Posts Tagged shopping

Doing the retail roomba

Bank Holiday Monday, no campaigning for once, so a chance for a bit of shopping.

We got the bus nearly to Victoria, then a stroll through Belgravia. Islington has some very rich people, but the borough feels real. Belgravia feels unreal. Perfect window boxes and improbably symmetrical shrubs flanking immaculate doors; and nobody on the streets but us.

Belgrave Square is embassy land: where else would you find Turkey next to Malaysia? Then we walked up Wilton Crescent, past the Berkeley (complete with bowler-hatted doorman) and out onto Knightsbridge.

First stop Harrods. I am not a Harrods fan, plus it was absolutely packed with people practising for Slow London Week, so I went for another stroll outside while Rich went hunting for jackets. Scanning estate agents’ windows in Beauchamp Place is a glimpse of another world – £500k for a studio, anyone? – so imagine my surprise when there was an ad for an Islington boozer: the Lord Nelson on Holloway Road, its lease for sale at £120k. A bargain!
Rich & I then met as agreed in Harrods’ basement pub, the Green Man. Half a pint for £3. Not a bargain…

After our drink, we cut past the rising towers of One Hyde Park. Then into the park, and we strolled past the Serpentine towards Oxford Street. Quick lunch in St Christopher’s Place, then having gazed in the window at Paddy Campbell, I was on my way to Debenhams. Himself headed for HMV, another pub rendezvous agreed. An hour later and I was flushed with success – suit and two tops all in the sale – when a text arrived: “we have a roomba”. And there in the pub was Richard looking sheepish with a big John Lewis bag.

The Roomba is a robot carpet cleaner. It looks like a grounded flying saucer, and zooms around at the touch of a button. And it has long had a fatal attraction for Richard. The first time he saw one, he couldn’t resist testing it. That Roomba was last seen heading for the designer duvets. Anyway John Lewis have now lifted the ban, so he went back and got one of his own.

I was a bit sceptical. After all we have a perfectly good Dyson. But we do have the constant battle with cat hair, and the moulting season is just beginning. Was the Roomba just another boy’s toy? It does run off rechargeable batteries, themselves charged from our green electricity, so not too extravagant. Yesterday I left it pootling around the living room while I was working. It’s virtually silent, apart from the occasional chirrup. It did pick up an impressive amount of cat hair. And the carpet is looking much better.

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Mosaic going into administration

More bad news for retailers, as the various Mosaic group stores go into administration.

Islington is relatively chain-free but we do have Oasis and Karen Millen in the N1 Centre.

So far we’ve escaped the curse of empty shop units. When Diva moved to a smaller shop, for example, an opticians soon moved in. Is that about to change?

My colleague Ruth Polling wowed a recent party with her fab shoes from Karen Millen. Hurry while stocks last…..

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Is marketing better in black and white?

Very clever ad from First Direct.

They show clips from old films of people getting treats from friendly retailers – a buttonhole from the florist, a bone for the dog from the butcher, a lollipop from the corner shop – all part of the nostalgia for traditional customer service in an uncertain consumer world.

(They are not alone: other current ads using old film promote products as diverse as baked beans, yoghurt and energy suppliers.)

The punchline – ‘banking is better in black & white’ – plays on First Direct (or rather trendily lower case first direct) branding.

It’s a great ad. And it cunningly ignores the fact that as an internet bank, one thing first direct is not about is old-fashioned, face-to-face, high street service.

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Return of the killer puffballs

Just been looking at the French Connection sale online, courtesy of Brandalley.

Culottes? Puff-ball skirts? Memories of 25 years ago!

I had a pair of dark green wool culottes, bought in France, which I took to uni with me. They lasted for ages, despite being more Prisunic than Printemps, and I loved them (brilliant for cycling). Not sure where they ended up, and not sure I’d wear them now.

And certainly no more puff-balls….

Most of the time I was a dull dresser. My student library card shows me looking moody in a beret. But I remember one summer outfit I was very proud of. At the time – now I’m just glad no photos survive.

My wardrobe included a lovely green print dirndl made by my Gran, which I made a bit more puff-bally by snagging the hem. Worn with a crop yellow jacket with white polka dots (nicked from one of Mum’s 60s suits), Woolworths pearls diagonally like a sash, and lace-trimmed ankle socks.

I topped it off with a green scarf tied in a giant bow round my head. Think Madonna in Desperately Seeking Susan. Desperate was certainly the word. I abandoned the scarf after one tutor kindly enquired if I was suffering from a head injury.

The French Connection versions are, as you would expect, sleek and contemporary. But I won’t be puffballing again.

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Christmas is coming

As the ad says, it’s beginning to feel a lot like Christmas.

The postman is bringing real post not just junkmail. Quiet houses are suddenly covered in festive lights – like 2 Rocliffe Street which is brightening its corner near the canal. So are Islington’s shopping streets, thanks to the Council: blue lights for a cool Yule.

The Christmas party season is in full swing. On Sunday night we celebrated after a happy carol service with drinks in the Crypt at St Mary’s. Last night was Islington Lib Dems mince pies & mulled wine do. And there’s still my work party to come. Will we make it to Christmas Day?

Richard wrestled his way home with the tree last weekend, and Percy has been getting used to this strange arrival in the living room. We have to wait until he’s stopped trying to climb the tree before we can decorate it….

There’s still some presents to buy, final cards to write, and holiday food to organise. Not to mention negotiating the logistics of who’s travelling where and when. But with a week to go, and a Ceremony of Carols on the radio, celebration is starting to take over from stress.

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Buy once, give twice

I’ve come across another good gift website.

Buy Once Give Twice ‘recycles’ donations to charity auctions. If the auction doesn’t go ahead, or the buyer gives back their prize, then this website sells them on to benefit the original charity. There’s all kinds of lots – from days out to celebrity-signed items – for a wide range of charities, often the less well-known ones.

The twist is that the selling is by an online ‘silent’ auction; at the deadline for each item, the highest bid above the reserve gets the goodies. While some of the items are expensive, there’s some bargains to be had. And all for good causes.

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More from the Mall

Earlier this year I blogged about the battle to keep Camden Passage special. The new owner of the Mall (LAP) has been trying to get rid of the small traders who share it, despite the Council and the community fighting the changes all the way.

Having lost their planning application, the developers were expected to appeal.

The latest news, according to the Islington Tribune, is not good. Instead of waiting for the planning appeal, the owners are moving straight to eviction, something the Council has no power to stop.

Trader Jan Van Den Bosch told the Tribune: “I think Islington Council have been brilliant and supported us to the end. At the end of the day we need new powers from the government to fight developments like this.”

I couldn’t agree more.

Meanwhile, LAP are so interested in our community that their website seems to think we’re in Dagenham….

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