SHOPPING IN BRITAIN
In Britain there are a lot of big and small shops. There is a tendency in Britain and the USA for small shops to disappear. They are eaten up by big firms, which have branches all over the country. Many people regret the disappearance of small shops.
In big shops called department stores one can buy everything: suits, dresses, coats, shoes, food and what not. In big shops the customer does not pay the shop assistant, but takes the bill to the cash desk and pays the cashier. Many people pay by check or by check card. If you want to pay by check, you don’t have to worry about holding up lines of impatient cash payers behind you. In some stores you have to go to a special desk to have your check approved before going to the checkout line.
In some shops there is a special department where they wrap up the purchases and hand them over to customers. In many supermarkets you don’t have to sack your own groceries at the checkout. They will
do it for you. You can actually have your purchases taken to your car for you. Some shops have a home delivery service. But big shops are very useful to the public. They have a large variety of goods and sell them at reasonable prices.
Harrods is the largest store in Europe with goods displayed in sixty shop windows and five hectares and a half of selling space. It was opened in 1849 and now it has 230 departments, a room where you can have a rest if you are tired and even a kennel for customers’ dogs. There are lots of escalators and lifts inside the store. Harrods also offers a number of special services to its customers including six restaurants, some bars and tea rooms, a bank, an insurance department, a travel agency, London’s last circulating library, a theatre ticket agency and a funeral service.
There can be about 50.000 customers a day. You can buy almost everything in Harrods and you know you’re getting the best. In one year over 14 million purchases are made in its departments where you can buy anything from a pin to an elephant. It is Harrods’ policy to stock a wide and exciting range of goods in every department, to give the customer a choice of goods which is unique in its variety and which no other store can offer. For example, Harrods stocks 450 different cheeses, 500 types of shirts and 9000 ties to go with them, 8000 dresses and 150 different pianos, etc.
Harrods has a worldwide reputation for first-class service. It has a staff of 4000, rising to 6000 at Christmas time. Over 40 million worth of goods are exported annually from Harrods. The Export Department can deal with any customer’s purchase or order and will pack and send goods to any address in the world.
Twice a year, in January and July, Harrods has a “sale”. Some things are sold almost half price, and there are thousands of bargains. On the first days of the sale the shop is very crowded. Some people stand and wait all night so that they can be the first in the shop when it opens.
The smartest and most expensive shops like Harrods are in the district of London called Knightsbridge, but more people come to Oxford Street, London’s most popular shopping centre. There are several big department stores in Oxford Street. The best known is Selfridges. It was founded by an American Gordon Selfridge in 1909.
Oxford Street, Regent Street and Bond Street are the best known shopping centers in London, but in some ways King’s Road in Chelsea is more fun. This is where fashionable young Londoners buy their clothes in many small “boutiques”.