TOWN centres are in danger of losing yet more long established department stores from their high streets and white goods premises from their peripheral retail parks, due to burgeoning on-line shopping.

Such retail outlets not only provide a centrally heated or air-conditioned ambience, depending on the season, but also personal service and advice to shoppers.

Furthermore, the return of faulty goods is more conveniently expedited locally, than by mail order returns.

Much of the big stores’ footfall, however is accounted for by browsing shoppers, who take advantage of the aforementioned services with the sole intention of buying online the goods displayed.

Faced with the combined costs of ever increasing bills for heating, wages, and business rates, set against the afore-described diminishing sales – think Littlewoods, Woolworths and BHS, Marks and Spencer are already proposing store closures, whilst Debenhams and House of Fraser have given profits warnings in successive years, usually a harbinger of store closure.

Council tax comprises two elements: the domestic rate, levied upon households, and national non-domestic rate, imposed on businesses.

It necessarily follows that if retail stores are permanently lost to towns, the resultant lost revenue must be offset by a proportionate increase in the domestic rate borne by householders, unless online traders, such as Amazon, are based locally – but here they aren’t.

Such a gloomy scenario will be compounded by empty premises given our high street the appearance of ghost towns – already in evidence to a degree – and unemployment, caused by the redundant stores’ shed labour forces.

The problem will be further exacerbated by an inability of the recently unemployed shop assistants to afford their increasing council tax bills.

The question shoppers must ask themselves is are the marginal gains made by impersonal online shopping worth the loss of local personal services and ever increasing council tax bills?

Be careful that you wish for.

Dave Middleton, Stockton