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
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
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
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.
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
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
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.