Birthday rivalry on the high street

Cath Kidston, Heal’s, OKA and M&S get nostalgic - and cut-throat - over their milestone anniversaries, Annie Deakin reports

Like children in an ever-competitive playground, shops on the high street are boasting of their heritage in bids for custom and loyalty. Throwing a birthday party is the hottest ploy for drumming up new business while thanking existing customers in one swoop. .

Interior shops Heal’s, Graham & Green, Cath Kidston and others are celebrating milestone dates - and hosting parties bigger and better than the ones before

Search for the perfect furniture with The Independent house and home database, powered by mydeco.

Last October, Cath Kidston - the label that made us love vintage chic - set the birthday party bar high with a village style fete to celebrate 15 years in business. ‘My dream was to open an eclectic junk shop filled with colour, print and other childhood favourites,’ said the eponymous designer who first set up shop in London’s Clarendon Cross; she now has 12 branches in the UK and a further five in Japan. I attended the bunting-filled bash in London’s Portman Square; instead of the usual slick corporate affairs, flowers spilled out of buckets, guests perched on haybales and there was candy floss, burger vans and a tombola.

Like Cath Kidston, OKA enjoyed rapid success, quickly becoming an established British brand. This September, OKA marks ten years in business, quite a feat for a shop that began as a four page leaflet in a barn in 1999. It now has a slick website, a three-times-a-year catalogue and over 12 shops from London to Edinburgh - with a new shop opening in North Yorkshire and a new permanent fabric by the meter service in the Notting Hill branch. As one of the younger shops on the high street, their party plans in September are relatively modest.

Not content with just the one party, Graham & Green is hosting five bashes this summer to celebrate 35 years since launch. Starting the week of 5 August, each branch will offer Henna body painting, wine, a limited birthday shopper and 20 per cent everything in store. And yet, five days is peanuts compared to the big players’ party planning.

Forget days or weeks, Selfridges is celebrating their 100 years in business over a series of months. Its opening, back in 1909, was the shopping event of the decade; making the unveiling of Westfield look pitiable. Current owners, the Canadian Weston family (who also own Associated British Food) have put on the centenary memorabilia exhibition, vintage scene window displays and an exclusive range of designs in their iconic 109 Pantone yellow.

While Selfridges has been rather grand since day dot, fellow high street giant M&S is proud of its down-to-earth heritage. The two shops’ birthdays were poles apart in marketing tactics. As Selfridges sped down the flashy design route, M&S targeted the masses with nostalgia and whopping bargains to celebrate its 125th birthday. M&S started in 1884 when the company’s founder Michael Marks opened his first stall at the city’s Kirkgate Market. To commemorate the anniversary, a TV advert showed Twiggy looking back at the impact M&S has had on UK consumer habits; it has helped introduce the avocado, sell-by dates and machine-washable lingerie to Britain. M&S returned to its Penny Bazaar roots by offering two million items at 1p each for three days. There is even a public exhibition of the M&S archive at the University of Leeds’ Centenary Gallery.

If the high street was a playground, the popular, cool kid would be Heal’s who has been knocking around for an awe-inspiring 200 years. Their bi-centenary celebrations will run from this September until Christmas 2010. Established in 1810 as a family business by John Harris Heal, the shop has consistently sold the most cutting edge design of its day. Since 2004, the Heal’s Discovers project has helped young designers (including John Reeves and Russell Pinch) to develop their ideas from concept stage to shop floor. Heal’s ReDiscovers features new, exclusive and limited edition products inspired by history by renowned British designers.

Like brotherly rivalry and playground hierarchy, there is a pecking order on the high street, mostly determined by year of birth. A trip down memory lane is a reminder to nostalgic customers of a shop’s core values; quality, value, service, innovation and trust. And as the marketing teams at Heal’s and M&S understand well, there’s nothing like a birthday bash to put the younger siblings in their place.

Annie Deakin is Editor of

Discover more property articles at Homes and Property
people'It can last and it's terrifying'
Danny Welbeck's Manchester United future is in doubt
footballGunners confirm signing from Manchester United
footballStriker has moved on loan for the remainder of the season
footballFeaturing Bart Simpson
Arts and Entertainment
Olivia Colman topped the list of the 30 most influential females in broadcasting
Kelly Brook
peopleA spokesperson said the support group was 'extremely disappointed'
The five geckos were launched into space to find out about the effects of weightlessness on the creatures’ sex lives
Life and Style
techIf those brochure kitchens look a little too perfect to be true, well, that’s probably because they are
Andy Murray celebrates a shot while playing Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
TennisWin sets up blockbuster US Open quarter-final against Djokovic
Arts and Entertainment
Hare’s a riddle: Kit Williams with the treasure linked to Masquerade
booksRiddling trilogy could net you $3m
Arts and Entertainment
Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand performs live
music Pro-independence show to take place four days before vote
news Video - hailed as 'most original' since Benedict Cumberbatch's
Life and Style
The longer David Sedaris had his Fitbit, the further afield his walks took him through the West Sussex countryside
lifeDavid Sedaris: What I learnt from my fitness tracker about the world
Arts and Entertainment
Word master: Self holds up a copy of his novel ‘Umbrella’
booksUnlike 'talented mediocrity' George Orwell, you must approach this writer dictionary in hand
Property search
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SQL Implementation Consultant (VB,C#, SQL, Java, Eclipse, integ

£40000 - £50000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: SQL Impl...

SQL Technical Implementation Consultant (Java, BA, Oracle, VBA)

£45000 - £55000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: SQL Technical ...

Head of IT (Windows, Server, VMware, SAN, Fidessa, Equities)

£85000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Head of IT (Windows, Server, VMware, SAN, ...

Lead C# Developer (.Net, nHibernate, MVC, SQL) Surrey

£55000 - £60000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Lead C# Develo...

Day In a Page

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

James Frey's literary treasure hunt

Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering