Howard Saunders   Jul 01, 2021   Future, Retail, sales, Uncategorized   0 Comment

A few blogs ago I wrote about the rise of the Mini-Tyrants who’ve been popping up at the entrances to our shops and restaurants, threatening us with their clipboards and house rules and generally making us feel like shit as we queue to give them money. But things have moved on. Far from this species being a Covid anomaly I fear, that like everything else, it’s gone viral. Hundreds of thousands of once relatively cheery shop keepers, bar staff and landlords have clearly succumbed, not to Covid the disease, but to Covid Culture, a much more insidious and pervasive virus. Judging by my day to day poll Covid Culture has an R rating of well over 4.

First signs of infection are a Cheshire cat of a grin and an obsequious tilt of the head. “We’re doing the very best we can under the circumstances…Sir.” The Sir (or Madam) is critical here. It’s a language perfected by our wonderful Police Service as a means of being extra patronising but disguised as politeness. 

As the disease develops a warm glow rushes like iodine through the bloodstream when the sufferer senses unease, pain or discomfort in others. The Schadenfreuder Glow, as it’s called, can also be triggered by talk of pain or penance to society as a whole. So lockdowns, for instance, are welcomed as a means of punishing those they believe are having too much fun, consuming too much or just living a bit too much…even though it punishes the sufferer too, of course. These are the people that not only believe the world will end in nine years (or is it eight now?) but they get a fizzy feeling in their waterworks in the knowledge that if it does it will teach us a bloody good lesson.

As I mentioned, the R rate of Covid Culture is pretty hairy. A CC carrier working in a restaurant, shop or pub, for example, will infect most of the staff within a couple of days. You can spot an infected business a mile off. The entrances are plastered with Do’s and Don’ts, warning signed and hazard taped as if the local vicar had just been bludgeoned to death on their bloody doorstep. You may only want a sliced sourdough but there’s a strict protocol to go through before you’re allowed to take that little parcel of goodness away from this crime scene.

Infected stores actually bristle with an electric charge poised to snap at you like an exposed cable should you put a foot wrong or wander too near a fellow browser. It’s retail Jim, but not as we know it.

Interestingly, the data suggests a particular character type is more prone to infection than others. Loosely described as ‘Weterosexuals’ they tend to be those smiley, smug beta males that nod over emphatically when a female is talking. Physically, they display a slight under development in the bones of both jaw and back. Colloquially known as ‘Hancocks’ they have long believed that there are just too many people on the planet and have become evangelical enthusiasts for all forms of restraint and restriction, including lockdowns, licenses, barriers, yellow tape and even boiler removal.

It’s a perfectly understandable view, I suppose. Down here, in the dirty ruts and furrows of planet earth where we are forced to witness the waste, the litter, the crowds and the hordes of pasty-faced sun-seekers burger-ing and lager-ing up at the airport, the gravity of Malthusianism has a mighty strong pull. It’s so easy to believe that other people are the problem, doing and consuming more than their fair share. Catching a glimpse of one’s own reflection helps, if only temporarily. Seems to me we need a lot more reflection these days.

But the good news is that the future will not look upon them kindly. History doesn’t congratulate those that didn’t, those that hindered and hurdled. Homo-Trepidatious may grimace at the thought but the future will be built by Doers not Don’ters: open minded entrepreneurs that take risks to create things we didn’t even know we wanted. Malthusians will be seen as the dead weights they are, the dead weights every generation carries with it. As the world opens up it should be even clearer now who are the ones we want to take into the future with us, and who should be left whinging in the wings. 

Eventually of course, the threat from Covid will abate as we learn to tiptoe gently back into the world unmasked and un-distanced. Sadly, Covid Culture will live on considerably longer despite the fact we already know the cure: courage.

Now please follow me on Twitter @retailfuturist for daily insights and musings.

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.

Post a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *