Kids’ party bag fillers
Not only is there a jolly range of home and kitchen accessories (apple-shaped cutting board, £2, anyone?) but there’s just about anything you could ever require for just about any kind of party you could ever imagine. It’s especially brilliant for children, too, with a vast range of toys, party bag detritus, and back-to-school accessories.
Everything here is super-cheap and just the right side of kitsch (squint and the bold prints are reminiscent of fellow-Scandi brand Marimekko). Look on it as a really posh pound shop.
American varsity jackets
It’s difficult to walk into this east London institution and not be dazzled by the rainbow rails. With well over a decade under its belt, it’s easy to see what has made the franchise such a success: it caters for the festival teen, the trendy twenty-something and the shrewd, more mature, fashionista. For both men and women, this branch offers one of the widest selection of retro-wear in London, all under one roof.
Fabulous clothes, tiny little prices, a shop stuffed with toys that look like owls. What’s not to love? Set over two floors on London’s Carnaby Street, the Monki store houses its entire range of low-priced high fashion aimed at young women (but bought by all sorts of women, if the Time Out office is anything to go by).
Neat storage solutions
This Japanese concept store has long been a favourite of style-conscious Londoners when it comes to practical, affordable and aesthetically pleasing goods for the office, home or wardrobe. Stock runs the gamut from useful gadgets (umbrellas, alarm clocks) and stationery (a huge range of pens, notebooks, photo albums) to pleasingly plain bedroom furniture, storage units and furnishings.
A huge selection of shoes
Absolute Vintage may be a stretch away from the crowds of Brick Lane, but that doesn’t stop it being busy, and that, along with its cluttered displays can make browsing tiresome. However, clothes start from £1 in the bargain bin and you can get dresses and tops for £3. The sheer quantity of goods here makes up for the occasional poor quality, and there’s a great cabinet filled with prized, hard-to-find Chanel bags.
Set over three cavernous floors, Primark Marble Arch offers 70, 000 sq ft of unbelievably cheap clothing and accessories. You get what you pay for in terms of shopping experience – the queues are long, the staff indifferent, the rails chaotic, and demand for changing rooms so high that people try on clothes on the shop floor. But there aren’t many shops where you can fill enormous paper bags full of clothes and leave with change from a £50 note.
With several deliveries every week, and a fast turnaround of stock that means you won’t see your coat on every one you meet, it’s no wonder that Zara is leading the fast-fashion pack, serving up the latest trends hot off the catwalk. Zara spend proportionally more on their fabrics and manufacture than most of the high street (making up the profits through sheer volume); that means you get very good quality, very fashionable clothes for your modest buck (around £30 for a blouse).
Thought has been put into creating a pleasant shopping environment here - changing rooms are vast, and the music has clearly been curated by someone with a taste for credible indie. This has been designated a pure-fashion store – so it’s out with H&M’s kidswear and homewares, which in a way is a shame. However, it does mean that the focus of the store is clear, and its target audience the kind of fast-fashion gobbling teens who spill out of the nearby Topshop.
Bargain running gear and bike lights
The warehouse-sized London branch of this French chain offers London’s biggest single collection of sports equipment. You’ll find a vast array of reasonably priced equipment and clothing for all mainstream racket and ball sports as well as for swimming, running, surfing, fishing, horse riding, mountaineering, ice-skating, skiing, even archery and petanque.
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