With pundits predicting a recession-ridden retail Christmas, we cancelled our festive Director’s Dinner. Instead, we played a game we called TARDIS. The rules were simple: to compete for cheap champagne, each director had to write about business in 20 years’ time.
Here is the winning entry:
“The 2008 credit crunch led to massive government intervention, designed to prevent wholesale redundancies. Joint prime ministers, Brown and Mandelson said: ‘We will do whatever it takes to help hard-working families through these difficult times.’
“Eight million jobs were created by a raft of new agencies, including The National Office for Risk Assessment, 52 regional regulation agencies and The Green Employment Commission, which distributed £300bn to companies that created jobs and saved energy.
“Shoe repairers ticked all the right boxes and got government money – loads of it – in the form of Carbon Footprint Credits. Every sole and heel earned credits worth £12.25 (we were repairing two million pairs a year). It was good while it lasted, but soon everyone wanted to be a shoe repairer.
"Coffee bars became cobblers and even Halfords had a heel bar. Our industry grew from 3,000 to 15,000 shops, collecting Carbon Credits worth £100m a year.
“With all this extra competition, our sales suffered but we turned threat into opportunity by becoming a training service provider approved by our Sector Skills Council. Within two years, we received £35m through the government retraining initiative.
“In 2012, the Climate Change Commissariat reversed the 1963 Beeching Report and reopened 1,500 branch train lines and 3,000 stations. As car drivers switched to free trains, out-of-town shopping came to a standstill. The effect on supermarkets was traumatic. A £75bn bail-out helped the Co-op take over Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Morrisons and M&S to create the nationalised mega-retailer, ‘Co-op UK’.
“Under Vince Cable’s coalition government, recession abated but, by then, basic tax was 55 per cent, and an 80 per cent band was introduced to bail out the government deficit.
“Chancellor David Blunkett said: ‘We will do whatever it takes to help hard-working families get through these difficult times.’
“Technology came to the rescue. Scientists found a fifth-dimension source to supply energy for four million years. Some enlightened climatologists in Kentucky confirmed the end of global warming, announcing: ‘Global cooling has now begun.’
Five years later, the government stopped subsidising domestic wind farms.
“After the 2017 general election, a victorious new prime minister spoke to the nation: ‘To fix our broken society, we must reinstate free enterprise and solve the employment problem.’
“State job-creation schemes meant 70 per cent of workers were civil servants, with seven million performing unwanted work in superfluous government agencies.
"The Government Commission into Useful Employment recommended far-reaching changes: non-jobs were replaced by real jobs; villages got back their Post Office; bobbies returned to the beat; rubbish was collected every week; and social workers dealt with people rather than paperwork. The local pub reopened, more couples got married and crime fell dramatically.
“By 2025, only one problem remained – pensions. Nationalised banks and big business had once more been privatised, but at a big cost. Employees insisted on retaining their gold-plated retirement packages.
"Government actuaries forecast civil service pensions could cost 50 per cent of government expenditure by 2050. Lord Mandelson, our new chancellor, addressed the problem when he announced: ‘I will do anything it takes to help hard-working families through this difficulty.’
“With Carbon Footprint Credits abandoned, life as a cobbler returned to normal and, once more, our fortunes depended on our ability to repair shoes, rather than tick boxes to claim a government subsidy.
“The past 20 years have been traumatic but, in the end, not much has changed. Expert commentators forecast that Christmas 2028 will be tough for high-street retailers.”
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