Tuesday, January 09, 2007
Favourite Shops No.1 - Parkin's Menswear, North Road, Durham City.
It goes without saying that multiple chain stores hold very little interest for the discerning shopper. The increasing sameness of every British high street is a depressing trend.
As you wander past ugly plastic fascias, shuffle through noisy, over-lit interiors and encounter robotic staff who've been brainwashed by cynical "Customer Care" training courses your senses are over-loaded and your heart sinks. Of course shop assistants have no say in the matter, but why must the simplest purchase be the target of a "Meal Deal" offer, a money-raking repair warranty or a "3 for the price of 2" multibuy? Because shopping has become a science in the eyes of marketing experts and both consumers and workers are sadly just numbers.
Finding long-established shops which defy fashion and miraculously survive is rare. It's a delight to come across an establishment like Parkin's Menswear here in Durham. Aside from the prices and concessions to colourful "casual shirts" most of the drab stock could come from the 1950's! Here you can buy caps, cardigans, ties, trilbys, braces and long-johns. They are piled high in the windows in a refreshingly un-stylish manner. The dingy interior is an Aladdin's Cave of nostalgia, stuffed with racks of tweed jackets, grey or beige slacks and waterproof macs. Wood and glass counters contain interlock underwear, socks and initialled handkerchiefs. Behind the counter is shelving for a huge range of old-fashioned hats and caps and there is a curtained fitting room for un-hurried trying on of trousers, suits or zipper anoraks. The two middle aged female staff in navy blue cardigans are un-pushy and polite and receipts are always hand-written.
Apparently most of Parkin's revenue comes by being sole stockists of local school uniforms. I suppose this explains how such an unusual anachronism stays in business. Apart from the odd pair of socks I don't buy much there myself but love to browse the racks while OAP customers praise the smartness of the antiquated togs. I would hate the place to close down.
These two photos were taken on a Saturday afternoon before Christmas and the drawing was part of a mock Parkin's advert/tribute which I included in Bagnall's Dailies #1.