Thursday, 15 December 2011

My Plea To The High Street

This week has seen Mary Portas offer her plan to revitalise the struggling British High Street. I really admire Mary and she seems to balance experience and common sense with a good dash of hope and creative thinking. I went clothes shopping yesterday and in the spirit of the queen of shops here is my plea to the British High Street.

Think About Your Fabrics
Betty knew wearing her new frock was risky
I understand the need to be competitive and offer clothes which will wash and wear well but the vast majority of the fabrics used in women's clothes shops is just horrible. A prime example is the new "China Doll" Range by Dorothy Perkins. In the past I have brought some great stuff from Dottie P's (especially last year when they had a particularly fabulous 1950's inspired range of dresses) and from a distance the China Doll Collection looked great. Once it was in your hands it literally made my hair stand on end due to the  horrible nylon fabric.Unfortunately this isn't just a feature of  stores like Dorothy Perkins which are priced very competitively. Ive recently noticed nasty man made fabrics creeping into Karen Millen, Monsoon and Wallis. If I wanted to be able to make a fire at a moments notice I would borrow my husbands Bear Grylls Survival kit and use the flint, not rub the sleeves of my latest fire hazard.

Turn The Music Down
I only wanted to try on a jumper and now my ears are bleeding
I think there is nothing worse than walking into a silent shop and feeling all self conscious but a recent trend Ive noticed is to try and create a semi rave atmosphere in clothes shops and its just too much. This is particularly bad at Topshop. I love Topshop in my opinion its one of the best high street fashion chains around. Always fashion forward, always exciting and not too expensive. In the store in Liverpool though they now have two DJ's mixing live music and it is unbearably loud. I was trying on some clothes in there yesterday and the sheer volume of the sound system was making my head hurt. I really liked the items I was trying on but rather than enjoying the experience I was just rushing to get finished and get out.Topshop is always a mecca for 15 year old girls I get that and I'm sure to them the non stop ear drum splitting noise was "cool" but for me it was just trying that bit too hard to create a "shopping happening" and actually was a huge turn off.

Over stuffed Rails
The hunt for  size 14 in the duck egg blue was proving fruitless
Its fabulous that most high street clothing retailers stock a range of sizes but the huge volume of stock that is on display can be very off putting. Finding your size amongst a jumble of other clothes is really irritating and leads to my biggest pet hate-clothes on the floor. We all know this is almost the signature style for Primark but the pocket money prices mean we can generally overlook the jumble sale feel to the stock but wandering around Miss Selfridge and Oasis I noticed exactly the same thing. Clothes which are for sale for up to £70/£80 creased and shoved amongst twenty other variations of the same item. It doesn't encourage you to part with your hard earned cash when you can only find your size on the floor with a boot print on it.

Bad Changing Rooms
What is that frightful smell
So many clothes shops changing rooms are just completely rank. No chair, hardly any pegs to hang your stuff on and unvacumed floors and the smell!!
I'm not sure if its fair to land this at the individual shops door or the leagues of women who obviously need to invest in a clean pair of tights and a can of Dove but boy oh boy some changing rooms absolutely honk. Its even more noticeable when you go to a store such as M & S or Monsoon where the changing rooms are clean, neat and you don't need a face mask.

Surly Staff
Would you like manners with that?
I went into well known toy store yesterday to buy my daughters Christmas present. its a new shop on a large retail park. When I went to pay the shop assistant threw some bags at me and then glared as I proceeded to pack my purchases as she wanted me to input my card details. So I stopped packing gave her my details and she half heartedly put one thing in a bag for me. As soon as I had taken my card out of the machine she stopped packing and left the reminder of my items for me to finish. Not a smile, not an acknowledgement, nothing, I should mention there was no one waiting to be served behind me, she just couldn't be arsed. Given how desperate the current economic situation is and how many people are out of work it made me so angry. Not just at the silly sulky girl but at her company who obviously offer no customer service training. This is a well sung song and its something Mary Portas has been banging on about for years but for gawd sakes people. A smile, quick polite service, its not rocket science and it makes all the difference.

The Shops Getting It Right
Its not all doom and gloom.
Ive been really impressed with Peacocks,Jones the Boot makers offer fabulous customer service as do John Lewis. I still tend to find smaller independent shops are quicker to serve, more eager to help with specifications and generally just offer a more pleasant shopping experience. 
How has your shopping experience been this year?



  1. Interesting post Betty - particularly for me - in view of the fact that against the elements I'm opening a vintage/modern retro clothing boutique in January! I agree with all your points but one of my biggest turn offs - is staff that are over helpful (target driven - which I experienced when I worked in a leading High Street clothing store) as a potential customer, it makes me want to run out of the store - in fact... I have run out of the store! I want to be acknowledged, I want to know there is someone to help should I need it - but I don't want to be asked what I'm looking for - before I even know what I'm looking for! I want to browse at my leisure and pleasure... and enjoy the experience! It's brilliant that at long last these issues are being addressed - I hate shopping online, 9/10 times I'm always disappointed with the item when it arrives, because it's either not as I was expecting or it doesn't fit etc - I also don't want to wait - when I'm in the mood to shop I want something to show for it, instantly! Most of all, I miss the High Street atmosphere as it used to be - it's definitely time for a change!

  2. I was shopping on Tuesday and had a similar experience with surly staff. I was in Dorothy Perkins just picking up some socks that were on offer, I know hardly a massive purchase but I still think the service I got was appalling! I went up to the cash register which was empty and waited a good few minutes before any one came over, at which point the lady had a face like a slapped ass didn't say hello and proceeded to scan the items through. One of the pairs I had happened to be in the sale, at which point she let out a massive sigh and mumbled "Gunna have to get my supervisor now" and slumped off. I then waited another 5 minutes for the supervisor to come over and scan it through again. As I left I said Thank you and her response was "yeah.." it was pretty bad from start to finish. I know it's busy because it's Christmas but I also work in a shop. OK not a high street shop, a tiny independent sweet shop but I wouldn't dream of being so rude to customers, even when I have a massive queue and I am all alone in the shop!

  3. Dizi I know exactly what you means about having staff pressuring you and its as annoying as being ignored. getting the balance right is key and it sounds like you have the experience to ensure your new venture does just that. Sounds very exciting. let me know when you open x
    Jetleyface that sounds like appaling customer service from Dorothy Perkins. regardless of what you are buying or whether it is in the sale its unaccptable to be treated like that. I too have worked in retail on and off sine I was about 13 so know how tiring and boring it can be at times and the general public can be irritating but you must always endeavour to be polite, helpful and treat all customers like gold. Lie the sound of your sweetie shop, I would be terrible for eatting all the stock ha ha

  4. Aaarrrggghhh! It really is my pet-hate when shopping .... surly assistants. My latest experience was at a well known coffee shop. The assistant never gave me eye contact all the way through the transaction. When he gave me my change he had already started a conversation with his collegue. No please or thank you either! I prefer going to smaller independant shops if possible because they appreciate your custom. I'm self employed in the service industry and strive to be the best I can be. I try to put myself in my customer's shoes. Good manners cost nothing as the saying goes :)

  5. I work in retail & I'm lovely to everyone!!! I will say in our defence that customers are not always nice to us!! It's hard to keep smiling when you've been shouted at. But yes I hate it when people are rude to me..... if you don't like talking to people don't work in retail!! I work in LA & some of the fabric they use is shocking!!! x


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