They were not supposed to be getting out their cheque books at all yesterday, but bargain hunters at the Elton John sale in a temporary shop in Picadilly, London, could not resist a Versace shirt for pounds 25 or a designer tie for just pounds 15.
The notion of a "No Shop Day", which was invented by green organisations to remind us of the excesses of our consumer culture, probably means nothing to Elton. As Robert Key, who organised the singer's sale and has worked with him for years, said: "He is a great shopper. Elton will go into a store and ask for a particular shirt and then buy it in six different colours."
Indeed, it took him just three years to accumulate yesterday's collection of 10,000 items. The originals cost a total of pounds 2.5m, but secondhand they were going for 10 per cent of their value new. Thus the pounds 6,000 Versace leather suit worn by Elton at the designer's funeral earlier this year was a snip at pounds 600. The pounds 250,000 raised was to go to the Elton John Aids Foundation.
Mike Childs, a senior campaigner at the environmental group Friends of the Earth, which organised events for No Shop Day, was surprisingly easy on Elton. "At least Elton is flogging off his clothes for charity and those people buying them are buying secondhand clothes, which is not a bad thing," he said.
In contrast to Elton's sale, an installation art piece in south London is offering customers a chance to prove their anti-consumerist credentials. No Shop is part of Friends of the Earth's Fair Share campaign, which focuses on the need to reduce material consumption and pollution to defined ecological limits, and questions whether increasing consumerism can deliver a better quality of life. It "promises everything but sells nothing".
The window of No Shop is full of goods and special offers, but the space inside simply contained images of empty shelves and a single "No Sales Assistant" behind an image of a cash register. Visitors are given a receipt thanking them for "not shopping at No Shop".
l No Shop, 131 Lower Marsh, London SE1, is open to the public today, Monday and Tuesday. Other activities will take place in shopping centres today, International No Shop Day.