We've heard the laments about high streets dying and the popularity of the big high street players being in difficulty with many stalwarts forced to organise CVA arrangements (much to the chagrin of full paying renters in close proximity). But then wouldn't suddenly over inflated, greedy rents be hard to stomach alongside a double whammy business rate that went up almost 300% in some London boroughs in a matter of months in 2017, for even the most lucrative of companies? (side note, especially when it unfairly was a rise across the board with no proportionate rate of income or turnover or value of property even considered). So although we might easily blame the monolith, Amazon, for irreparably changing the way we shop, the councils are not really lending a helping hand to the problem on their doorsteps. Could it be the shortage of houses is the reason why rates are being pushed up and shops are being pushed aside? Just saying.
Prepping Lady Gaga's dress (*pretending)
Walking around some high streets now there is a genuine sense of melancholy of once what was a hubris of activity and community in the 80's and 90's. We might hark back to a golden age pre supermarkets when Sunday was off limits so Saturday was the day when you hit it all off in a veritable meander - the butcher, the baker the candlestick maker, the shoe shop, the deli, the coffee shop, Woolies for some sweets and a random bargain, Body Shop for some white musk, milk bath and of course Tammy Girl was always worth a look in if not only to measure yourself from the previous Saturday (164cm or 158cm or somewhere in between). Not forgetting Our Price for the latest vinyl or cassette and a Maccy D cheeseburger, chips and vanilla milkshake.. basically it was a full on long day of not knowing what you'd end up with but it was kind of exciting as you physically worked your way through and up and down the high street. Nowadays, that romance is dead, you can see in an instant if they have the thing, how many in stock, where it is on the journey, what approximate time it will be dropped off to you (thanks amazon) and sometimes you can even have it the very same day. Convenient yes, but where's the fun? The only thing Amazon and Ebay are missing as far as I can see is delivering an extra hot chai soya latte and maybe a hot scone if you want it with your delivery. But you never know. Amazon Barista Baker coming to you any day soon?
Extra hot pls, Amazon, ta
The closest thing to Saturday shopping in the rose tinted world of the 80's/90's is Thursday's in ALDI when they do a weekly product 'drop' but of course the fun is, there's no guaranteeing what's going to drop and also how quickly it will sell out. They're clever the ALDI bods, because it makes you want to go in, in an old school kind of way and then of course you do your weekly shop and grab a multitude of bargains (that add up). But happily it bucks the trend for information overload on a scrolling screen and encourages a go in and look and see what is there physically in front of you. And there is something quite lovely about that. It's like finally meeting someone after a lengthy convivial email relationship.
But is the trend in flux? Is it now outdated to imagine starting up a store such as Debenhams (recently saved from liquidation) and House of Fraser (similarly in trouble saved but little wonder with 17,500 employees plus all the rents) or say John Lewis? What would we say the modern high street monolith would look like? Can they even exist in their current guise? Uncertain. Mostly because it costs so much to fill such mega stores with stock, looking good, plus the overheads of salaries/heating/lighting bills to keep it running per day. And is the creativity sometimes in house, muted? Does it feel slightly over manicured or like a hotel you can't imagine yourself living in? Honestly, I don't think I'd ever shop at a mega store such as the high street ones if I wanted to decorate my house or give a room a bit of a shizzle. I'd start in the local charity shops or at an antique/flea fair then Facebook marketplace if I was really struggling. So much more creativity and craftsmanship in the old stuff, if you search hard enough, and moreover, you can get them for an absolute steal.
That's why IKEA felt so exciting when it first launched because instead of the depressing furniture/lift music sightly audible and on loop and you going around looking at preposterously priced furniture plonked on a shop floor (sometimes still wrapped in plastic), it was hard to get the creative vision and moreover for you to want to part with your money. In cometh the Swedish mega blue store that created little real life pods of rooms that featured everything they sold as they intended you to use it. And all it was missing was you! But come in and sit down the space hollered. And didn't everyone get sucked in. So simple really the mantra, it's your home, your personal precious space, let me show you how good it can look. And you can afford it all! Nice work, Monsieur Ikea.
As an interior nerd, I have to tell you that there are many places awash with pockets of beautiful creativity that I guarantee you will get lost amongst. And here are a few of my favourite. Don't feel bad that you're not supporting mega rich high street stores, they'll be fine - someone will bail them out, or the councils will miraculously drop their rates as quickly as they raised them or they'll be forced into a better, more creative space by changing their model. So let's celebrate the artisanal folk and the people that make it their business to seek the wonderful creatives out and sell them to us:
The absolute hub of small independent shop owners that is basically a treasure trove of beautiful wonderful things for your home. You can search out your local stores or simply buy nationwide online by space, by style by trend. I'm totally addicted to this brilliant concept and site.
2) Artisans and Adventurers
A beautiful website and also with two shops (London and Margate) that champion beautifully made objects with being ethical, kind and responsible for those that make the wares. As well as home the site has multiple genres including fashion, pets, jewellery, beauty and cards.
3) Rockett St George
Get lost down this rabbit hole of eclectic creativity and interior inspiration. It's hard to not get sucked into this online treasure trove. New products dropping every week.
If you want a package every month delivered to you with a wonderful plant inside complete with a beautiful artisanal pot crafted with love and care from a local or small artist, and a special free gift to boot, this subscription service is for you. I love geo fleur and get so excited when the box turns up each month to devour and add to my indoor plant and succulent collection.
5) Freddie's Flowers
I've only been using this fresh cut flower service for a few weeks now but super double impressed. For £24 a pop, you get a gorgeous big box of seasonal flowers delivered to your door complete with beautiful flowers and a full on instructions of how to care and arrange them in your vase at home. They last ages.