28 MAY 1948, Page 2

Coupon Clearance Sale

The announcement of a bonus issue of twelve clothing coupons, of the removal of a few items from the ration list and of the down- pointing of a few others should be the occasion of rejoicing by the consumers, satisfaction by the distributors and benevolent smiles by the Board of Trade. In fact, it has been the occasion of warn- ings, admonitions and qualifications by Mr. Wilson, disgruntled murmurs by the trade (amplified into loud complaints by the Parlia- mentary Opposition) and an unemotional acceptance by the public. It would be useless for the President of the Board of Trade to pretend that his department is in complete command of the situa- tion. When two sets of coupon concessions occur in a single month, and that after repeated warnings that the clothing ration was in danger of reduction, then the only possible conclusion is that events have taken the Board of Trade by surprise. It is, in fact, probable that, in concentrating on difficulties on the supply side, it has forgotten the complexities and caprices of distribution and demand—which is one more demonstration that the public knows what it wants far better than any Government department. On the other hand, the distributors, some but not all of whose number have exaggerated the Government's vices and their own virtues out of all recognition, cannot pretend that they had foreseen all the details of the new situation. A trade which at the best of times could only keep its stocks at an efficient level by means of in-

creasingly frequent clearance sales, should be the last to pretend that it can forecast with any accuracy the behaviour of a market in which demand is not simple but hopelessly tangled between money price, coupon price and rapidly changing fashion. In fact, the case for the abolition of clothes rationing put forward by the wilder members of the trade is weak in any event, but if there is an argument to support it it is that the present arrangement is so complex that forecasting is impossible and the pretence of " planning " farcical. The controversy has throughout been con- ducted on an inadeqate basis of fact. Nobody can claim to be infallible in this matter. Consequently all sides should be less free with recriminations and pay more attention to the true demands of the consuming public.