I wonder if this can last. Before Christmas I made myself a promise that I would not get caught up in the panic of shopping for things I didn’t need in places I didn’t want to be. Now it is almost 2008 and I have more or less succeeded. I spent plenty of course ā€“ and probably bought things that weren’t needed ā€“ but never in places I didn’t want to be. I shopped online and stayed well away from chain stores. Only once did I stray into John Lewis and the place was so choked with shoppers I could see why they are crowing about record sales and decided they certainly didn’t need any extra help from me.

I didn’t always feel that way about Lewis’s but I am beginning to wonder if JL is about to join Tescos in the list of ferociously successful shops that people would rather avoid if only they weren’t so very good at knowing what customers want. I used to think JL was the acceptable face of high street retailing. It was certainly the best designed department store in Edinburgh, the kind of place you could hang out in comfort, gliding up and down the escalators on wet days when there wasn’t much else to do with the kids.

The company seemed to value their employees (partners indeed) as highly as their customers which led to an almost eccentric way of doing business: closed on Sundays for a day of rest and on Mondays for staff training. Now they open seven days a week like every other supermarket and there seems a newly aggressive thrust to their plans to vastly expand their territory in the UK over the next few years.

Why? Could this signal a revolution in company policy? Is the new management planning a different corporation with shareholders instead of partners? Maybe not, I certainly haven’t spotted any business commentators predicting that kind of shift in direction and a quick Google turned up only reports of record pre-Christmas sales.

Maybe I still hold a grudge against the company because it was against the congestion charge (both in London and Edinburgh). Or maybe I am nostalgic, romanticising about a time when shopping was not a collective addiction. I do still have a battered JL store card in my wallet and remember those good old days when, knackered after the back-to-school shopping expedition, I rewarded the boys for being good with a milk shake and a gingerbread man in the cafeteria looking out over Leith walk to the Forth.

I am not about to tear up the store card but I am very pleased to see that for the first time ever I have come through the Christmas shopping season with my account in credit. I know that hardly hurts old JL but I can at least decide when I want to spend it.