Let’s invent a new shop. It will stock books. Well, actually, it will stock very few books. Instead there will be endless repetitions of a few titles.

So here’s an idea. Let’s invent a new shop. It will stock books. Well, actually, it will stock very few books. Instead there will be endless repetitions of a few titles with 50 shades of anything taking pride of place. And we’ll have magazines, lots of them. And then we’ll have some cards, over-the-counter remedies and some chocolate, sandwiches and a range of fizzy drinks.

Then we’ll put in a queuing system that will lead either to self-serve checkouts or manned tills. The latter will involve trying to sell chocolate, for just £1, when somebody’s in a hurry to buy a newspaper that costs about the same. This will make things a little slower, but we may sell a few bars of branded confectionary, so hey, not all bad. Oh yes, and if shoppers use the self-checkout, let’s make sure that part of the checkout process involves upselling them a bar of choccy as well.

But hang on! What makes you think that by not having many books, a few mags and a lot of the brown stuff that it’ll be a success? Fear not! If the turnover doesn’t come in quite where we think it should, we can always cut costs somewhere. And let’s not spend too much on the way the stores look, by the way. Shoppers will only be visiting us for a short time so why bother making things too handsome? The shoppers will be in and out before we know it. 

No prizes perhaps for guessing that this idea is already embodied by a large chain on UK high streets and in spite of dire predictions about its future by many, it seems to keep turning in a profitable performance. The supplementary question however is how long us it possible to keep offering generally sub-standard retail environments without paying the price, or rather without shoppers deciding not to?

There’s a sense that things may actually be on the turn at the UK’s largest magazine and cheap-chocolate-at-the-counter retailer. Like-for-like sales fell 6% in the 14 weeks to June 8 – not, of course, that this is an outfit, whatever its name, that would rely upon budget chocolate and the salami-slicing of costs to make things work…that wouldn’t make sense…would it?