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Why department stores are playgrounds for grown ups

Published by Elizabeth Kesses
Published on 31 October 2011

Pick any Saturday in Harvey Nics, Harrods or my personal favourite the Parisian Bon Marche Rive Gauche and you will come across the same thing. Adults, harassed by the week or escaping the family for an hour, transform from cynical grownups into over excitable kids.

Why department stores are playgrounds for grown ups

Tantrums and all.

This is as true in Paris as it is anywhere in the world.

In the Paris department stores, each floor is like a different playground attraction - shoes are the swings, china the climbing frame and make up, the play mat.

Shopping is the best therapy for a hideous day at work or a barney with the boyf. but department stores take you to the next level.

You can lose yourself in a multi sensory experience - perfume hall makes you giddy with floral scent, the aroma of coffee and cakes in the chic cafes and the tantalising colours of rows and rows of clothes.

All inhibitions go as you roam free in this shopping palace - credit card limits are forgotten, everyone else is carrying huge bags of exciting goodies, so why shouldn’t you?

A friend of mine has a ‘Selfridges on Saturdays’ ritual - whilst her partner is snoozing she sneaks out with his credit card and pin engraved in her memory.

But department stores are like Disney - you’re in fairy land and everything looks great as you’re in a dazed heightened shopaholic state.

At Le Bon Marche recently I tried on what I thought was a hot black dress - back home it was more like a bin liner. Then there is the addictive behaviour - I once bought three pairs of ballerina shoes so mesmerised, was I, by the colours.

The beauty section is the real danger zone - makeup artists woo you with a makeover using all kinds of new creams, brushes, powders.

After one especially successful makeover I tried to persuade my ‘beau’ to buy me all the different products the lady had used.

He tried to put up a case against - stating (quite accurately) that I have too much make up I don’t use anyway.

At that point a darling little old lady walked past and said how much I looked like Kiera Knightley. Clearly very short-sighted but nevertheless my chap was so proud he bought the whole lot.

The worst is the food hall. If you ever go shopping on an empty stomach you will live to regret it.

In a ravenous state you end up buying everything and anything... I have walked out with quails eggs, pink petal cake decorations and sparkling pear juice. The trick is to head straight to one of the sumptuous cafes and stifle the hunger pains with an overpriced muffin worth the same as a carnet of metro tickets.

You need to be careful that you pick the right play zone - if you are feeling in need of a sexy boost head straight to lingerie but do not go near underwear if feeling remotely blue or after a bad break up.

The bright lights do nothing to mask wobbly bits. Or if you are tired and in need of revitalisation avoid trying on boots - it’s a work out in itself. Instead head to accessories where vibrant silk scarves are a veritable pick me up.

Of course like any kids playground there is always a tantrum. A girlfriend in a huff as her chap won't buy her the latest Chanel bag. Or a weary worn dad pleading with his equally irascible wife to have a snooker table at home.

Xmas shopping is the ultimate experience of course - the thrill of presents if different shapes and sizes.

Online shopping is a quick fix if you've got no time for real play time. But it's like reading a comic book versus visiting fairy land.

Most of all shopping needs instant gratification. Everyone wants take home a cuddly toy at the end of their visit - whether it's an eye shadow palette, a new leather bag or ideally a pair of the latest diamante Jimmy Choos.

The next rainy Saturday, treat the kids to a play date or a party and then treat yourself to one. Whirl around the carousel of beautiful objects, up and down the escalators, before the magic mirrors and with little helpers in every play zone.

Don't forget, if you have your bored fella in tow you can always drop him off at the electronics crèche.

Brit Chick recommends:

Le Bon Marche Rive Gauche
22 Rue de Sevres
Paris
France


Brit Chick says: THE department store in Paris - one half has a Selfridges style food hall and the best little Italian cafe in town (see Finding a good Latte in Paris blog); the other is stuffed full of every designer label you're looking for plus top notch home decor.

Galeries Lafayette
40, blvd Haussmann
Paris
France

Brit Chick says: This is more Harrods than Selfridges; big and a bit gaudy but everyone goes - worth taking trip December for presents and to see the French Christmas lights - quintessentially elegant.


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