Howard Saunders   Nov 12, 2020   Uncategorized   0 Comment

I’ve wasted my life. I spent forty years training, learning, practising, reading and ultimately designing stores to revitalise our high streets, and in turn our towns and city centres, only to be told this year that I’m surplus to requirements. I am officially non-essential. The world I once thought of as providing the lifeblood for our communities is, like my very existence, utterly meaningless. But before you crack a schadenfreudian grin my friend, judging by my Google analytics, the same is true of you! 

Yes, you may have spent a lifetime dedicated to marketing food or fashion, giving birth to a small restaurant chain, producing home furnishings or wheeling and dealing in the cut-throat property market, but you have, I’m sorry to say, wasted your entire life. Only a few short months ago I hear you were quite the bon viveur on the dinner party circuit regaling guests with hilarious tales from the world of marketing, but today, unfortunately, you’re completely irrelevant.

Indeed, unless you are currently knelt on the tarmac administering mouth to mouth to a Covid victim it’s very likely you are non-essential too. Those that fed and clothed our heroic life savers, entertained them, built their homes, organised their holidays, cut their hair or sold them the shoes they just scuffed, now know their rightful place on planet Earth: Nowhere.

Since 2020 landed on us from a great height, we’ve all been forced to reprioritise everything we once took for granted. We’ve toppled a few statues, dethroned a swathe of superstars and cancelled a cluster of celebs in order to welcome in our new found world order. So when it comes to the piffling matter of retail and hospitality we must shut up, stand back and make way for the life savers, just like we do for our hero paramedics.

Essential stores are easy to spot as essentially (sorry) they sell food and medicine. On the basis you’ve already got enough stuff, anything that isn’t edible or medicinal is a luxury. So, the stores that sell clothes, shoes, books, homewares, holidays, gifts, cards, electronics, washing machines, mobile phones, second hand goods, furniture and fabric including all department stores, betting shops, car showrooms, car washes, tailors and auction houses must obediently shut up shop. Restaurants, cinemas, theatres, gyms, fitness centres, spas, health clubs, hotels, entertainment venues, casinos, nightclubs, cafes, pubs and bars already know their place in the new hierarchy.

The rules are crystal clear. Soup is essential, but a pan to heat it in is not, as every Boy Scout knows how to boil soup in its tin. Garden centres are obviously essential in order that you can still buy a life saving potted Aspidistra and electric hedge trimmers. For decadent frippery such as clothing for your newborn baby I suggest you buy online and save yourself the worry of shouting the size through your mask when stores do finally reopen. This also saves the retailer the cost of subjecting your chosen bobble hat to seventy two hours of UV treatment after the little tyke has tried it on.

After Lockdown II you will probably notice that most fitting rooms will remain closed for ordinary, non-essential customers. They are, of course, reserved for key workers trying on protective clothing and hazmat suits. (If you don’t believe this please check the government regulations in the link at the bottom) To avoid all this real-world kerfuffle, simply head to (cheques should be made out directly to Mr J Bezos).

Eating out in a socially distanced, regularly sanitised restaurant when there’s a perfectly good packet of pasta waiting at home is just showing off.

As all right-minded adults will surely agree, alcohol has become not just essential but absolutely bleeding critical during this pandemic. Thankfully, it can be purchased as normal from the supermarket, but please wait until you get home to consume it. Purchasing alcohol from your usual provider, ie. the local pub, is now an offence and will incur fines of up to £6400 for you, as well as the loss of the landlord’s license.

Food is obviously essential, but only when you eat it at home. Eating out in a socially distanced, regularly sanitised restaurant when there’s a perfectly good packet of pasta waiting at home is just showing off. And showing off is not essential.

If you live on your own and can’t cook (or weren’t in the Boy Scouts) don’t despair. The government has kindly allowed fast food takeaways to open for low life like you, so cheer up! Tucking into a Big Mac as the winter rain lashes against the windscreen of your Corsa 1.2 isn’t such a bad way to spend a Friday night.

This is all very clear and fair, but why are the supermarkets allowed to sell non-essential goods I hear you cry! Well, that’s a little more complicated, but I’m glad you asked. If you’re shopping for your essential bread and soup it would be a tad draconian to ban you from grabbing a magazine on route. However, if that magazine is sold from a shop within a shop (what we in the business call a concession) that aisle must, of course, be tightly bound in hazard tape as if an old lady had just been brutally murdered in the cookery section.

I trust I’ve helped unravel any anomalies or questions you may have had about Lockdown II. Stay safe out there, and remember folks…rules is rules. 

For more information please refer to the the official UK government regulations here. 

Thanks for reading. Now please follow me on Twitter @retailfuturist for more devastating insights into where we might be heading.

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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