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A Man of a Few More Words - by Swan Morrison

The Product

Those of us in the High Street retail trade had greatly feared the Internet. For years, customers had believed that they were visiting shops to purchase items they wished to buy. Few realised that were really buying what we chose to sell them.

Some of us believed that bookshops were taking this idea to absurd lengths. We worried that the public were bound to detect something odd in the fact that there were millions of books which readers might wish to own, but that book-sellers, nationwide, tended to promote only six at a time – three of which were cookbooks by celebrity chefs.

We decided to commission a survey to understand why customers kept returning to shops despite the fact that they could get infinitely greater choice and enormously better value on the Internet.

The results were very encouraging. They revealed that consumers fell into three groups:

Approximately one third realised that shops were a dismally poor way to obtain goods and stayed at home in front of their computers.

A further third were products of British late twentieth century education so lacked the reasoning, literacy and numeracy skills to detect the problem.

The final third simply enjoyed shopping so much that what they purchased was virtually immaterial.

This revelation led to a revolution in High Street retail strategy. Shops began to stock increasingly restricted ranges at increasingly exorbitant prices. The outcome was exactly as predicted by the research: Sales fluctuated but never fell below a certain level as the latter two groups simply carried on shopping, regardless.

This strategy was so successful that The Federation of High Street Retailers finally decided to pursue the approach to its ultimate conclusion and sell just one product in all shops.

There was initially some debate as to what The Product should be. Consumer research showed clearly that it would need to be environmentally friendly and thus biodegradable. This did not resolve, however, the dilemma of which of millions of potential items should be chosen.

The breakthrough came with the concept of a pre-biodegraded Product. Consumers could then be confident that that their purchase would have no ecological impact as it would have biodegraded to the point of non-existence prior to purchase. Also, as nothing remained of The Product, the question of what it had once been became somewhat academic.

The Biodegrading-To-Non-Existence or BTNE process increased manufacturing costs, but the modern consumer was now happy to pay for ecological peace of mind.

Sales and consumer satisfaction were high and all seemed to be going well when scandal rocked the High Street retail trade to its foundations.

Due to cheaper labour costs, Products had been manufactured in China and the Far East. Undercover journalists discovered that such imports had not been pre-biodegraded. Instead, non-existent Products had been substituted, indistinguishable from authentic merchandise.

This led to worrying times but ultimately was a boon for the British economy as shoppers were prepared to pay even higher prices for a quality checked and certified local pre-biodegraded Product.

I now feel confident that the future of High Street retailing is assured.

Guarantee of humane production methods has even attracted the endorsement of those celebrity chefs.