Monday, December 31, 2007

Paul Smith - Covent Garden

Another nice holiday window. Understated, but nice.

40-44 Floral Street
Covent Garden, London, WC2E 9DG

020 7379 7133

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Post Christmas Window at Ted Baker- Covent Garden

This is a nice variation on Ted Baker's Christmas window, for the after Christmas sales.

9-10 Floral Street
Covent Garden

020 7836 7808

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Disenchanted - Oxford Street

The slogan's just a little bit too long, the design's not quite up to the quality of the rest of the decorations on Oxford Street. Wait, it's an add for Enchanted. Shame on you Disney! Double shame on the Oxford Street Merchant's Association!!

Friday, December 28, 2007

Santa Baby - Oxford Street


Marks and Spencers

Instead of wasting time on elves and Christmas villages, some stores get straight to the point: New Years frocks for those who'd rather ornament themselves.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Christmas at Heals - Tottenham Court Road

You would think that Heals would have a better selection of Christmas ornaments. The after Christmas sales are pretty good, though.

The Heal's Building
196 Tottenham Court Road
London W1T 7LQ

020 7636 1666

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Worst. Shopping Day. Ever. - Oxford Street

This photo was taken at Selfridges on Boxing Day. Debenhams was even worse. At one point, I was stuck in a stairway were the people going up the stairs collided with the people going down, in such a way that we were all jammed up and no one could move. Scary! Even worse, the escalator was so overburdened that it blew up (when I was on it). People kept crowding onto the escalator, despite the billowing smoke that smelt like a burning vacuum cleaner belt. The fire brigade was called.

If the crowd doesn't convince you that shopping on Boxing Day is a bad idea, here is a photo of the merchandise. The observant will notice that some of this is from several seasons ago. Espadrilles in winter, anyone?

I had to do it once, but never again. In a city like London, where every brand has it's own boutique, there really is no need to brave the crowds, even for the allure of the yellow bag.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Christmas at Paperchase - Tottenham Court Road

One of the best selections of Christmas ornaments in London, It's also a good place to buy artificial trees in unnatural colours.

213-215 Tottenham Court Road
London, W1T 7PS

020 7467 6200

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Christmas at Debenhams - Oxford Street

A few nice ornaments are available at Debenhams. Overall the selection is like the rest of the merchandise at the store. A bit pricey, considering it's middle of the road.

34-348 Oxford Street
London, W1C 1JG

084 4561 6161

Friday, December 21, 2007

12 Days of Christmas - Covent Garden

This appropriately named Christmas market at Covent Garden offers all sorts of prepared food, fresh fruit and veg and, of course, gingerbread men and Christmas pudding.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Monday, December 17, 2007

House of Fraser Christmas - Oxford Street

Understated, but nice. The House of Fraser x-mas ornament section fits well with the overall theme of the store.

318 Oxford Street
London, W1C 1HF

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Macys Open 24 hours - Manhattan

Macys, Manhatten is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week this holiday season. See the full story here..

This brings to mind the Christmas that I was a student teacher and worked at Macy's, San Francisco, to supplement my meagre income. I worked the Christmas ornament department, called Holiday Lane. I called it Holiday Shantytown.

All day, every day, I picked up broken ornaments and repackaged the houses from Santa's village ripped apart by shoppers who, if they liked what they found after tearing apart the packaging, would pick up a pristine, unopened box to buy. Never mind that the whole village was already set up on display. The only time I could get the mess under control was during the short lull that led up to closing. Later as the shopping frenzy heated up, we had to clean up after closing.

The power went out once and shoppers refused to leave the store. In fact, they were mad that the cash registers didn't work and we couldn't ring up their purchases by flashlight.

151 W. 34th St.
New York, NY 10001


Saturday, December 08, 2007

Ornaments at Heal's - Tottenham Court Road

These ornaments are pretty enough, but mostly plastic. I'd expect more from a store that positions itself as an arbiter of style.

The Heal's Building
196 Tottenham Court Road
London W1T 7LQ

020 7636 1666

Friday, December 07, 2007

Covent Garden's Winter Wonderland - Covent Garden

The Market Hall at Covent Garden, decked out in Christmad finery.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Black Sunday - Oxford Street

December 1st is the English equivalent to the day after Thanksgiving in America. It's the official first day of the holiday shopping season. Oxford street is closed to vehicles and the crowds take over.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Angels Fancy Dress - Covent Garden

The day before Halloween, the lines are out the door at Angels Fancy Dress in Covent Garden. Angels specializes in costumes for rent offering a vast selection, but the store also carries a good selection of wigs and accessories for sale.

119 Shaftesbury Avenue
Covent Garden, London

020 7836 5678

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Fashion Statement or Soviet Kitch?

Perhaps something could be both? When I lived in the US, I used to occasionally wear Union-Jack themed clothing, but it's not something I would do in England, even if is was constructed in non-traditional colours, or designed by Fake of London. I'm not sure why. Perhaps it just seems too patriotic.

It's no surprise that Soviet Kitch is becoming chic. In Russia, It's obvious why this somewhat irreverent fashion was not allowed, during the Soviet regime, but are Russians far enough removed from the history for it to take off now? This article in the NY Times says it is so.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Gap - Canterbury

Yet another chain store in a cute, historic building.

1-3 The Parade
Kent CT1 2JL

Sunday, November 18, 2007

The Apple Store - Regent Street

The Apple Store glows like a beacon in the night. Earlier this month people queued all night in the rain and the cold for the iPhone. It's supposedly cheaper in France, but does that mean you have to buy your phone service in France too?

235 Regent Street
London, W1B 2EL
020 7153 9000

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

House of Fraser - Cheltenham

Cavendish House is the oldest department store in Cheltenham, dating back to 1823 when the town was a close rival to Bath as a holiday spa destination. Because it did not suffer the widespread destruction to housing during WW2 that London did, Cheltenham is said to have the most intact Regency period buildings in the UK. Unfortunately Cavendish House, now owned by The House of Frasier, does not reflect this.

The quality and selection of merchandise is good, though, exactly what you would expect to see at the House of Frasier.

Cheltenham, GL50 1HP
0870 160 7233

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Shutting Up Shop - National Portrait Gallery

Shutting up Shop is currently exhibited in the basement of the National Portrait gallery. Lush photos, shot on a large format camera, from a book of the same title show small shops when they were in business and after. Perhaps because it was raining outside, perhaps because a gallery attendant reprimanded me for taking this picture, it left me a bit melancholy.

The National Portrait Gallery
2 St. Martin's Pl
London, WC2H 0HE
020 73122490

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Space NK Men - Soho

The only Space NK exclusively for men. It's in Soho, of course

10 Broadwick Street
Soho, London, W1F 8HW
020 7734 3734

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Mulberry - Greenwich Village

One of the nice things about Mulberry is that they're not offensively branded with a logo visible from across the street, like so many bags are today. Perhaps this is the reason there don't seem to be many fakes around. Not trendy, but stylish and beautifully made, these bags could worn for a few years, which makes their cost-per-use quite sensible. That is, unless you decide to by the studded leather model, complete with attached cat-o-nine-tails.

387 Bleecker Street
New York, NY 10014O

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Friar's - Canterbury

The cutest used car dealer ever.

4-5 The Friars
Canterbury, CT1 2AS

Tel. 01227 462977

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Boots - Canterbury

While some may find it appalling to find a Boots in a Tudor building, I find it quite fitting. Isn't that what Canterbury Tales is all about, the commerce and trade that sprung up around the pilgrims?

10 The Marlowes

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Hot Topic - San Bruno

It's about the music, or so they say.

This is one of those stores targeted towards teenagers that sells individuality through heavily branded merchandise. Much of what they sell is music oriented. It is a good place to buy a band t-shirt, but shelves are also filled with Nick-knacks, toys and other clothing covered with wry sayings references to TV, movies and popular culture. It's a combination of the type of merchandise found at Urban Outfitters and Spencers Gifts.

Overall, a good gift shop for teens and the occasional old person who's looking for a Ramones t-shirt.

Tanforan Mall
San Bruno, CA 94066

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Hard Wear - Islington

A catchy name for an Army/Navy surplus store.

70 Essex Road, Islington
(Angel Tube)
London , England N1 8LT

Sunday, October 14, 2007


There's nothing much remarkable about the shops in Cheltenham. It's got the usual shops seen on every high street, plus a few department stores like The House of Frasier and M&S. What's special is the setting. Cheltenham is a historic spa town in Gloucestershire that has been a health and holiday spa resort since 1716. It's also the site of the annual Cheltenham Festival of Literature.

As this photo suggests, many of the main streets are closed to traffic on the weekends, making the shopping district particularly pedestrian friendly.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Formula Foam - Upper Clapton

Open to the public - NOT!

There are times when you may need a piece of foam to pad a window seat, reupholster a chair or add a layer of comfort over a dodgy mattress. It's times like these that you appreciate a specialty supplier. I was in need of a piece of foam. Formula foam was in the neighborhood, so I stopped by one morning. I walked down the alley, past a couple of workshops and a mechanic to what looked like a foam warehouse. The door was blocked from the inside. So I thought, "Oh well, it must be wholesale only," and started to walk away.

A man came out, "Do you want something?"

I explained what I wanted.

"Wait a minute," he said.

I waited outside for 15 minutes. Did I mention it was cold? Finally, I was led in to a back room with a man at a computer. After some discussion he looked up a price on the computer that made my eyes pop out.

It wasn't exactly wholesale either. I left and bought my foam on eBay.

Upper Clapton
end of yard
London, E5
020 8442 9327

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Jessica Simpson Hair - At a Top Shop Near You

Is there any limit to celebrity products? Does Jessica Simpson really want people walking around in bad extension with her name on them. What's next, Amy Winehouse tattoos?

Saturday, October 06, 2007

James Selby - Holloway

James Selby is a charmingly weird old department store. Unlike Liberty which is graciously old, James Selby just seems like it hasn't been redecorated since the 80s. It's a bit like a DIY project that's been added to bit, by bit over the years with none of the new construction matching the old. The merchandise follows the same principle. Upstairs, shoppers can buy sewing notions, polyester granny smocks and aprons, low end Wedgewood lines, Pyrex, and linens. A nice range of linens is offered from practical no-iron percale to sheets and pillows by Monsoon. On the ground floor, clothes are grouped into boutique-like clusters. Evans has a section, so does Monsoon, so does Top Shop. Cosmetic counters in the front sell everything from Fashion Fair to Corres.

386-400 Holloway Road
N7 6PR

020 7607 2466
Nearest Station Holloway Road

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Holloway Market - Holloway

If you have to buy nets, it seems must more appropriate to buy them from a stall at the market, from a bloke who sounds like he belongs on Eastenders, than to buy them at John Lewis from a woman who has mastered the art of talking without moving her mouth.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Waitrose - Canary Wharf

Any Waitrose is a nice grocery store, with good produce but the Canary Wharf shop is the best Waitrose I've been to, so far. It's even better than the company's new jewel in the crown below the flagship John Lewis on Oxford Street. Unlike the Oxford Street food hall under John Lewis, The Waitrose at Canary Wharf is nicely laid out with large aisles, and a huge selection of everything, from artisanal organic cheese, to Duncan Hines cake mixes, to long life milk. If you're hungry, you stop for a snack at the the deli or the sushi bar. Need to buy a new outfit, a mini John Lewis is upstairs.

Canada Place
Canada Square, Canary Wharf, London
E14 5EW

020 7719 0300

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Smash and Grab Robberies

Luxury goods have become so expensive in London that robbers are blatantly smashing their cars through to front windows and doors of boutiques and making off with whatever they can grab. Here's a robbery caught on tape.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Target at Selfridges - Oxford circus

Target has mastered cheap chic.

Selfridges is just chic.

So when Target sets up a boutique in Selfridges selling the line Alice Temperley designed for their Go International collection, it makes me wonder it they're trying to reach out into a more exclusive market. Perhaps their "fashion for all" philosophy is on its way out?

On a more positive note, perhaps this is Target's first foray into the UK market & the company is positioning itself early so as not to be seen as just another ASDA. I read in the Financial Times that Target has been having troubles with ownership of it's bullseye logo in the UK and Europe. Perhaps the time is ripe for Target to open a shop in London? Watch this space for future developments.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Primark - Hackney Central

I have a love/hate relationship with Primark, love because I love cheap trendy clothes, hate because I hate myself when I buy cheap disposable clothes made by exploited workers in third world countries.

This is a typical shopping day at Primark, Mare Street. Need I say more?

365-371 Mare Street
E8 1HY
0208 9852689

Friday, September 14, 2007

New Trimmings

The selection is adequate. The prices are not great, but it is a one stop shop for trimmings, sew on decals and patches, zippers and buttons.

10-12 Winsley Street, London, W1W 8HQ
Tel: 02076 370307

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Canary Wharf Mall - Canary Wharf

This sign graces the doors of all four shopping malls that make up the mall at Canary Wharf. It's a WiFi zone; good that seems progressive. No rollerskating or smoking is allowed; that makes sense. What about the other symbol? No hard hats? No site clothing? Am I the only one who thinks this is horribly classist? Shame on you Canary Wharf!

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Fry's - Palo Alto

Fry's has long been known as a mega-store for geeks. Every electronic device imaginable is available here, generally cheaper than anywhere else. If cheap isn't cheap enough, Fry's also sell reconditioned electronics and kitchen appliances.

If you're still not convinced this is geek heaven, take a look at the large Anime porn section.

340 Portage Avenue
Palo Alto, CA 94306

Monday, August 27, 2007

Double Punch - North Beach

Most of the things sold at Double Punch can be found at Giant Robot, Kid Robot and Super 7, but the prices at Double Punch seem a little better.

1821 Powell St
San Francisco, CA 94133-2809

Friday, August 24, 2007

IKEA - Emeryville

After years of clever marketing, and now, the developments of Flatpack homes, IKEA has turned more into a lifestyle than a furniture retailer. IKEA has mastered the art of aspirational shopping. If you buy one of their MDF shelf units, you too could live the contemporary modern lifestyle showcased in the sample apartments set up in the giant shops, complete with the square footage. They're sort of like showhomes without ceilings, except there are two problems:

1) The sample apartments don't have ceilings or doors, so they look much bigger than your own home of comparable square footage.

2) The fake apartments are built around the standard-sized IKEA furniture, creating a custom built-in look.

Unfortunately, most houses don't come in IKEA standard sizes. Perhaps the flat pack houses do?

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

House of Foam - downtown Palo Alto

Specialization usually makes good shopping, if you're interested in whatever it is the shop is selling. In this case, it's foam. House of Foam, as the name indicates, sells all types of foam, from egg crate sound insulation, to padding for furniture, to pillow stuffing, to foam mattresses. It sure beats visiting every Home Depot and fabric store in the area, looking for the one specific type of foam you need. The staff are friendly, with the type of specialist knowledge you'd expect.

150 Hamilton Ave
Palo Alto, CA 94301

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Fresh from Debenhams - Brick Lane

Sometimes the best parts of a market are the guerrilla booths that pop up selling everything from handmade earrings, car boot closet clearings, and this vendor specializing in new housewares, "fresh from Debenhams."

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Shops Without Names - Camden Passage

This little shop along Camden Passage, in Islington, stocks a nice selection of ceramics from the 60s and 70s. When my shopping companion said, "Look, those pieces are so Johnathon Adler," the proprietor responded:

"You Americans and your Johnathon Adler. Sod Johnathon Adler! Who do you think he copied from?"

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Magma - Clerkenwell

Magma stocks magazines and books on art, photography and design. Art is subjective here. One book that caught my eye focused on people standing in line, another showed a series of empty plates with vestiges of the meal that was just on them. The strength of the shop is the magazine and journal selection mainstream favorites share the shelves with a nice selection of indie publications.

117-119 Clerkenwell Road
London, EC1R 5B