Free for all: The delights of window shopping

You don't need to spend money to have fun shopping. From test drives to complimentary coffee and cake, Harriet Walker goes for a browse

The desire to acquire is hard to shake off, even in troubled times. But here's a simple answer: this winter, rediscover the art of window shopping. Previously, the refuge of penniless masochists, cash-free shopping has now taken on a new dimension. "It's becoming more of an 'experience economy'," says Vincent Clay, trend reporter at consumer agency SCB Partners, of the new consumer trend. "People are focussing less on buying right now, so they're looking for things they can go and 'do', to come away with an experience." No matter what the sales assistants think, there's no shame in "only looking"; just remember Holly Golightly, a girl who even took her breakfast while window-shopping...



Eat

There is such a thing as a free lunch. Local farmers' markets are a good bet for tasters; in London, Borough Market's cheese samples and venison sausage have long nourished tight-fisted gourmands. Swipe a free Krispy Kreme at the Harrods Food Hall; stop in at the help-yourself trays at La Maison du Chocolat. You can pick up a free coffee in most branches of HSBC or in Nespresso stores. The seasoned scrounger knows that buying a cup of tea at Eat or Pret A Manger just before they shut entitles you to a free cake.



Drive

Motorists looking for cheap thrills can request a test drive from almost any dealership, either online or by just turning up, though do pretend to some extent that you have an interest in buying. Lexus now offer free 48-hour test drives of many models (www.lexus 48.co.uk), and Peugeot will loan their 207 for a day ( www.207testdrive.com ).



Property

Fancy some penthouse viewing and sour grapes, roll up to one of the urban development projects currently languishing empty. Skyline Central in Manchester ( www.westpro perties.co.uk ) has a 20-metre rooftop pool, and Citispace Leeds ( www.citispace.co.uk ) boasts a contemporary roof garden. Try prestigious London agents, like Henry & James or Savills, to discover the Belgravia's you can't afford.



Read

Gone are the days of the grumpy corner-shop owner barking "You read it, you buy it." Thanks to liaisons between Borders and Starbucks, or Waterstones and Costa Coffee, it's easy to pick up a book or magazine and do some perusing. Also try boutique bookshops like CB1 in Cambridge, and Porter Bookshop in Sheffield.



Wear

If you're determined to try on clothes you can't afford, most high street stores have well-designed changing rooms, and you won't be under pressure to buy. Topshop are relaxed, but beware smaller boutiques – you'll just end up embarrassed or out of pocket. Vintage stores are also good, and even better are clothes-swap, or "swishing" events ( www.swishing.org), which do charge a small fee on the door, but you're free to grab as you please – just leave a clothing donation.



See

Forget free art galleries: at Christmas, the big stores have stupendous window displays. Old favourites Selfridges put on an optimistic front and their theme this year is "the more, the merrier". Harrods, on the other hand, is channelling James Bond. Harvey Nichols' windows offer a fashion fantasy, so gorge yourself guiltlessly.



Play

Habitat and Ikea have kids play areas as standard. Also try the pet kingdom at Harrods; Hamleys has an array of wind-up and squeaky interactive toys, woofing and backflipping. Santa's grotto is free at Harrods ( www.harrods.com/christmas ) and Westfield London (uk.westfield .com). He is also doing the rounds at Selfridges stores, giving out free books; you can reserve a slot online at www.selfridges.co.uk , a booking fee of £2 is donated to charity, or just turn up.



Beauty

Testers and samples of skincare products are available from the counters in department stores – Kiehl's samples are especially generous, and Clarins will provide a whole range in miniature. And, of course, you can spritz a new perfume for free.



Electronics

You can get your gizmo fix gratis. Check emails for free at any Apple store, and most mobile phone shops will let you charge your phone for free. Spend an afternoon at the listening posts in Zavvi, HMV and Fopp for musical inspiration, then search for free downloads on the web. Department stores open up their gadget sections to shoppers at Christmas, so you can play on an Xbox with your mates, if you're prepared to fight off hordes of surly teenagers.

Suggested Topics
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Fashion

    Recruitment Genius: Massage Therapist / Sports Therapist / Physio / Osteopath

    £12000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen for o...

    Recruitment Genius: Account Manager / Sales Executive - Contract Hire

    £35000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This industry leader provides c...

    Recruitment Genius: Project Coordinator

    £28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Project Coordinator is requir...

    Recruitment Genius: Area Sales Manager - Midlands

    £20000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

    Day In a Page

    John Palmer: 'Goldfinger' of British crime was murdered, say police

    Murder of the Brink’s-MAT mastermind

    'Goldfinger' of British crime's life ended in a blaze of bullets, say police
    Forget little green men - aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert

    Forget little green men

    Leading evolutionary biologist says aliens will look like humans
    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop

    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

    An Algerian scientist struggles to adjust to her new life working in a Scottish kebab shop
    Bodyworlds museum: Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy

    Dying dream of Doctor Death

    Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy
    UK heatwave: Temperature reaches 39.8 degrees on Central Line - the sweatiest place in London

    39.8 degrees recorded on Tube

    There's hot (London) and too damn hot (the Underground). Simon Usborne braved the Central line to discover what its passengers suffer
    Kitchens go hi-tech: From robot chefs to recipe-shopping apps, computerised cooking is coming

    Computerised cooking is coming

    From apps that automatically make shopping lists from your recipe books to smart ovens and robot chefs, Kevin Maney rounds up innovations to make your mouth water
    Jessie Cave interview: The Harry Potter star has published a feminist collection of cartoons

    Jessie Cave's feminist cartoons

    The Harry Potter star tells Alice Jones how a one-night stand changed her life
    Football Beyond Borders: Even the most distruptive pupils score at homework club

    Education: Football Beyond Borders

    Add football to an after-school homework club, and even the naughtiest boys can score
    10 best barbecue books

    Fire up the barbie: 10 best barbecue books

    We've got Bibles to get you grilling and smoking like a true south American pro
    Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Junk balls and chop and slice are only way 5ft 1in Kurumi Nara can live with Petra Kvitova’s power

    Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

    Junk balls and chop and slice are only way 5ft 1in Kurumi Nara can live with Petra Kvitova’s power
    Ron Dennis exclusive: ‘This is one of the best McLaren teams ever – we are going to do it’

    ‘This is one of the best McLaren teams ever – we are going to do it’

    Ron Dennis shrugs off a poor start to the season in an exclusive interview, and says the glory days will come back
    Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

    Making of a killer

    What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
    UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

    Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

    Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
    Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

    Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
    Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

    Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

    Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most