‘We can’t get sentimental over these things,’ said Alex Baldcock, CEO of Dixons Carphone. He was being interviewed about the move of retailing business away from the high street to online trading. His own company has seen a spectacular online growth and the interview was on the same day that BooHoo had announced it was buying the Debenhams name and online business but would not be opening the high street or mall shops. His comments were about whether the high street would survive.
Why can’t we be sentimental over these things? What can’t we want to return to a high street that is full of life, where we can browse for goods, stop and have a coffee and that supports the sector that is the UK’s largest employer? Why must we accept the seemingly inexorable creep of business efficiency?
Of course we need business. We need it to produce the goods that we need and the incolmes to allow us to buy the things that are made but do we need to support it at all costs in its unbridled pursuit of profit?
Is it right that the market determines not only what we buy but how we live and in what way? Surely not. It should be up to society to determine the kind of environment it wants to live in. It should be up to all of us to determine the kind of village, town or city we live in rather than raw commerce.
I make no secret that I have no time for him but in the words of the current Prime Minister ‘F*** business!’
We all need to be sentimental about the kinds of lives we want to lead and the things that we are quickly losing. The time of COVID has taught us what is really important in life and, for me at least, possessions come low down the list.
Business should be here to support society rather than society here to support business. Get sentimental!