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And so to the present day, where the high street faces an uncertain future after the triple whammy of reckless expansion, the online squeeze and the financial crash. It’s fair to say that Peston has no visionary solutions for retail – offer a unique experience, allow dying businesses to close, exploit social media – and the interviews with big cheeses past and present (M&S’s Stuart Rose, Tesco’s Terry Leahy, Amazon’s Christopher North) are inevitably slightly self-serving.
But the minutiae are fascinating: how a local government initative in Gateshead accidentally invented online shopping with the none-more-1984 name of ‘Videotex’; the dire ‘virtual reality’-inflected efforts of supermarkets to handle the growth of the internet; the nuts and bolts of Amazon’s rise to power. And Peston does address issues of corporation tax, albeit a little circuitously. After an uncertain start, a very worthwhile series.