THIS is the time of year when we buy the most items and take home the most food.

We panic about not having enough of everything – although the reality is usually we’ve bought far too many presents costing far too much. And that we’ve stocked up enough food to feed the whole street, should they care to pop round for Christmas Day and Boxing Day with hearty appetites.

That has probably been happening for years for most of us. What is a little different now is that many of us choose to buy our gifts, food and drink online.

Not for us queuing up in Marks & Spencer’s for their festive signature pudding and other goodies or even ambling round Asda or Tesco for the whole Christmas shop.

No. With a few simple clicks of the mouse, we have managed to book a slot and arranged for everything festive to come to our door. How smug are we!

There is absolutely nothing wrong with this retail plan which is incredibly easy. I salute the organisation and foresight involved.

Yet ….. if we all continue to shop like this - going online for our major groceries each week, or for a new pair of shoes or birthday gifts – then a simple thing will happen. Our shops and stores will all eventually close. They will be redundant to life as we know it and our existence will be lived more online than ever.

If that happens – and, believe me, we are hurtling towards it - we lose many things including a large amount of practical competition. Retail chains and those important independent shops which can lower prices, give discounts and special offers will be in far shorter supply.

We will lose the inter-action that only comes from going into a shop or store physically and actually talking to a human being. We will lose seeing clothes close-up, feeling the texture of a garment and witnessing the real-life colour. We lose discovering whether or not a style actually suits us or the colour flatters us.

We will miss the chance to see if our potential new buy really fits well, or gapes at the neck or is tight across the rear. We will miss the chance to turn a simple shopping trip into a sociable event, going for a coffee, meeting a friend.

And what happens to our town centres, built around creating a retail experience including family entertainment, if the shops and stores fail to attract enough custom to continue trading?

In this brave new world created by our retail apathy and love affair with computers, we change the structure of the heart of our towns. We totally remove the reason for going there.

Parking costs and high business council rates may well damage any town centre but if the shops and stores go, you’ve got problems.

Contrary to some people’s beliefs, this hasn’t happened yet. But, it’s not far away. Saving the planet? Start with our town centres and local shops.