In the space of a couple days I made two purchases, one from my local Primark and the other from the gorgeous Vivienne Westwood boutique in Conduit Street, London. Both experiences were positive and I’m not here to criticise but there is no denying that they were very different experiences.
Firstly Primark. What can I say about this much loved High Street store? Lots of affordable fashion, not particularly well made, but good enough to last for the one season in which it will be worn. Rails crammed with clothes, jumble sale style, on black plastic hangers. Store layout is generally easy to navigate but there isn’t much space to move around – I wouldn’t want to be shopping with a double buggy especially on a Saturday! I was looking for a black handbag, on trend, reasonably sturdy and large enough to use while I was away in London and I knew that I would find it there at a good price.
There were a lot of staff in the store, dressed in black so easy to identify, no one looked up or acknowledged me as I walked past but I didn’t expect them to. I know from past experience that if you need help the staff are polite and well informed but I knew what I wanted and I knew where to find it.
Paying for my handbag was easy and reasonably speedy. One large bank of tills on each floor with a queuing system ensures customers are served as efficiently as possible. I paid £10 for my bag and it was placed in the iconic Primark brown paper bag.
Easy, quick, simple and cheap. And how did I feel as I walked out of the store? I felt pleased that I had found exactly what I wanted at a price I was happy to pay. But that’s all. Nothing more, nothing special.
A few days later I found myself at the Vivienne Westwood boutique in London. The store front is eye catching and inviting and I didn’t feel intimidated as I walked into the store. I was greeted in a very friendly way by a member of staff as soon as I entered.
The staff here are also dressed in black but not in a uniform that I could identify. They appear to be wearing clothes to their individual taste. The store is small and so unmistakably Westwood, punk inspired art work and loud music – it’s a joy just to absorb the atmosphere. I did look (but not touch) the clothes and as I wandered through to the back of the store each member of staff I walked past spoke to me.
I was in there to buy a pair of socks for my daughter which I’m sure is the most inexpensive item there but while I was rummaging through the box to make my selection the staff were never anything but friendly even when I had six different pairs draped over the display case holding the most amazing shoes with toes.
When I had chosen I walked towards the single till and a member of staff materialised to serve me. She took the socks with such reverence that I felt I was spending £2,000 rather than £20. The socks were wrapped in pale pink tissue paper and sealed with a Vivienne Westwood sticker. They were then placed in a tiny pale pink bag with matching rope handles which was also sealed with a sticker. The receipt was placed in a tiny pink envelope and handed to me as it if was a priceless manuscript.
As I left the staff all said goodbye.
And how did I feel as I walked away? I felt wonderful, I felt special, I wanted to wave my little pink bag in everyone’s face and say “Look where I’ve just been” and I wanted to rush straight back in there and buy something else.
Was it worth spending £20 on a pair of socks. Absolutely yes, for me it was.