How London’s shopping landscape has changed
It’s no secret that London is a prime spot if you’re looking to do some serious shopping. The capital is brimming with a variety of retail outlets and shopping centres, meaning you’re virtually guaranteed to find what you’re looking for, whether you’re keen to hit up the high street or visit a luxurious boutique.
Today, we are so used to a slick, seamless way of purchasing the things we need. For example, Worktop Express, a supplier of worktops in Camden, showcases its products in a fresh, easy-to-view setup. The company displays examples of its countertop designs and accessories using sample kitchen setups. This way of shopping is convenient, and it can give you inspiration when you’re searching for products. However, London’s shopping scene hasn’t always been what we know and love it to be today. In this blog, we take a brief look back the city’s retail history to see how some of its most popular stores have evolved and how the shopping landscape has changed over the years.
The Royal Exchange
In 1571, merchant Thomas Gresham opened the Royal Exchange – Britain’s first ever shopping centre. This two storey building with an open-air piazza paved the way in the world of retail, providing shoppers with a place to buy and sell items from over 100 different kiosks. Gresham planned for the exchange to act as the centre of commerce for the City of London.
The building itself has burnt down and been rebuilt on two separate occasions, and it has been subject to extensive remodelling throughout the years. In 2002, the Royal Exchange was reopened as a luxury retail centre. Today, it’s home to a variety of high-end stores, including the jeweller’s Tiffany & Co. and accessory designers Hermés, as well as a range of upmarket restaurants and cafes.
During the 19th century, Arthur Lasenby Liberty borrowed money from his father-in-law to open Liberty London – an outlet that would soon become one of the most iconic stores in London. Setting up on Regent Street, Liberty had the vision of opening an ‘eastern bazaar’ that would create a whole new look for fashion and homeware. He was devoted to changing the face of retail, selling exquisite fabrics and objects of art. Within 18 months, Liberty had bought neighbouring properties and began selling more products, such as carpets and furniture. As the store grew in popularity, it started to attract the custom of high-profile people like Oscar Wilde, who described Liberty London as being ‘the chosen resort of the artistic shopper’.
It wasn’t until 1924 that Liberty London became the recognisable building we know today. Designers gave the shop a mock-Tudor black and white aesthetic, using solid oak timbers to give it an authentic look and feel. Now 141 years old, Liberty London is an ever popular shopping location for locals and tourists alike.
Founded by American businessman Henry Gordon Selfridge, Selfridges opened its doors to the public in 1909. Situated deep in the hustle and bustle of Oxford Street, the famous department store soon became a firm favourite for shoppers. Selfridge’s theory was that shopping should be enjoyable rather than a chore, and upon opening, the Times reported the building to be full of flowers and greenery, with music playing ‘in every corner.’ From designer clothing to luxurious accessories, to must-have beauty brands, Selfridges is as popular as ever, attracting millions of people each year.
There’s no denying that London’s retail scene is a cut above the rest, and it’s interesting to learn how it’s become one of the country’s most popular shopping locations.
Disclaimer: This is a collaborative post with worktop express.