afloat - not to mention the thrill of buying itself, writes Meadhbh McGrath

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Home shopping: Online sales jumped by 110pc in March

Home shopping: Online sales jumped by 110pc in March

Home shopping: Online sales jumped by 110pc in March

You'll have seen the emails: New lines 25pc off! 40pc off! 70pc off! Brands big and small are grappling with the coronavirus shutdown, attempting to offload their spring-summer collections online at increasingly urgent, unseasonal discounts. And tempting as such 'deals' may sound, consumers are hesitant about pulling the trigger on a purchase, grappling with the moral question of whether or not to shop.

The high street lockdown has hit hard: Debenhams, Laura Ashley and Cath Kidston are set to file for administration, and major retailers including Next and River Island have closed their online operations, while Brown Thomas and Arnotts have resumed trading with a limited offering. Yet people are still spending - online sales jumped by 110pc in March compared to the previous four weeks, according to data from Irish marketing agency Wolfgang Digital.

At the same time, stories continue to emerge about the lack of protections for delivery drivers and warehouse workers. Asos has been criticised by staff who say they feel unsafe working in its Barnsley distribution centre, describing it as a "cradle of disease". The online retailer has denied these claims are true. Workers for Pretty Little Thing and Boohoo told the Guardian it is "practically impossible" to follow social distancing guidelines in their depots. Unite the Union has called for greater support for drivers after being inundated with complaints about non-essential deliveries.