It was Christmas Eve and whilst many were at home with their families, Retail was still hard at work. Because even though this was a time for gathering and relaxing, for Retail it was the most important time of the year.
Near midnight and Retail’s workers were looking forward to a day off before being back just as busy as ever on Boxing Day. Checkouts needed operating, shelves needed stacking and inventory needed managing. It was a relentless toil.
But as Retail slept that night, a ghostly vision appeared in the form of a rather portly, not to say, slightly angst ridden gentleman. Retail at once recognised the vision as Lionheart, forever consigned to a life of partying on his superyacht. The vision then spoke to Retail and said that it would be visited by three Spirits that night.
And sure enough, as the clock struck one, the first Spirit appeared. The Ghost of Retail Past shone a light so bright that Retail was at first dazzled. But gradually the Ghost illuminates Retail’s past.
Visions of debt laden department stores appear; “Spirit, look at all those people, the tills are ringing, how can this possibly be anything but successful?” But the Spirit shows Retail another scene, just as busy but this time showing shoppers fighting for £50 TV’s. And once again, Retail looks on and can’t understand what could be wrong with such a wondrous sight. The Spirit shows Retail one more scene, and it’s one of celebration as the ribbon is cut on yet another store opening.
The Ghost tells Retail that it must confront these memories as each has made it the blinkered industry that it has become. And just as Retail tries to speak to the Spirit, it fades just as suddenly as it had appeared.
Retail was still trying to understand the meaning of what the first Spirit showed it, as predicted by Lionheart, when the second Spirit, the Ghost of Retail Present, appeared just as the clock struck one.
The Ghost of Retail Present appears not unlike a delivery driver; Retail is more chastened in this Spirit’s company than it was in the presence of the Ghost of Retail Past and expresses its willingness to learn from any lesson the Spirit will show it.
The Spirit whisks Retail away in its white van and shows visions of distribution centres the size of small countries, processing thousands of orders a minute. Retail looks on and asks the Spirit, “where are the high streets?”. The Spirit remains silent and continues to show Retail scenes, not of deliveries, but of collections.
“Spirit, these people are returning what they’ve just bought, why?”, asks Retail. But the Spirit continues on, showing Retail visions of rows and rows of lockers and factories full of people making anything from jeans to jackets, blouses to bodysuits, all sold at bargain basement prices.
The Spirit informs Retail that the high street will die unless the course of events changes. The Spirit grows visibly older as his time with Retail passes, each of the Spirits having their allotted time, but before disappearing Retail observes two hideous and emaciated children – Omnichannel and Experiential.
The Ghost of Retail Present fades just as its predecessor had done, but before Retail can comprehend what it’s just been shown, at the last stroke of twelve, the Witching Hour, the third Spirit appears, the Ghost of Retail Yet To Come.
The Ghost of Retail Yet to Come leads Retail through a sequence of mysterious town centres relating to a yet unnamed recent death. Retail sees visions of boarded up units, signs offering “significant retail opportunity here”, along with seas of plastic and mountains of clothes.
Retail desperately implores the Spirit to alter its fate, that it will denounce its unsustainable ways and its pursuit of sales in favour of digital customer experience and inspirational stores.
But of course, unlike A Christmas Carol, this story as yet has no ending, because we are all currently writing it.
Merry Christmas to all those in retail.