Sales that leave our high streets in a bit of a pickle

As whole industries leave our shores, Britain's poor are asking an almost unanswerable question: what jobs will we do now?

Share
Related Topics

In the past week, this newspaper has reported three consumer
stories whose superficial similarities are limited. First, there
was the news that publishing giant Penguin is to merge with Random
House, in a deal struck between their parent companies, Pearson and
Bertelsmann.

Second, came news that Branston, of pickle fame, has been sold to a Japanese firm for £92.5m – just weeks, incidentally, after the makers of HP Sauce moved production to Holland. And third, we report today that Comet, the electrical retailer, is to be put into administration next week, following brands such as MFI and Woolworths on to the financial scrapheap.

At first glance, there isn't much in common between these three tales, because the respective industries barely overlap. But they represent vivid evidence of the three great challenges to our whole programme of economic development: rapid technological change; globalisation; recession.

Together these forces are producing a Great Hollowing, in which whole industries leave our shores, and Britain's poor are left asking an almost unanswerable question: what jobs will we do?

Rapid technological change is decimating the publishing industry. According to BookStats, American publishers generated $2.1bn in e-book revenues last year, up 3,200% from 2008. E-books are cheap to produce and therefore cheap to sell. This merger will generate around £100m through savings in distribution, printing, and warehouse space. Other industries – especially the media – will soon follow this inexorable logic.

The owners of Branston say the sale to Japan won't mean a loss of British jobs. Let's see about that. Alas for us, Japan produces exceptionally skilled graduates. Even if Branston doesn't reduce British jobs, in an era of accelerating globalisation, the cheaper labour and swifter minds of developing economies will prove irresistible to endless British companies.

There are many reasons for Comet's demise, but clearly recession is not compatible with expensive electrical goods.

Four years after the financial crisis, a toxic brew of demographic, political, technological and commercial forces is changing our high streets at a dizzying pace. Nothing can be done, so let's please not pretend otherwise. If we want to stop jobs disappearing, we need to work harder for less, make vast and implausible strides in education, and rebalance our economy completely. And all that while learning Japanese. Sayonara!

Editor independentvoices.com

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer - Junior / Mid Weight

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: To support their continued grow...

Recruitment Genius: Marketing Data Specialist

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are the go-to company for ...

Recruitment Genius: Search Marketing Specialist - PPC / SEO

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join the UK's leadin...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This caravan dealership are currently recruiti...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Rafael Nadal is down and out, beaten by Dustin Brown at Wimbledon – but an era is not thereby ended  

Sad as it is, Rafael Nadal's decline does not mark the end of tennis's golden era

Tom Peck
Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
10 best statement lightbulbs

10 best statement lightbulbs

Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

Dustin Brown

Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test