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Retail Therapy in the British capital
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Splurge and indulge in the ultimate shopping paradise in London: the legendary Oxford Street

Under the perennially overcast London sky, through the gloomy days and windy nights, what infuses a little joy and happiness into the English winters is the prospect of being absorbed in the lights and lure of the 1 and a ½ mile long Oxford Street. The name is something you will hear of as soon you express the slightest intent of shopping to any London commoner. It draws strong emotions and opinions from everyone who has been there. But the bottom line is to experience it for yourself and not be swayed by the barrage of responses you are likely to get. If you consider shopping therapeutic, then this place will definitely offer you one of the best therapies of your life. Of course, if you prefer a saner shopping experience or if you are travelling with sulky spouses and cranky children, there are always options like Westfield and Covent Garden. The latter is particularly attractive with its ambience and spectacle shows on the weekends, designed for the roving tourist eye.

What is unique about London is that it offers a wide range of shops that cater to varied tastes, styles and financial capacities. These options are all usually concentrated within the same area, perhaps helping you plan in advance, and separately for your “looking” and “buying” time! From brand Primark, a year round attraction for the teeming student populace of London and beyond to high end shops like FCUK and John Lewis, all exude their own charm. A quick tour of all the fashion stores is a must do in London especially if you recollect your younger years being marked by star struck flipping through fashion magazines. It feels surreal as the highlights from those pages come to life, teasing your senses inadvertently.

Spoilt for choice!
The most popular and by virtue of that, the most crowded destination on Oxford Street is Primark, with its ‘Big Bazaar of India’ reputation within the Desi community. It is located close to the Marble Arch station and is a massive two-floor space that stocks some great essentials for the London winter in the 1 and 10 GBP scale. Mufflers, thermals, knee-high socks, scarves, gloves, earmuffs and nylon tights are some of the essential winter wear. Apart from offering a great variety of these, Primark also stocks the fancy (read endearing) nightwear for children and adults alike. Before being completely consumed by the almost unbelievable prices, it is of vital importance to make sure that the clothes are in perfect condition. With all its noble intentions, Primark is like a game of cards i.e. a huge gamble. So, the best advice would be to choose your cards wisely, and well! If you are travelling from the tropics during winter, then Primark is ideal for the use and throw regime.

The mid range stores like New Look and H &M offer fantastic deals during the month long winter sales in London. These shops offer genuinely worthwhile discounts beginning towards the end of December and continuing through January. Boxing Day is traditionally the first day when these sales begin and the spirit is quite remarkable. The best collections are, in the mad rush for the best, wiped off the shelves within the first week itself unfortunately. Both New Look and H&M stock the best of cardigans, English style pants and skirts and in unconventional colours. It’s a must to indulge in the bright red skirts and violet trousers that seem wonderfully compatible with the dull colours of wintry England. The pleated and flared styled skirts are a huge favourite in New Look and they come in short as well as mid length sizes. Their pencil skirt collection, suitable as formalwear comes in plain colours and checks and is a hit among the young working population of the city. While at it, it is best also to pick up some floral printed skirts for the fast approaching spring and summer seasons.
The trouser collection in New Look is bound to tug at your heartstrings if your body type is more compatible with trousers. Particularly, their belted chinos and slim leg ones are completely worth the price. Jumpers and blazers at H &M during the sale season are highly popular choices, given that London dips below freezing temperatures till the end of January or middle of February. Most of their quality wear is discounted between fifty and eighty percent. So, that would again be a great bargain. NEXT falls in a similar category as well and is popular for its early and massive winter slashes.

M&S, Monsoon and Exclusives
Marks and Spencer’s is another retail store to look out for. Placed at a higher range than New Look and H&M, it has the best of tweed jackets and tunics. They come in plains and bright floral prints. So depending on what season/destination or purpose it is for, you can make your choice. M&S sales though, are best capitalized on their yummy lingerie collection from the sexy reds to the tantalizing animal prints.
Monsoon, another popular brand, offers the prettiest range of overcoats and knitwear. The sweaters are ideal for the mild Indian winters and the guaranteed quality makes it a sensible investment. Accessorize and Claire are accessory shops whose products have a classy touch; a signature style that sets them apart from the rest. So, if you are looking for something distinctive that does not seem like it might have been bought at a dirt cheap flea market then this is the place to be and buy.
Good footwear is best explored by wandering into exclusive shops like Clarks and Office. They have all the variety you would want to explore and dedicated collections for sports, formal, party categories.
The high-end multinational brands like GAP, United Colours of Benetton, ZARA and FCUK offer smaller discounts in comparison to others during the sale season. The maximum figures hover between twenty and thirty percent. If you are a stickler for brands, you can explore the collections here that bear much resemblance to their overseas branches but are also modelled upon the local taste and requirement.

More than just shopping
One practical thing to remember while shopping at Oxford Street is that there are multiple branches of each of these stores on the one stretch. And all of them hold the same collections. So it is pragmatic to buy it from the branches closer to the tube or bus stations, or carrying these bags through the narrow footpaths with the huge crowds can be inconvenient. Plus, the streets offer delectable food that is a must, especially during winter. Waffles with hot Belgian chocolate are great crowd pullers, crepes are a ubiquitous delight, and churros with chocolate dip are not far behind. Roasted peanuts are great for munching on while shopping as well. The food is an essential part of the whole shopping experience at Oxford Street and these easy bites can easily relieve your fatigue in a few minutes, prepping you for another round!

Covent Garden and a different charm
While Oxford Street is undoubtedly the major attraction in the London metropolis, its smaller counterparts can be quite popular too. Covent Garden, in the centre of the city again offers a more wholesome experience with manageable crowds, a huge one-of-a-kind Apple store and sometimes, if you are lucky, weekend revelry. You have exotic and often whimsical shops selling candy and antiques tucked between rows of high-end, dignified stores selling what can only be described as fine 'English Sensibility'. The fancy pubs, poetry inspiring coffee shops, and restaurants lining a tiny, well-lit lake add to the whole charisma of Covent Garden. While the view shall remain ingrained in your memory, the smells and sounds of this will buzz for days subsequently. Be warned: the withdrawal symptoms may be rather severe!

So, the next time you are in London and raring to go, pamper yourself and revel in its abundance. While a hole in the pocket may be inevitable, there will certainly be no regrets that will haunt this indulgence!


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