You know what has changed in society and our retail world over the past 50 years? Everything.
When I started the DFS furniture business in 1969 there was no out-of-town shopping or Sunday trading to speak of.
Advertising on TV was easy with the choice of just the one commercial channel, ITV. And just holding those big black and white broadsheet newspapers made your biceps bulge.
Lax advertising rules allowed almost any price or performance claim to go unsubstantiated – a bit like both sides of the Brexit campaign.
Credit, colloquially called the ‘never never’, had the formal name of Hire Purchase and innovatively charged interest as the 0% concept did not exist. Credit cards and cashpoints, amazing novelties, were in their infancy.
Landline telephones were a luxury with shared lines adding the spice of listening in on the neighbours. Mobile phones and the internet were still to be invented – so there was no online bullying, sexting or trolling.
“Coffee was milky Nescafe, not a choice of 50 served by a hipster barista, with a mortgage needed if you took the whole family”
There were also fewer motorists and pedestrians killed, injured or prosecuted for focusing on their phones rather than where they were going.
Gym – well that was the way you pronounced the shortened version of James.
Coffee was milky Nescafe, not a choice of 50 served by a hipster barista, with a mortgage needed if you took the whole family.
When China was mentioned porcelain cups and saucers came to mind and “Chinese” usually meant flock wallpaper, hanging lanterns and number 32 with chips, not the industrial powerhouse of the planet and neighbour to Kim Jong-un.
Smoking and driving under the influence thrived, with no seat belts to restrict drunken lolling and if a man sported a shaved head it might be due to cancer, because he was recently released from prison, serving in the military or for a bet.
“In short, the past wasn’t just a different country. It was a different galaxy. A wondrous, polite and pleasant land”
A rampant rabbit came from a pet shop and was an excited furry, burrowing, little mammal with long ears and a fluffy tail (no batteries necessary).
As for video recording, jogging, body-piercing, fake tan, political correctness, www, Deliveroo, billionaires, globalisation, reality TV or a selfie – what are they, then?
In short, the past wasn’t just a different country. It was a different galaxy. A wondrous, polite and pleasant land.
Car and home ownership rocketed as inflation dived and Mrs Thatcher’s ‘right to buy’ drove the proportion of UK families living in council houses down from 42% in 1979 to 8% today.
No surprise then that retailers specialising in motor accessories and home improvements boomed and hit the big time.
While those who recognised the huge growth in health and fitness and foresaw mobile phones, electronic games and other internet-related stuff also had a birthday.
Going with the flow
In retailing Canute is definitely not King, you either go with the flow or you go bust.
Anticipate where it will take us, in order that we can be the store, on or offline, stocking the next big thing – electric cars, exoskeletons or sex robots – rather than the coal scuttles and watch chains that funded Mr Selfridge and our other retail ancestors personal wardrobe of silk cravats, top hats and walking canes.
Stand still and you are doomed to join the list of big name retailers that also failed to respond to the zeitgeist and expired.
Be alert, engaged, open-minded, stay wide awake and you might stay in business. Adapt or die is the mantra to live by.
And remember, high tech, low tech or no tech, considering the customer first, second and third will always be leading edge and in style.