HOW DARE YOU!

  Howard Saunders   Jan 14, 2020   Uncategorized   0 Comment

Our new Messiah has arrived, and she’s perfect. For one thing she’s female and we’re in desperate need of more of those in the Messiah department, that’s for sure. She’s also a self-confessed autistic, which means she has a unique insight into life on Planet Earth, which more than compensates for any lack of knowledge or experience. Her particularly penetrating Damian from The Omen stare coupled with a voice with the monotone gravity of a teenage Beowulf, means we take her words as gospel. This is critical. Imagine her words spoken by a teenage Brummie or Liverpudlian. Exactly.

This whole Messiah epithet is hardly an exaggeration or caricature. We are all either believers or heretics. There’s no LibDem option here and, therefore, no room for debate. Raise any doubt and it’s like picking a fight with Jesus, shouting abuse from the back of the crowd like in the sermon on the mount scene from Life of Brian. And her timing is perfect too; arriving at the start of a new decade, an era in which we are questioning our role on this planet and riddled with guilt about the damage consumerism is doing to it.

No matter how cynical you may be, Greta’s presence cannot be ignored. Her steely gaze monitors everything you do and, oh yes, she’s judging you alright. She can see your thoughts as you wander the supermarket aisles, she stands over you as you browse a bucket list holiday spot. Swiping along a clothes rail you catch her reflection in the shop window, arms folded in her yellow sou’wester, awaiting your decision. Close your eyes if you want to, her mantra remains in your head: how dare you, how dare you! It’s the perfect put down prefix to anything and everything. How dare you consider another jacket? How many do you already own? How dare you plan another weekend away? How dare you want steak tonight? How dare you consider going to a restaurant when you have some perfectly acceptable sprouting potatoes in your veg drawer? Have you not been listening? Are you not a true believer?

Here’s a prediction: the word for 2020 is köpskam. For those of you who don’t already know, it means shame of buying. The power of this word is sure to cast a long shadow over everything we do in the coming decade. No one is free from guilt. We all have enough stuff: enough t-shirts, enough shoes, trainers, jeans and jackets to last a lifetime. None of us has an excuse to ignore the new commandments.

Köpskam power comes not just from the fact that no one is guilt free, but also because, quite beautifully, our guilt can never be completely soothed. Greta doesn’t offer brownie points for not doing stuff. At no point will she ever say ‘Hey, this girl’s off the hook, she’s only got six tops’. You won’t receive a thank you letter for abstaining from that new pair of shoes. Her laser-gaze has seen inside your cupboards and wardrobes. Greta knows exactly how much stuff you’ve got. She can see the piles of shoes made from dead animals lying lifeless in the bottom of your wardrobe like, err, dead animals. In fact, when you next see her why don’t you ask her how many pairs you’re allowed to own? The ones you’re standing in probably, if she’s in a good mood.

The more reasonable among you will be thinking, ‘well, a little bit less of everything can’t be a bad thing’ and you have logic on your side. The problem is that once the good ship Abstinence has left port it can never reach its desired destination. There’s always a little further it could go. Fewer t-shirts, fewer jackets, fewer stores, fewer staff, fewer deliveries, fewer delivery drivers, less design, less marketing and so on. You get it. We want to purge ourselves, we asked to be cleansed right? Oh, it’s surely coming. No wonder H&M’s CEO warned this clamp down on consumption would have “terrible social consequences.”

In the world of work no one, except maybe those in the emergency or social services, is exempt. Whether we’re in marketing or accounts, make widgets, ready-meals or are just happy as a humble librarian we are all complicit, each encouraging one another to do more, buy more, consume more. It’s easy to believe that a culture of consuming less will only impact the rich with their gas guzzling Bentleys, infinity swimming pools and multiple foreign holidays. Sadly, it will seriously affect those at the bottom of the pile first as we witness the demise of super-cheap holidays, fast fashion, ready meals and discount chains of all sorts. Prepare for increased taxes on fuel, processed foods, fast food and probably fast fashion. But don’t worry, it’ll also come for those $3k handbags. Brandishers of such symbols of conspicuous consumption shall not escape retribution.

The irony is enough to make a grown man weep. After a decade of government imposed austerity we have willingly embarked on a decade of self-inflicted austerity promising far, far deeper cuts into our twenty first century lifestyle than anything our elitist overlords could have imagined. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Happy New Year!

For daily retail musings and rantings join me on Twitter @retailfuturist 

About Howard Saunders

Howard has worked in retail design for over twenty five years. As a former Creative Director of Fitch, based in London, he was responsible for retail design and branding and for creating multi-disciplinary teams of architects, graphic designers, product designers and copywriters and making them work together! As an independent consultant Howard has worked closely with Marks & Spencer, Waitrose and Westfield, for over a decade, helping them develop new store designs and keeping them informed of the latest retail innovations and shifts in customer expectations. His work with Westfield, for example, culminated in the creation of the artisan Great Eastern Market at Westfield Stratford, Europe’s largest shopping centre, which opened in 2011 on London’s Olympic Park. Now based in New York, Howard’s current clients include CBRE, Claire’s Accessories, Consumer Goods Forum, Ebay, Johnson & Johnson, L’Occitane, Magento, Mothercare, Permira and Westfield World Trade Center. As an international speaker Howard’s talks are big, visual journeys across the world of retail. Provocative, challenging, brutally honest, evidence based and thoroughly entertaining.

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