Howard Saunders   Sep 21, 2023   culture, Future, Retail, sustainability, Uncategorized, woke   1 Comment

Looking back, it’s pretty clear that the planet flipped on its axis in January 2020. While we were distracted by videos of pedestrians falling like felled trees onto the pavements of Beijing and Bergamo our little blue planet swivelled upside down overnight, and slowly but surely the consequences are coming to light. We have already learnt that our great leaders who made up the draconian lockdown rules were busily engaged in a non-stop cheese and wine marathon while we were forced to attend Zoom funerals. Fully masked, of course. We will never forget.

Whether it’s education, the police, the health service, comedy, the news, sex, history…everything we understood as the very foundational pillars of twenty first century life have turned one-eighty. Welcome to Topsy-Turvia.

Funny that.

Only three short years ago, before the Big Flip, here in the smug West we celebrated free speech as the bedrock of liberal democracy. It was distant dictatorships who were the humourless tyrants hell bent on imprisoning those that didn’t follow the government line. It couldn’t happen here, we thought. But in Topsy-Turvia if you once uttered anything that might be deemed offensive today, by anyone, is now hate speech. This, obviously, marked the end of one of Britain’s greatest exports: comedy. Our overworked police force, sorry…service, barely has time to practice the Macarena now that this new law consumes more than 17% of its time (according to CMU statistics*). By contrast, in the new world, wielding a machete on the Northern Line is an understandable protest against systemic oppression, to be treated with a three week course in kindness and sympathy.

Boys will be Girls. Girls will be Boys.

In many ways Topsy-Turvia is a freer and easier place to live than the pre 2020 version. For instance, we can now switch genders on a whim without the need for hormone blockers or messy genital surgery. This is a huge leap forward for those of us who wake up feeling female but slowly descend into a grumpy middle aged male after a couple pints of Stella.

Underage Sex.

Our children have perhaps had to endure the biggest shift. Understandably, sex education and biology take up a far larger slice of the curriculum since the discovery of so many new genders. By any standard that’s an awful lot to learn, especially as our beloved offspring missed two years worth of lessons following the Big Flip. In TT-land it’s critical that our children learn about alternative sexual practices long before they hear about the conventional ones. And just imagine having to memorise one hundred different genders while spongey concrete chunks rain down around you. It must be beyond stressful.

Just Walk Out.

Shoplifting, once a rite of passage for a spotty adolescent has been hijacked and legitimised exclusively for gangs of the feral and the fatherless. This has deprived your average, healthy, teenage kleptomaniac of one of their last remaining urban thrills. No wonder a growing percentage of our poor little darlings wish to switch teams.

Anti-Racism becomes Racism.

Many of the issues we thought we’d put to bed pre 2020 have been disinterred for our new age. MLK’s dream of “not being judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character” has been completely flipped too. Today, judging people by the colour of their skin is wholeheartedly encouraged in the name of Critical Race Theory, so get with it Daddy-O.

Hot versus Cold.

In Topsy-Turvia you must learn to understand things within a broader context. Old people may die in their droves because they can’t afford to heat their homes, but in twenty five years time our grandchildren will surely thank us for their over-sized radiators and the 200 metre sink hole in the back garden because they’ll have helped dodge global boiling. Currently ten times as many people die from the cold than from the heat, but that avoids the inevitable truth that very soon our elderly will literally be frying to death in their bedsits.

Lies are Truth. 

Even the BBC, previously the bow-tied bastion of British decency has embraced this upside down philosophy like a dodgy uncle freshly released from prison. Whether it’s the pandemic, vaccine efficacy, our overrun hospitals, excess deaths, the war in Ukraine or our pathetic British summers, the BBC has become so practiced at skewing facts in order to scare the bejesus out of us we can barely believe anything it says any more. Even Eastenders has confessed to letting the government’s nudge unit edit their scripts. Is nothing sacred?

The Big Cheese

The Big Flip, remember, coincided with a brand new leader of the free world. At first sight he seemed an odd choice being an elderly, straight white male. But as we learnt to enjoy our avuncular octogenarian’s cognitive mishaps we can see now how he’s the perfect Commander-in-Chief for a crazy new world logic.


Pre 2020, cities used to be the engine rooms of the economy where gleaming glass skyscrapers, purpose built for pumping out a thousand emails a minute, looked down upon the rest of us as we waltzed along swinging our bags for life. But a clever plan, cooked up by the Mayor of London with help from the rail unions, has hopefully put a stop to this sort of disgusting privilege and corporate elitism. Topsy-Turvia’s glass towers now stand largely desolate, and emanate, not arrogance or hubris, but a sense of sadness across our city. It’s as if our capital knows that its fun-loving, swinging days are but a tiny blemish on the rearview mirror.  

London doesn’t just tax, fine and surveil us harder and smarter than ever before, it also takes every opportunity to tell us off. I can remember when seats would be given up voluntarily and doors held open with a tip of a hat for ovary owners and chest feeders of all ages. Here in TT-land by contrast, non-menstruators are constantly warned to ‘be kind’ with ‘Maaaate!’ warnings plastered across the city at every major intersection.


This new world never ceases to amaze me with its dazzlingly fresh logic. In retail, for example (I always get round to it eventually) we must accept that demolishing M&S’s iconic Marble Arch flagship: smashing apart all that concrete and asbestos, all that steel and stone, burying it in landfill and then rebuilding it, brick by brick, with brand new steel and bigger, shinier glass is ‘sustainable’. No need get all carbon-anxious over the excavators, the diggers, the towering cranes, the builder’s lorries and vans, the millions of diesel fuelled to-ing and fro-ing over three or four years, the hundreds of thousands of consultant journeys, the copper wiring, the lighting, the escalators, the new computers…I am assured that all this disruption is completely offset because rainwater flushes the bogs. Incredible, isn’t it? I’m sure some highly educated architect will explain the maths to me one day.

Heaven or Hell?

Enough of this wry, cartoon banter. Topsy-Turvia is hell incarnate. Indeed, some of our biggest and most influential celebrities, notably Madonna, Rihanna and Sam Smith make a deliberate show of worshipping wickedness and all round satanic behaviour at every opportunity. When our superstars start dressing head to toe in lipstick red rubber complete with horns, scorpion tails and tridents in order to entertain our children with mimes of group fornication and golden showers you know something has gone awry. But don’t blame them. Our most privileged idols and cultural icons cannot help but accentuate and celebrate their moral distance from you and your mainstream mundanity.

Make no mistake, Topsy-Turvia has been a resounding success. In less than three years it has overturned logic and reason in order to flatten pretty much everything we thought we’d built over the last century. Now that the ground has been cleared there’s only one small problem. It has absolutely no idea where to go next. 

Topsy-Turvia, you see, has zero vision.

*CMU Completely Made Up Statistics Inc.

Join me on X  @retailfuturist  for cherry picked proof that we’re all going crazy

About Howard Saunders

The Retail Futurist, otherwise known as Howard Saunders, is a writer and speaker whose job it is to see beyond retail’s currently choppy waters. Howard spent the first twenty five years of his career at some of London’s most renowned retail design agencies, including Fitch & Company, where he created concepts, strategies and identities for dozens of British high street brands. In 2003 he founded trend-hunting agency, Echochamber, inspiring his clients with new and innovative store designs from across the globe. Howard relocated to New York in 2012 where the energetic regeneration of Brooklyn inspired his book, Brooklynization, published in 2017. His newfound role as champion for retail’s future in our town and city centres gave rise to the title The Retail Futurist. Howard has been interviewed on numerous television and radio programs and podcasts for BBC Radio 4, BBC Scotland, the British Retail Consortium, Sky News Australia and TVNZ, New Zealand. His talks are hi-energy, jargon-free journeys that explore the exciting, if not terrifying, retail landscape that lies ahead. When not in retail mode, Howard has recorded, literally, thousands of digital music masterpieces, most of which remain, thankfully, unheard.

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