Britain Reverts To Tradition
The National Retail Sales Index makes for far more interesting reading than you might imagine. Its findings are picked over and analysed for retail trends. Prices have been steadily rising while the phenomenon known as shrinkflation has cut the size of many products for consumers, maintaining profits for producers. There are other signs of retrenchment, too.
Digital buying is reaching its tipping point (2/3rds of all transactions are made on mobiles), but many tech purchases appear to be flat-lining. One of the worst hit is e-readers, down by 23% since price hikes in both the hardware and the books. Smart devices are softening in sales too, especially Satnavs, and traditional non-digital items are returning; record players, egg cups, teapots, things without motherboards, low-cost objects that last a lifetime and don’t have to be updated.
Of course, this may all be wishful thinking on the part of the tabloids, most of whom would like to push us back to the 1970s, judging by the inexplicable rise of our terminally indecisive 70s-style politicians. Big pants and beige colours are all the rage now too. And – gods help us – pink is back. Sales of men’s pink T-shirts skyrocketed by 74%, while sales of pink women’s jackets rose by 55%. The cookware brand Le Creuset announced it was introducing a millennial pink range to capitalise on its popularity with younger shoppers.
Beards are staying, together with the neatly parted look that says you wish you were your granddad. What customers have really been looking for this year, amid political turmoil, is a little escapism. There’s been a 99% surge in sales of pool inflatables (who has a pool in England?), a 22% rise in mermaid-themed products and anything emblazoned with unicorns, from bedding to wallets and water bottles.
Perhaps the return to traditional form was always embedded in us, inflationary Brexit horrors or no. We can’t wait for winter (although it’s baking up in my flat today) just so that we can drag out those fluffy jumpers, thick socks, big cardies, teapots, books, cushions, duvets, cakes and vinyl records. The only thing missing now is ‘Carry On Up The Khyber’ on TV.
At least certain less savoury aspects of the past are dying out; Harvey Weinstein’s fall from grace is far from complete, but sexism and racism seem to be on the run in the UK. At least we’ll never see the return of the Carry On films (all 31 of them), whether or not sociologists try to convince us that the spirit of Donald McGill ironically lives on in them. At least the long-mooted relaunch of that series appears to be dead in the water now…