Many people love Primark. Admittedly, it does feature some fairly nice pieces, but in truth, I have gone there once (buying t-shirts for a camping trip) and have never been tempted to go again, however many 'gems' people have told me are from Primark.
Even going up a couple of steps to Topshop, I rarely buy anything other than accessories. The Oxford Circus branch I frequent most is just too frantic and I often forget to wear the right clothes required to have a trying on session in a less busy corner, because the queues for the changing rooms are just too long. In fact, most visits to Oxford Street result in a drained, tired feeling, leaving me unable to enjoy my new purchases as much as I should.
The alternative, however is even worse: suburban shopping centres. I do tend to visit my local shopping centre fairly frequently, however it is unusual for me to find something special there and my shopping centre purchases are pretty much limited to essentials; toiletries, stationary, underwear etc.
The reason for this is unlikely to be choice; I am sure that any shopping centre has a similar selection of clothes to one on Oxford Street. For me, it is the atmosphere. Surrounded by unispirational people, the clothes laid out in a boring, uninspirational way, I never seem to get the same buzz of ideas (ooh, this skirt would look great with this top...).
Perhaps this is just me being lazy; I am not great at vintage shopping or 'thrifting', finding it too much like hard work in London's saturated market. In fact, my best vintage buys, thinking about it, all tend to be garments I saw on a mannequin in a shop window, or displayed prominently.
How highly do you rank the shopping experience as a factor when shopping? I have been left fairly convinced of its importance to me, which leaves me with the question: what is a good shopping experience? The place always called to mind for me is Selfridges. I view Selfridges in a similar way, I think, to the character of Holly Golightly in Breakfast at Tiffany's views Tiffany's - it is that place where I can't imagine anything bad happening. So what if 90% of its stock is out of my fiscal reach? For me, a huge part of shopping is not the acquisition of goods, it is the feeling and experience, and for that reason I will always prefer to spend a few extra pennies...pounds...hundreds! on an overall more enjoyable trip.
To stress my point: yesterday, after a particularly weary and depressing shopping experience, having come out with nothing but gifts for other people and a book, I went to Selfridges. Immediately, I saw a very pretty top, so went to the changing rooms, where there were no queues, tried it on. When I decided it was the wrong size, the shop assistant passed me another. Once I had decided that I liked it, I was free to wander around, leaving the boundaries of the shop where I had picked up.
Upon paying for my top, the kind man at the till (okay... it was probably a mistake, but it still makes me feel that he was kind) gave me 30% off of my purchase. I'm not sure if morally I should have notified him of his mistake, but in my mind, this sort of thing is part and parcel of a happy shopping experience.