For a while they were the undisputed future. Stinking, honking traffic jams would soon be replaced by a silent stream of shimmering Teslas, politely and autonomously giving way to one another as they wend their way to work: a utopian vision of our cities originally painted by Musk but eagerly endorsed and approved by governments right across the globe.

But as with Twitter, Musk is finding that the future ain’t always smooth and predictable. Those Teslas are losing their shine as the reality of energy transition bites back hard.

Let’s be clear, Big State’s push for an EV future has been colossal. The US government will have subsidised Tesla to the tune of $41 billion (yes, billion) in total. And here in the little old UK our highly respected government, always keen to manage our money wisely, has spent well over a billion pounds since 2011 incentivising us to switch to electric. 

Henry Ford released the first Model T in 1908. Elon Musk released the first Tesla in 2008. The images below, taken on New York’s Fifth Avenue in 1900 and 1915 respectively, demonstrate how swiftly the car was embraced. No government subsidies back then.

But subsidy may well be the root of the problem. Government mandated futures never, ever work: The Household Support Fund, Covid Business Grants, NHS patient records system, the Green Homes Grant, the Green Heating Scheme, the Emergency Services Network, the Post Office Computer System, the Pathway Scheme, the PPE scandal, the Hydrogen Village project…not forgetting HS2, these all began as well meaning, future focussed projects before they ran monstrously over budget, were either abandoned or buried seeped in corruption or left limping along leaking billions despite being doomed to failure. When will we learn that governments simply love to piss away our money in order to virtue signal on the global stage. And when a project’s intent is any form of greenification it’s almost pre programmed to fail. Cue King Midas in Reverse.

Sadly for the eco-zealots, the fluorescent green truth about EVs is gently bubbling up to pollute the mainstream narrative. But let’s not dwell on the negatives. Oh sod it, let’s: the purchase price, the excessive weight, increased road damage, faster tyre wear, rare earth minerals, child labour, the pathetic charging infrastructure, battery efficiency in winter, battery replacement times, lengthy charging times, constant range anxiety, stress on the national grid, plummeting second hand values, rising autopilot fatalities, rising insurance premiums…and last but not least, and hugely ironically: sustainability.

A conventional engine can be restored, upgraded, fixed and fiddled with for eternity. Literally. That’s why we wave when we see a vintage jalopy lolloping along on a sunny Sunday. That’s sustainability. By contrast, a vintage Tesla is just a big, plastic jelly-mould over a dead battery. (I realise I’m upsetting a few friends here, but tough. You still have the gas guzzler).

But none of these practical, real-world flies in the ointment will stop EVs from becoming universally adopted. Culture will. Governments don’t understand cultures.

We pretend that we choose our cars for practical reasons, but that’s a lie. We boast of the comfort, the cornering ability and the fuel efficiency but we don’t mean it. With arms folded we gently interrogate the salesman about warranties and how to upgrade the sat nav, but it’s just an act to show that we’re not completely stupid. If we were totally honest we’d sit in the driver’s seat and ask whether it made us look appropriately professional, too much like a family man or a mum ferrying her kids to school. We would ask if it made us more attractive, wealthier looking or whether the colour was too old for us. Yes, the main reason for our purchase is status.

Unlike humans, cars have limited genders. A BMW is clearly masculine. We choose it for its muscularity and purpose whatever gender we happen to be that week. A Mercedes, on the other hand, is feminine: sleek, elegant and much less pretentious about its true power. A Tesla is non-binary. And while being non-binary is fabulously fashionable, by definition it is sexless. In its stead, of course, it is virtuous. That’s why so many of its wealthy early adopters choose the Tesla for the Waitrose run.

But those seductively sculpted lines which for fifteen years heralded a better, cleaner future have suddenly grown ubiquitous and uninspiring. Worse still, Musk currently ranks alongside Hitler for his attempts to de-woke Twitter, so the eco-hippies now see the Tesla as the devil’s transport. Amusingly, their only other acceptable vehicle is the belching VW Beetle.

Sadly, the promise of a battery technology breakthrough still lies mockingly in the road ahead while the 2030 deadline approaches faster than government can organise a meeting about a meeting about an enquiry. So here’s my prediction:

In 2026 the UK government led by Sir Keir will fudge the 2030 deadline. He’ll blame the Tories for lack of planning and talk about commitment to Net Zero, but nonetheless it’ll shift. The price of second hand cars and the classic car market will boom following the news. Take up of EVs will stabilise among those of us fortunate enough to have a driveway or a garage. Our city centres will increase the restrictions on the internal combustion engine and ban diesel vehicles altogether. Council workers and big corporates will get a menacing nudge from ESG to switch their fleets to electric, which will leave little old us tinkering with our combustion engines in the suburbs and the sticks, buying the occasional gallon of silly priced synthetic e-fuel when we can afford it. The pre-owned EV market will crash, oh and the self inflicted collapse of the German car industry will leave the door wide open for China to dominate in both ICEs and EVs.

There will be plenty of EVs on the roads, no doubt about that. it just won’t be most of us ordinary folks in them. This can only enhance their image as one that is fully endorsed by government: compliant, non-binary, virtuous, and desperately uncool.

A bit like masks.

Join me on Twitter @retailfuturist for wry insight and unconventional truth seeking

  Howard Saunders   Jul 19, 2023   Uncategorized   0 Comment   Read More


We expect it of our food. We know that, say, a supermarket lasagne has been reconstituted, augmented, chemically stimulated, preserved, sugared and salted to within an inch of its natural life. We are aware that it’s been perfectly browned for that ‘first bite’ with the eyes when the hungry customer tears open the packaging. We know that ‘mouth feel’ has been focus-grouped to dribbling point over several months and that the packaged product has been tested alongside its competitors for shelf presence and overall impact across numerous countries. Obviously, the way the pack opens – the product reveal – has been assessed and adjusted to enhance the overall post sales customer experience along with fine tuning the type of glue that seals the pack, and the tear tab that undresses it. 

We can imagine how many times the product descriptions were batted to and fro between copywriters and specialists in nutritional law in order to settle on just the right balance between hyperbole and reality. We know that the pack designers created more than a hundred and fifty versions, probably more, shifting the elements around as if it were a puzzle that would eventually reveal the correct answer. We can visualise the boardroom conversations about the line breaks, the typography and how small to make the list of ingredients. We can picture the last minute changes the new CMO made so that he didn’t feel like a sore thumb at the launch. And we are probably vaguely aware that the plastic tray was redesigned to tilt slightly towards the opening edge for better presentation. 

But we also know that the finished product is but a ghost of something our grandmothers would have recognised. Modernised, corporatised and repackaged…and now with the nutritional value of a packet of Hula Hoops.

Self Love

Most of us know a little about how our food is produced but hyper-processing seems to have crept into many aspects of our lives without us noticing. Portrait photography, once a proud profession involving tripods, clamps, heavy lenses and blinding flashlights has been reduced to nothing but a daily chore, a clocking-in process to publish how much fun we’re supposedly having. Not that our Social Media gods will ever be satiated by our daily narcissistic routine, of course. But omit to post for a couple of days and your friends will surely conclude that you’ve either left your phone in a cab or you’re dead. Maybe both. The ‘portraits’ themselves, of course, no longer attempt to penetrate the subject’s soul for a glimpse of angst or hubris, but instead only reveal a filtered, perfectly browned, strategically cropped version of reality. Just like the lasagna, actually. 

Having said that, of course, the entire social media edifice is nothing but a gargantuan theatre for orchestrated outrage, virtue signalling and counterfeit authenticity.

Time Out

Even our once innocent leisure time has been forced through the hyper-processing mill. When friends come over for the weekend it’s no longer acceptable to have drinks in the garden whilst reminiscing over old family albums. Today you must ‘book’ an activity that’ll ensure everyone starts the day mortally uncomfortable and ends the day utterly exhausted. Something like Tough Mudder, one of the many ludicrous Escape Rooms or an excruciating, immersive show like Tomb Raider or Guys and Dolls will do the trick. Community embarrassment can be such a social leveller.

Fancy a Pint?

The decolonisation of art and history is clearly just a trendy euphemism for reprocessing everything we’ve built to date because some of the past is a bit embarrassing for the young and unworldly. Even ironing out misogynistic wrinkles and censoring cringeworthy references in not-very-vintage comedy is simply an attempt to reprocess the past in order to make it more compliant to the increasingly sensitive present.

Those much maligned Gen Zedders, desperate to escape reality and join Uncle Mark in the Metaverse, are the worst offenders. It’s no coincidence they reject traditional beer and wine, drinks with thousand year ancestries, only to embrace fizzing, fluorescent, candy floss cocktails served in a bowler hat of dry ice at twenty five quid a pop.

Now with added AI!

Remember when ‘the news’ was little more than the dull, daily bullet points from the grown up world of current affairs? Seems like prehistory now. Today, of course, most of us know that facts should be blended, distilled, magnified and then separated so as to fit neatly into the appropriate mainstream narrative. Much more digestible that way. Consider it bespoke. Select your taste preference (basically, left or right) and our trusty journalists will process the news especially for you. Just like a ready meal factory they will get to work slicing, dicing and seasoning in order to enhance the juicy bits whilst trimming away the unwanted fat that might upset your delicate constitution. The end result is always a perfectly crafted, well balanced snack. Something like the journalistic equivalent of a Turkey Twizzler.

And now with added AI you can guarantee that your evening meal will be extra gentle on your digestive system as it will very soon come sprinkled with a little ‘artistic license’ thanks to the genius of deep fake technology. AI needs only three seconds of a voice to replicate speech, and ten seconds of video to create a convincing animated avatar that says and does whatever the narrative requires. Consider it extra seasoning: added emphasis for the greater good. Nothing to worry your pretty little head about. I guarantee that in a few year’s time every single item of news you receive, from whatever source, will never ruffle your feathers again. Just relax. AI will ensure that everything fits seamlessly into your world view. And that’s when you know you’ve been hyper-processed.

Finally, fears that we’re being lied to and that the news is nothing but propaganda can be put to bed. 

From now on we can be absolutely certain of it!

Join me on Twitter @retailfuturist for wry insight and cynical truth seeking

  Howard Saunders   Jun 20, 2023   Blog, culture, Future, Uncategorized   0 Comment   Read More


In my last blog I introduced you to the Insufferables, the hyper-narcissists that will very soon be your customers, clients, teachers, nurses, builders and policemen. It’s all a matter of degree of course, but the underlying neediness that manifests itself in cults like the Bronies (grown men who identify as My Little Pony) is clearly going nowhere fast. Cross your fingers for peak narcissism by all means, but short of all-out global nuclear war there’s nothing to suggest our burgeoning braggadocio will recede any time soon.

The reality is, it’s only just begun. And in a few years when our personal, AI digital assistants constantly whisper reassurances into our earpieces (like Scarlett Johannsen to Joachim Phoenix in Her, 2013) our self image and our sense of entitlement will surely inflate to match our outward displays of narcissism. Like two naughty school kids, our ids will egg on our egos in a frenzied feedback loop, and we can only imagine how ugly things are likely to get.

When we talk of the future we tend to picture the changing world around us: gravity defying modes of transport gliding effortlessly between high rise homes swathed in ribbons of random woodland, for example. But the truth is that the two biggest changes we face will both be invisible: technology that knows everything about us, and our inner worlds freshly bloated with expectation. In a hundred years time the overwhelming majority of our housing stock will look exactly as it does now. The roads that carry our autonomous cabs will still be peppered with potholes and puddles, and our descendants will still mutter old english expletives when they crunch across one. In London, St Pauls will still shimmer majestically beneath its lumbering neighbours, while the lions in Trafalgar Square will still be caked in pigeon shit. (Although of course, Nelson’s Column will have long been replaced by the breathtaking monument to Dame Dylan Mulvaney.)

But on the inside, our attitudes, hopes, fears and expectations will have shifted dramatically. This is the biggest challenge we face in the West. Our view of ourselves and our place on planet Earth will have been forged for a new era of entitlement. The oarsmen that were cruelly lashed as they battled through sixteenth century storms did not dream of one day becoming poets or mandolin players. Nor did they believe that if they rowed a little harder than their fellow lashees they would eventually be promoted to captain. Fairness and meritocracy, like outboard motors, were yet to be invented. No, their roles on planet Earth were carved into their headstones from birth.

By contrast, fast forward five hundred years and the TikTok generation is an entirely different species. Without any hyperbole, TikTok is by far the most powerful influencer mankind has ever encountered. Those that dismiss it as social media nonsense have completely missed the point. TikTok is a genuine echo chamber, feeding us precisely what we want. If you happen to be interested in dancing kittens, then dancing kittens you shall have my friend, along with a slew of dancing dogs, donkeys and dormice, no doubt. You only have yourself to blame.

Personally, being an old git, I’m bombarded with comedy clips from the sixties and seventies, rare footage of Dick Cavette or Larry King chatting with Lennon, Joplin, Capote and Groucho Marx. This isn’t vacuous guff, this is education! Beautiful, polished gems from a rich cultural archive that reveal precisely how attitudes have evolved in but a handful of decades. And that’s my point: it’s us that’s changed and it’s us we need to worry about.

By way of full disclosure, these educational nuggets are, I confess, punctuated with an endless parade of extraordinarily proportioned women using a variety of excuses to jump up and down for absolutely no reason whatsoever. These are the ‘tap to watch live’ rooms. But I’m happy. It’s better than ads for dog food and stairlifts. My libido may have dulled a little with age but I’m still firmly up one end of this exciting new spectrum we’re all getting used to.

TikTok also feeds me daily doses of advice on diet, mental health, cholesterol, blood pressure and a thousand other worries that plague twenty first century man. By contrast, I can count on one hand the amount of advice the NHS has given me in half a century. And most of that was wrong. Similarly, a thirty second animation of the solar system reveals more about the scale of our tiny rock alongside the sun than anything I ever learnt at school, or from pouting Professor Cox for that matter. If you’re still skeptical I suggest you pop out to the library in your lunch break and swot up on the planets like a proper pupil.

Truth is, sneering at TikTok is like being let loose on your own in The British Library, getting waylaid in the ornithology section and then complaining that there’s nothing in there but wild birds. 

Put simply, TikTok is the entire universe plopped into the blender to make it easily digestible. So when you next hear someone tut loudly that ‘they’ve been on TikTok’ and it’s nothing but salacious, vacuous, dopamine dependent drivel, smile smugly in the knowledge that they’ve just described themselves. 

Happy swiping.

Join me on Twitter @retailfuturist for profound insights and daily nonsense

  Howard Saunders   May 11, 2023   Uncategorized   0 Comment   Read More


I’m sure you will recognise us. We are the lip syncers and the lycra-clad gym barbies that demand your attention every morning. We are the cop provocateurs and the speed junkies that beg you to wince in empathy. We are the tree huggers, the matrix dwellers and the needy, pleady marathon runners, fundraisers and sponsored chuggers that replenish your daily dose of guilt. We are the fluorescent yoga exhibitionists and gyrating gen-zedders here to make you feel old and impotent. Over-inked and under-educated we are the botoxed banshees squealing in your notifications. We are cyan haired, gender challenged, chromosome deniers…and we are proud. We are fictionally cleavaged augmentation addicts. We are the midriff cavorting milfs with bovine lashes and matching IQs. We are filtered freaks flaunting lips bee-stung to bursting with monosyllabic exuberance. But above all, we are do-gooders and doom-mongers: both virtual and virtuous with lungs so ballooned with hubris that the end of the world simply must coincide with our own fleeting, meaningless existence. Yes, four and a half billion years of planet earth comes to an end just as we show up. How crazy is that!

Welcome to TikTok. I knew you’d recognise us. You’ve seen us on your daily, no..hourly, twelve bore shot in the face of everything wrong with the West. (Is that the CCP I hear chuckling in the distance?)

How did we get here I hear you ask. Well, we drank the elixir: a cocktail we call Apocalypse on the Rocks. It’s a simple recipe: take a couple of world wars, add a generous glug of rock ’n roll (any youth culture will do) and whisk it to a crazy froth with the iPhone (other brands work, but the original is best). It’s a long, deliciously addictive drink that’s a bit like Ahahuasca in that you instantly become one with every atom in the known universe. It genuinely feels as if the Earth is revolving around your head. No one else’s, just yours. You may even shed a tear knowing that you are a child of the last remaining traditional binary parents before the age of the Great Entitlement arrived. 

The old fashioned concept of truth simply evaporates. Your eyes are opened to personal truths, like the 57 varieties of gender nobody mentioned previously and that deep down you always knew you were a little bit special. Without truth, you see, there can be no delusion. Join us and your superpower will be the knowledge that everything that came before the Great Entitlement was racist, transphobic and utterly irrelevant. Perhaps best of all, our elixir not only opens your eyes, it closes your ears. No need to listen to the olds ever again. 

Stick with us and you’ll get high on knowing that although there is no god, if one did exist it would probably be you. That’s how powerful we are. Together, we crystallise the understanding that the planet is crying out for help and it’s down to us, not to save it as such, but to let everyone know what we know. There’s no time for discussion or pointless debate. That’s why I sloshed five litres of Desert Sunrise vinyl silk over the Bentley showroom. We communicate in B&Q colours now. Talk certainly isn’t cheap.

Western governments and Silicon Valley are absolutely seething. Just as we’d settled comfortably into the idea that a benign partnership of Big Tech and the Big State would run everything forever, along comes TikTok to set light to an entire generation.

If you are one of the Unentitled, oh how we pity you. Perhaps you are hoping your children are simply ‘going through a phase’ or taking an angry, but understandable, post lockdown kick at the shins of the establishment. Fraid not.

TikTok is mere kindling for the fire that is yet to engulf this planet. Very soon we will be every child, every friend, every neighbour and every customer for the next quarter of a century.

We are the Insufferables. Not only will you recognise us, you will learn to live with us.

Join me on Twitter @retailfuturist for profound insight and newsy nonsense

  Howard Saunders   Apr 04, 2023   Uncategorized   0 Comment   Read More


Is all this talk of ChatGPT, artificial intelligence, drones and robots giving you a headache? Maybe you’re convinced your kids will soon be moving to the Metaverse with Mark Zuckerberg and you’re wondering if you’ll ever see them again. And if you’re in retail, well you’d be forgiven for thinking the entire industry is winding down ready to hand over the keys to smiling Jeff Bezos.

The world has become so confusing, the future so scary it’s amazing that any of us bother to get out of bed in the morning. Listen to a couple of TedTalks or browse a few LinkedIn articles, by way of staying ahead of the game, and it’s as if they’re talking another language. They are. Tech geeks get turned on by excluding ordinary humans from their nerdy prognostications.

Cut through the jargon however, and it’s clear there’s a push for a future in which humanity takes a backseat. This is understandable when you consider that mankind is the source of most our problems, however that does not mean all these techno-predictions will come true. This headlong rush for the future is surely fuelled by a dislike and distrust of the present. Whether it’s robotics, smart cities, fake meat, autonomous vehicles or the much hyped Metaverse, it’s clear we’re designing ourselves a future that diminishes us. A future in which, out of guilt, we pass the baton to technology to rule over a world with barely a trace of us in it.

I blame science fiction. We’ve imagined ourselves living in glass domes, being waited on by robots for almost a hundred years. Way back in 1930, Einstein’s superhuman intellect predicted mankind would soon be overtaken by machines, leaving humanity as “a generation of idiots.” That’s a century of fear mongering and yet, when Elon Musk unveiled his billion dollar Optimus robot in September last year, the reception was notably underwhelming: a teetering, tin humanoid staggered on and off stage like a cautious drunk. A drunk, incidentally, that couldn’t begin to contemplate a small flight of stairs. These then, are the Daleks that in 2019 the mighty Mckinsey warned would destroy 800 million jobs by 2030. Well, they’d better hurry up.

So enamoured are we with the future, we wilfully ignore the smirking elephant in the room that knows the robotic revolution is a long, long way off. Whether it’s fake meat, the rise of rental culture, the internet of things or 3D printing, it seems the future we promise ourselves keeps getting kicked further down the road.

Even long proven technology comes unstuck in the cold light of day. Drone deliveries, for example, life saving in rural environments are utterly hopeless in our busy, high-rise cities. Likewise, autonomous cars may be the future in linear Los Angeles but they don’t look so clever trying to navigate the pot holes, roadworks and tangled lanes of most European cities.  

But hey, we’ve just emerged from a uniquely comprehensive global experiment and the results are now in. After two years of being locked indoors…wait for it… it turns out the vast majority of us want to get out and mix with other humans after all! The evidence is clear: we prefer to visit shops and restaurants than swiping endlessly through Amazon. This explains the dramatic surge in events, parties, celebrations and festivals last year. It seems, given half a chance, we’ll turn up to the opening of an envelope.

And therein lies the secret of great retail. In a world where we can access everything anywhere, retail is no longer about getting hold of ‘stuff’. What really helps us part with our hard earned cash is a place that feels alive and happening, whether it be a bustling bakery or a megabrand flagship.

Thankfully, for us real-world enthusiasts, the future looks safe: Amazon is axing ten thousand staff, Zuckerberg’s Metaverse is bleeding cash, Beyond Meat is bleeding to death and Elon promises Optimus will be able to walk properly very soon.

The Failure of the Metaverse and the Rise of the Real World - Utah Stories

Don’t get me wrong. Technology is sure to reshape our world in bewilderingly beautiful ways. In less than a decade we’ve evolved into a global species of screen addicted voyeurs and needy narcissists. Our attention spans may have shrivelled and our morals evaporated but it’s comforting to know that, at the end of the day, whatever spectacular gizmos they throw at us one thing remains universally true: we still want to hang out with friends, family, peers and colleagues in markets, shops, bars, delis and restaurants just like our digitally deprived ancestors did two millennia ago.

Now peel me a grape.

Join me on Twitter @retailfuturist for profound insight and newsy nonsense

  Howard Saunders   Mar 02, 2023   Uncategorized   0 Comment   Read More