Thought I’d share with you a few of my favourite shops / brands in England, and not so favourite …

Waitrose

I really like Waitrose. I like the range of products available. Most importantly, I prefer the freshness of their produce more than Tesco. We shopped a lot at the Tesco Express when we first arrived, mainly because we still weren’t used to paying our groceries in pounds, and Tesco Express was cheaper. But I don’t like their produce, eg. vegetables. It doesn’t seem as long and I tend to think they really push out their use by dates. I found I was throwing food out quite quickly after the use by date.

Once I started with Waitrose in their fresh food section, it was just easier to include non-perishables. They also have a wider range of premium, gourmet goods – what I call pre-prepared foods. Basically, not take aways, but you can cook them up pretty quickly if you’re feeling lazy.

The other thing I like about Waitrose is their Quick Check. It makes shopping so much faster now. I check everything into my basket and simply pay on my way out. It just means I can pick up stuff quickly, check to see a running total, and not have to wait in the queue endlessly.

I haven’t done much online shopping for a long time. The last one was Tesco online, but I got so cross with them when they swapped my particularly chosen bottle of wine with a Tesco brand, that I have stopped shopping with them. Also, I did not trust the pickers. They were picking stuff that was to be used by the next day. I did not like this at all.  Felt extremely cheated, and thought they were using online customers as a way of moving old stock along. I then split my shopping into fresh and non-perishables, but found I was shopping for both when I was in Waitrose anyway, so ended up completely shopping at Waitrose.

I hear Ocado is very good, though I’ve not tried them.

Duchy

Duchy is a particular brand being sold through Waitrose. Basically, it’s Charlie’s organic food range. I DO NOT buy this. I don’t know how good the product is, how organic it is etc. Frankly, I don’t care that 10% of profits go to the Prince’s Trust, because 90% of the profits go to Charlie and Camilla. I don’t know about you, but the aristocracy here is very, very, very, very rich. They can donate all their money to their own Trust. They don’t need mine to support their favourite charities, or to support their lifestyle. But, if this is your only way to feel posh, go ahead. Remember though, there might not be a maid at home to cook your Duchy meal for you, you still have to cook it yourself.

Russell & Bromley

They are my favourite boot shop in England. They’re not cheap, but they’re not totally ridiculously and outrageously expensive either. They boots are not only beautiful, they fit well AND are comfortable. I like some of their high-heeled shoes as well, but 3 or 3.5 inches are no longer my thing. They also have great handbags, though I haven’t yet bought any. In addition to their great in shop service, they have a fabulous returns policy. Really! If you shoes go wonky for whatever reason, they’ll take it back for testing to see what’s going on. But if they find something wrong, they’ll refund you.  I was so pleased when they did this, and I’d had my pair for nearly a year.

The other thing I liked was that there was none of this, ‘Umm, we’ll see what we can do’ or ‘you’ve had it for too long’ – this negative way of customer service. They simply say they’ll take a look and if there is something wrong, they’ll take it from there.

Keep your receipts, though. Always helpful.

So, I love Russell & Bromley, and can’t wait to buy another pair of boots from them this year.

John Lewis

My next favourite store is John Lewis, owned by the same mob who own Waitrose. I like their in store department service AND I like their online service.  The only department store I’ve been into is in Kingston, but it is huge and it has everything.  It’s great in winter or in cold weather. They have all the high street brands, and I can wander from rack to rack looking for my clothes, without having to put my coat on, or take it off as I go through high street shops. They have clothing, furniture, electricals, crockery, haberdashery, stationery,….. everything. And a good range too. So if you don’t feel like forking out for the really expensive stuff, you can find something within your budget. But even on their budget range, it doesn’t feel like it’s going to fall apart the minute you take it outside. Some products do feel like that, if you know what I mean.

Their online shop is so easy to navigate. The interface has a lot of white spaces, so it’s not a cluttered experience. You have so many options to receive your goods: delivery,  or pickup.  With delivery, even though I chose standard delivery, which was within 5 working days, I received my stuff within 2. So happy!

Laura Ashley

I’ve bought Laura Ashley for a long time. It’s not like an every season kind of thing, but I will drop in to find something that will fit me. Laura Ashley clothing is tricky for me. Most of the time, it’ll look great on the hanger, but when I put it on, it’ll look really …. dodgy. However, when I do find something that fits, it usually fits quite nicely. Strangely, when I look at the number of pieces of clothing I’ve bought in England in the last couple of years, the most have been from Laura Ashley.

One thing I like about Laura Ashley is their sales. They do have very good sales and you can pick up something a little cheaper than otherwise. I wouldn’t say bargain, unless you happen to walk in at the end of season, with their 50% off all marked prices sale, and find your size. For me, that’s a bit tricky, given that I’m the UK national average. You have to be around size 6 or 8, or 16 or 18 to pick up the true bargains.

Still, their stuff is nice, and they have good service.

Fortnum and Mason

Forget Marks and Spencer for the posh food, Fortnum and Mason is where you want to go. As far as posh food is concerned, they are pretty posh, but I say, pretty nice too. Their afternoon tea in St James Restaurant was delish, particularly their scones and clotted cream with strawberry jam. Yum.

I love shopping in their 5 storey shop, and there’s a little something to suit every budget. By that I mean, you might buy a small portion of something really nice, vs a large portion of something really nice. There’s not what I would call a ‘budget’ range. I’m sure there are poshier places than Fortnum and Mason, but well, I haven’t been there, probably because my wallet extends only so far. Fortnum & Mason – a definite must-visit and must-buy-something-from-there shop.