Susie Rushton: A frosty start tofestive shopping

Urban Notebook: The almonds had been picked off the top of a Dundee cake; the champagne bottle was empty

Share
Related Topics

The retail catastrophe is a great leveller. Not long ago, life-threatening scrums only happened at Primark. The posh shops, the sort where one not so much buys as "makes an investment", were palaces of low-lit serenity.

Customers willingly paid a premium not only for superior goods, but to align themselves with a brand. On Saturday, as stores made desperate pre-Christmas discounts, I sensed change afoot in the "experience" offered by some of the West End's gilded names.

Jostled in the jam department (where strawberry-and-rose-petal sells for £9.50 a jar) at Fortnum and Mason in Piccadilly, we battled through the crowd, past £500 luxury crackers, upstairs to the hamper floor. Beside each type of hamper, all expensive, there was a display of its contents: a Christmas pud, a bottle of fizz, a jar of cognac butter. But the fantasy was frayed at its edges. The almonds had been picked off the top of a Dundee cake by passers-by; the champagne bottle was empty, to stump shoplifters.

Over on Bond Street, it was a similar story: desultory crowds, a sense of there being too much stock on the shelf, and gloomy service. Outside Chanel, a little queue formed as a security guard held back a group of Japanese shoppers. "I can let you in," he said, "but nobody's going to be available to help you."

Perhaps these things seem trivial. But at the upper echelons of retail, expectations are high, reflecting price. When we're hesitant to spend tens of pounds, let alone hundreds, less-than-pristine displays and twitchy security are all it takes to drive the shopper back home, empty-handed.

You can't be serious

We also passed a dozen anti-fur protesters garrulously picketing the Bond Street branch of Joseph. I'm reasonably interested in the fur debate, but it was hard to be sympathetic to their cause, for the same reason I couldn't take the Stansted invaders seriously. Sniggering at the policemen, the protesters were having too much fun. Taking obvious pleasure in an act of "naughtiness" undermines any message, however important.

* My family are keen subscribers to Amazon's "wish list" function, which allows you to indicate that you'd rather receive the latest Doris Lessing over Richard Madeley's memoirs (or the reverse). An unexpected bonus is access to the biblio-cinematic desires of strangers: thousands of wish lists are open to public view. Less affected than "My Top 10 Books Ever" smug-lists, they are fascinating, sometimes inspiring and often alarming. Just type a random name and press "go". I've got a message for George Rushton (no relation), of Liverpool: enjoy caravanning in Oz, forget astrology – and, crikey, I hope that Miley Cyrus DVD is for your daughter...

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant- NY- Investment Bank

Not specified: Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant Top tier investment bank i...

Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executive- City of London, Old Street

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executiv...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: An international organisa...

Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwickshire

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwicksh...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Errors & Omissions: pours or pores, pulverised, ‘in preference for’ and lists

Guy Keleny
Ed Miliband created a crisis of confidence about himself within Labour when he forgot to mention the deficit in his party conference speech  

The political parties aren't all the same – which means 2015 will be a 'big-choice' election

Andrew Grice
Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that? The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year

Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that?

The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year
Hollande's vanity project is on a high-speed track to the middle of nowhere

Vanity project on a high-speed track to nowhere

France’s TGV network has become mired in controversy
Sports Quiz of the Year

Sports Quiz of the Year

So, how closely were you paying attention during 2014?
Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry, his love of 'Bargain Hunt', and life as a llama farmer

Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry and his love of 'Bargain Hunt'

From Armstrong and Miller to Pointless
Sanchez helps Gunners hold on after Giroud's moment of madness

Sanchez helps Gunners hold on

Olivier Giroud's moment of madness nearly costs them
A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect