Is high street shopping still in vogue, or is it seriously last season?Wikimedia Commons

There’s been a lot of discussion in the media over the last few years the struggle of the high street to respond to the rise of internet shopping. Perhaps it’s time to take a look at how we’re shopping for clothes, and the way it’s changing, by comparing online retail, high street chains and independent boutique stores

The debate between online and in-store shopping is certainly nothing new. A lot of us are familiar with the attractive ease of purchasing as a procrastination strategy while in the library, or of lying in bed late at night with Netflix on one side of your screen and ASOS on the other. But does the rise of online shopping mean the end of the high street? Absolutely not! Britain is defined by our high streets, they are famous and recognizable landmarks in films and photos everywhere. The high street experience is going nowhere, but it is changing with the times.

The high street experience is going nowhere, but it is changing with the times

With many customers favouring the ease of online shopping – no queues, no need to walk for hours, no lurking sales assistants, the ability to compare between sites and search for exactly what you want – all this has revolutionized the way we shop, but people still long for a good shopping trip. The high-streets know this and they are adapting their customer experience. Many stores now have pop-up coffee or food stands to fuel you through your high-street parade, provide a break and generally enhancing your experience. Others are starting to carry smaller labels which are only available in store, in order to attract customers, such as the Topshop in the Grand Arcade which has a great selection of unique pieces in the back of the store.

Making a trip to the shops can be a fun and relaxing activity, as well as a means to obtaining some new garmentsWikimedia Commons

Most of all, there is nothing quite like retail therapy and this often just cannot be achieved on a computer. After a stressful day/morning/supervision, I often find some great comfort in putting in my headphones and heading into Topshop and Zara for some inspiration and treat yo-self fun.

Firstly, I find that I spend less money when parting with cash feels more real (online sometimes does not!). Secondly, I think fast fashion has led people to forget that the key to a great outfit is a good fit. Whatever shape or size, you want your clothes to flatter, so trying on in store really is the best way to test out the clothes and make sure they are perfect for you. Sandra Bullock’s character said in The Blind Side that ‘if you don’t absolutely love it in the store, you won’t wear it’ and this is advice to live by. I think most of all, if you go into a store and just try things, you are more likely to pick out something unusual or that you wouldn’t have chosen online, and perhaps you’ll find a gem.

Going to a vintage or charity shop, or a boutique, can be a way to find unique pieces that aren't available onlineWikimedia Commons

Now the third and possibly my favourite type of shop is the independent boutique or unique vintage store. Something you can’t find online, especially not if you are after something specific, and perfect for those with a bit of time and an open mind. You’re always likely to find a gem and definitely something unexpected. A few months ago I found a gorgeous Donna Ida 70s jumpsuit in a boutique in London. Had it not been for this serendipitous encounter, I would never have known that in fact a velvet flared Charlie’s-Angels-esque jumpsuit was the exact item missing from my wardrobe. The problem is, of course, that most boutique stores tend to be incredibly unfair on the purse strings, so if you like unique finds but also like not being in your overdraft, then flock instead to the trusty charity shop.


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For charity shopping, it is important to look in the right areas. I travel to Chelsea and South Kensington where, as expected for the expense of those areas, I’ve stumbled upon many a designer piece for a fraction of the price – a pair of John Galliano leather trousers were a particular gem. In Cambridge, as is well known, there are many vintage and charity shops in the Grafton centre, but I’ve had most of my luck in the Oxfam shops on Bridge Street on Mill Road (by the Kelsey Kerridge Sports Centre).

Online and high-street or boutique shopping. They have grown so far apart that they are completely different experiences, for different purposes and different moods but both definitely still have a place in our lives.

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