With astonishing speed, it’s almost that most wonderful time of the year – again.
As Jesus’ birthday approaches, it is natural for our focus to turn to the magnificent music of jingling tills on Black Friday; the launch of those indulgent, epic, ‘big bucks’ seasonal commercials; and our chances of actually being able to fulfil those ambitious promises of guaranteed delivery before Strictly Come Dancing’s Christmas special.
But it’s also a stimulus to look back over 2018 and reflect on all the excitement, challenges and happiness the past months have injected into our businesses and lives.
“2018 has been an incident-packed year. Some admittedly predictable, but many in the WTF category of ‘you could not make it up’”
It’s easy to believe from the front pages that we have had a year of nothing but Trump and Brexit, with all its ramifications from the Chequers plan to the Irish backstop and the People’s Vote.
But scratch beneath those red lines and we find a plethora of exciting and historic developments, from the Canadian legalisation of recreational cannabis to Saudi Arabia allowing women behind the wheel, and the Irish voting to legalise blasphemy. While the UK’s High Court crucially confirmed that dogs do have the right to urinate on lampposts.
This was the year when a Test cricketer became prime minister of Pakistan, while here at home there was an upsurge in Russian tourism to Salisbury. Damian Green, Boris Johnson, David Davies and Amber Rudd all resigned from the cabinet.
Former deputy prime minister Nick Clegg became head of global affairs at Facebook while former PM David Cameron grew so bored of his shed in Oxfordshire that he began to dream of making an unlikely comeback.
Fracking restarted in Lancashire and so did the earthquakes; heroic British divers rescued 12 boys from a flooded cave in Thailand, only to be attacked by electric car supremo Elon Musk.
Stephen Hawking and Ken Dodd were sadly deleted from the list of Living National Treasures; David Dimbleby announced his retirement, while Mark Carney and John Bercow decided to stay put.
Retailers including Toys R Us, Poundworld and House of Fraser called in the receivers, and even Mike Ashley proved unable to rescue all of them. While that other retail titan Philip Green discovered the hard way that money spent on the country’s top lawyers isn’t always a great investment.
From the bitcoin bubble to the Oxfam and Windrush scandals, not to mention two royal weddings, 2018 has been an incident-packed year. Some admittedly predictable, but many in the WTF category of ‘you could not make it up’.
As we age, the world certainly seems to move faster but the pace of change really is accelerating like never before. It would take greater bravery than I possess to pronounce on what the patterns of employment, trade and industry will look like in two or three years, never mind 20 to 30 years.
“While shops have been around since at least the days of ancient Greece that is no guarantee our retail world will still exist in recognisable form in the future”
How much work will be done by AI machines and what skills will be valued in the future as driverless vehicles make car ownership and road rage obsolete and drones terrify pigeons, airline pilots and delivery van drivers in more or less equal measure?
While shops have been around since at least the days of ancient Greece that is no guarantee that our retail world will still exist in recognisable form in the future.
But we can truly believe that the most prosperous survivors will be those who keep ultra-alert to the coming changes, embrace them enthusiastically and handle the consequences without fear.
With that in mind, let us prepare with confidence for the greatest and happiest Christmas ever – until the next one.