Friday, 25 November 2016

30 shopping days until Christmas!

Going about my daily chores, I have often wondered at the sheer volumes of people, visiting the UK, on shopping sprees. Of course, they won't have come just for the shopping: there are apparently various interesting historical and cultural attractions on this green island of ours. But shop many do. They head to Bicester Village. They swarm to Primark. They queue at the Apple store. In my mind some of this shopping seemed perverse. After all, not much of the stuff that people buy is made here and actually a lot of the tourists could well be travelling from places much closer to the point of origin of a lot of the stuff they take back with them.

But I think I may have worked it out. I mentioned in a recent post about the shopping centres in Malaysia. They are everywhere. Malaysia is a prosperous and fast-growing country. Lots of people have money to spend. Yet even the upmarket malls I went to were awful. For sure, they had all the brands there. Yet the shops themselves were often dead, and you only had to go inside to understand why. Even the local branches of the global retail megacorps had very poor selections and things seemed overpriced, even taking into consideration my flimsy purchasing pounds.

Somehow, despite the marble, clean lighting, refreshing air-con and reasonably-priced food stalls, these shops and malls were getting the shopping experience dead wrong. I am not a particular fan of the actual act of shopping, but even I can occasionally get enthused to spend money in UK shops. 

I am not a retail expert, so I can't quite put my finger on what makes a British shop more appealing than a Malaysian one; but I can begin to see why tourists can get so excited about a shopping spree when they come here on their hols.

Long may it continue.


Nick Drew said...

Mr BQ will tell us the answers; but while we await his return from putting down some early-day motion ...

they won't have come just for the shopping: there are apparently various interesting historical and cultural attractions on this green island of ours. But shop many do

and then there's the business-trip shoppers - how often does an overseas counterparty say "no, let's have the meeting in London", then bag a hotel within walking distance of W1/SW1 ...

(I have been able to execute the old negotiating trick of "better make your concession quickly or you'll run out of time for shopping" on the back of this: in reverse, on their own home territory they are forced to try backing you up against your return flight to obtain the same effect, if you are stupid enough to tell them when it is. i have also had counterparties go completely missing for hours at a time)

when I was in Moscow, I discovered the way to their hearts was to arrange a *conference* in London with sufficient prestige (= promise of an epic piss-up in what they consider to be a classy joint, choice of which requires knowledgeable advice) that it will be declared a 'must attend' occasion for senior mgt + wives (this is key). Being allowed to come on this trip becomes akin to annual bonus for the hangers-on. You need to keep them in alcohol (and flowers for the wives and ingratiating toasts at dinner) but otherwise you don't even need to pay their bills - probably couldn't afford it anyway

I would like to see a German trying to conduct this kind of op in Frankfurt

(you can in Paris, of course, but hey, who's about to transfer all their business to France?)

GMorris said...

Having visited Bicester Village twice and commuted through it regularly via the excellent new line between Marylebone and (almost) Oxford, it is a real oddity that in rural Oxfordshire there is a retail outlet that as best as i can tell is the purpose of of someones visit from China or India, stranger still that they would leave the center of London to visit such a place but that they do in their hoards, and spend they do in the thousands. The whole thing shows how sometimes we can really do things right, a great new rail link to connect a finance hub to a bio tech hub, and an internationally renowned shopping center that draws the masses and provides jobs for, okay still people of the south east but its right on the fringe.

I could imagine a number of similar possibilities when Crossrail is working, perhaps Maidenhead will have the next Disney resort

Bill Quango MP said...

Bicester is quite astounding. There are premier Inns and Travelodges just a few miles away.
They are in a field. Surrounded by acres and acres of abandoned military base.And a single road.
Its like being on the world's worst airport. There is NOTHING else there.

Tourists fly into London. Coach trip to biscester, which has changed into 99% high fashion outlets over the years, from its outlet, discount roots. The coach dumps them in this field. Far from any sort of decent restaurant or anything at all.
They get a day trip into the centre where there are queues and bouncers controlling access to the most popular shops. Not unusual for this out door centre to be windswept and flooded. Yet you must queue outside the rain to get into Hugo Boss.

And they absoloubtely love it.
Look at the faces. Pure joy..

dearieme said...

I have mooched gloomily around Bicester while my daughter gambolled bright-eyed in and out of the emporia. Really made me want to spit.

Steven_L said...

There's lots of crap places to shop in the UK. Aberdeen is dire for a start. But from what I've seen Europe is abysmal. You Londoners have about the best shopping on Earth at your doorstep. We fly down literally just to go to the shops.

Madrid was decent. A nice department store with good customer service and lots of quaint little shirt and tie shops. I'd shop in Madrid again. In fact most Spanish places seem to have reasonable shopping. Tenerife and Ibiza were good, Gran Canaria had plenty, even Fuerteventura wasn't actually bad.

But Frankfurt was just rubbish. The menswear section of their biggest department store resembled a cross between Moss Bros and Primark. The food court was wall to wall of indistinguishable 10 euro bottles of Reisling. I bought one and it ruined my Christmas dinner, it was £8 from Tesco standard at best. OK, they had pike on the fish counter a few other little curiosities but the selection of brandy was little over half a dozen bottles.

Prague's equivalent of Regent Street was dead. I ventured into an empty Tommy Hilfiger shop, waking up the very sexy, but rather bored looking assistant, only to discover the polo shirts cost more than in House of Fraser, Bristol. There were one or two smart, but very small, shopping centres with a similar blend of wares as one might find in a corner of the Metrocentre. The main drag, with C&A, Debenhams, and H&M to choose from was not a patch on Northumberland Street, Newcastle either.

We're off to Edinburgh for a few nights on Sunday, Edinburgh isn't that bad. Perhaps a tad better than Newcastle, on par with Bristol and Madrid and at least ten times better than our so-called rival financial centre in Deutschland. London beats them all several times over.

Blue Eyes said...

Edinburgh and Newcastle are both good. I like Bath as well. A good balance of selection and compactness.

Bill Quango MP said...

On Europe , I love shopping in Italy. Spanish cities too. Though they are not quite as good..despite great mens shirts.
even the most mundane of Northern Italian provincial towns has a fabulous array of high street shops. Clothing is unbelievable. For the same prices as primark.

You can get your staple, UK, lose fitting, lardy arsed, cheap cotton polo top , which is just fine for work. Or, for 50p more , get a tailor made,slim cut, or waist trim, fashion polo top that looks like it was worth £20 more.
And shoes ...

Instead of the endless, endless shoe shops flogging black back to school and workwear, they have all individual, high colour, different design shoes , cheap as chips.

Italians buy A LOT of clothes. So, unlike in Paris, where the clothes are nice, but pricey, in Italy this is everyday wear.
Cafe life,motor scooting, sunny outlook, sexy girl/macho man clothing from a perfume advert. And cheap as chips. {which aren't that cheap -cheap as pasta..}

I have been in meeting where the Italian boss changed their glasses and handkerchief to match their overcoat when we went outside into the cold.
And the Italians have 10-20 pairs of designer sunglasses.

I have 2 pairs. Which I use depending on how bright it is. Totally ignoring with what colour my belt is.Or which wallet I will use...

If we lived in the sunshine too I'm sure we would be much more like that. Instead of the lumpen,warmly wrapped top-hoodie/fleece/cardi-coat people we end up as. More in common with Russian fashion than Mediterranean.

Sebastian Weetabix said...

The reason all these Chinese, Malays etc. flock to the UK to buy stuff that is actually made in China is that they believe it is all genuine gear. There is no trust in Malaysia or China that the stuff in the shops is real. A lot of them can be found shopping in Orchard Rd Singapore, for exactly the same reason. Lee Kwan Yew had fake goods impounded and destroyed and perps very heavily punished, precisely because he wanted to maintain (then) British standards of probity.

A colleague of mine bought a reasonably fair copy of a Rolex in Shanghai for fun. When he got to Singapore later on during the same business trip, customs took it off him, much to his astonishment. They let him off the SG$10,000 fine which is usually levied for importing counterfeit goods.

daerieme said...

Those who cared about such things always used to assure me that Glasgow was better than Edinburgh for shopping. They often appended "but only for shopping". I would reply "and rain".

Nick Drew said...

"and rain"

I loved the opening of Bill Forsyth's first film, That Sinking Feeling

A blank black screen, onto which emerge the words

“The action in this film takes place in a fictitious town called Glasgow. Any resemblance to the real town of Glasgow is purely coincidental

... and fades to a grey pavement on which rain is teeming down ...

what a great start to a movie career!

Electro-Kevin said...

Good shopping ?

The two words just don't go together.

You guys should listen to yourselves. You should be in the men's creche knocking a few back, not in the shops !

Electro-Kevin said...

If I must I prefer outdoor shopping areas and can't stand malls with that sedated atmosphere. For clothes I whizz around Next once a year.

We were in Leeds recently. Not one pub you could take a dog in. The dog is better behaved than most of the people and we'd pay good money for a biscuit and a bowl of water if that's what it took.

Blue Eyes said...

I was wondering when a macho commenter would turn up. EK it's the 21st century, and I don't actually think anyone has shouted hooray for shopping either ;-)

The reason they don't allow dogs in pubs in Leeds is that within five minutes they would outsmart the locals and take charge of the joint.

Thud said...

If I did shop, Liverpool and nearby Cheshire oaks would suffice.In reality a fashion concious wife and my amazon prime does the trick...who has time to shop?

Electro-Kevin said...

Blue - I think it's a case of the risk of dogs fighting, buggering each other or shitting on the carpet, the locals do that too !

Lisboeta said...

Shopping malls are overrated. They may offer a wide range of goods under one roof, but every mall hosts the same stores. Where's the fun in that?

In Portugal, we've got form for trying to punch above our weight. When the Centro Colombo opened in Lisbon, it was hailed as "Europe's biggest shopping centre". Translated, that means your enthusiasm is waning and feet are complaining long before you've located the shops you hoped to visit. Then there's Centro Freeport Outlet Alcochete, described as "Europe’s largest outlet centre". Like Bicester, it's in the middle of nowhere. It's 'open air', thus the trek between shops means getting wet in winter and scorched in summer. I went there once and left empty-handed: the shops' stock was uniformly uninspiring (discounted prices don't magically make it worth buying!).

Anonymous said...

BE - back in the 19thC day travellers in the Middle and Far East would (allegedly) buy brass idols and joss holders as souvenirs - all made in Birmingham. Now the Chinese flock here to buy Chinese made goods.

ND - remember that NSFW Gordon Brown Downfall parody in which Glasgow was represented by 1945 Berlin?

BQ - "Cafe life,motor scooting, sunny outlook, sexy girl/macho man clothing from a perfume advert. And cheap as chips."

I love Italy, but a fat lot of good it does them - the fertility rate of the good-looking Italians is disastrous - a distinct shortage of bambinos. Meanwhile the rest of Europe has a surplus of unattractive and heavily wrapped ladies with four-plus kids in tow.

EK - in Naples recently I saw two dogs fighting outside a cafe down by the harbour. The waiter came out, raised a full metal rubbish bin above his head and hurled it onto the combatants. Seemed to work.

Electro-Kevin said...

Anon - I expect the dogs got busy chowing down on the spilled contents. My boy got his face around a pile of puke in the park the other day. The night before he'd picked up a Labrador's turd and looked as though he was the cat that'd got the cream. (Discarded tissues are a delicacy 'round 'ere.)

Anonymous said...

EK - the dogs limped off in a poorly condition, and I did wonder if there were any broken bones. It was like one of those bins advertising Walls ice cream that you might see outside a cafe - not dustbin size but still substantial when someone's hurling it onto you with all their strength.

Little moments like that make you realise you're "not in Kansas any more".