I wasn’t surprised to discover that the firm which supplies my employer with water-coolers has gone bust. When you think about it, the provision of a water-cooler, as against that old fashioned thing, ‘a tap’, is the sort of luxury which would be high on anyone’s list as something to get rid of, if times were hard, which is obviously the case (and more so, as we shall discover). Now is not the time to be in the water-cooler business: nor, perhaps, in the bottled water business.
It does make you wonder, looking about you, what else is a bad thing to be into. It isn’t the case that luxury goods will be axed per se. It doesn’t just a matter of what people need. People might need cheering up (they will), and they may well buy something extravagant. And a water-cooler is not an extravagance. It has the status of an optional extra.
We know that the bottom fell out of the car market, rather as it did of Perry Como’s car in ‘Magic Moments’, until the ‘scrappage’ scheme last year. That’s because replacing an old car with a new car is not necessary, in most cases. It is a desirable option. My guess is that the bottom might well fall out of the takeaway food market, and very specifically, the sandwich market. After all, making a sandwich is not rocket science (although most sandwiches have rocket in them these days, or wilted and scratchy bits of it). Any mug can take two bits of bread and stick something between them. It might therefore be argued that now is the time to get into the plastic box market, possibly with a slogan suggesting that it’s time to make your own lunch. Might the thermos return to its own former glory?
But of course I may be reflecting my age. I look at high streets and the arterial roads which snake away from them, and I am always amazed how many businesses can subsist on providing snacks and drinks at twice and thrice the price. There are even queues in some of them (the comedian John Pinette, one of the funniest men in the planet, has a great routine about having to buy a coffee in Nero’s to survive the length of the queue for coffee in Starbuck’s).
What else could we see being cut? My guess is cutlery and crockery. Most people have sufficient; and yet there is any number of outlets which offer you – it’s a mug’s game – things to drink out of with ever more bizarre designs. The same with drinking glasses. Most people have too many on their premises.
Socks? There is already an air of desperation about the sock market (although not, oddly, the stock market. What do they know that we don’t?) – packs of three or four or five are the norm. It is quite hard to buy a single pair of socks.
See what you think will fall off the shelf (or perhaps I mean, stay on it).