While pondering whether ‘Monks Cross 2′ is going to kill our city centre, I’ve been taking more notice of our ‘retail offer’, and specifically our clothes shops, some of which are pictured here.
Even those of us averse to shopping have to buy clothes every now and then, and perhaps this sector will continue to flourish when the gift shops are boarded up. It seems to be expanding and thriving at present.
Coney Street has had most of the larger clothing chains for as long as I can remember. Those of us who were teenagers in the 1980s would head straight for Coney Street to do our clothes shopping. (If we wanted shoes we headed for High Ousegate, which seemed to be where all the shoe retailers had set up shop, conveniently close together.)
In the 21st century, Davygate is looking like the clothes-shopping destination, particularly since Cult arrived, selling super-desirable Superdry. with its confident. full. stop.
There were a few clothes shops on the edges of the city centre, most memorably Renaissance on Gillygate and Wooden Horse on Goodramgate, both selling ‘ethnic’ clothing, and Priestley’s on Bootham, selling vintage clothing. But if you wanted something to wear you generally headed straight for Coney Street, to Chelsea Girl and Etam and the like. And probably Top Shop (relocated since). My mum and other ladies rather too mature for the delights of Chelsea Girl often went to Browns, particularly if wanting something for a special occasion. Chelsea Girl disappeared, Browns is still here.
These days I pass by most of Coney Street’s shops without crossing any thresholds until I arrive near the end of it, when I rummage around in TKMaxx until I find some suitable bargain, so that I don’t need to go anywhere else. Hurrah. But if that fails, Spurriergate’s new development has Zara and H&M, and handily the Coney Street/Spurriergate run has extended into the adjoining High Ousegate, with Urban Outfitters recently taking over the prestigious premises vacated by Habitat, and Fat Face already well-established further along.
Davygate is more exciting than I recall it being. When I was young I think it had Browns, Liberty, and a gas showroom. Browns has of course been on its corner for years. A few of the more expensive clothes retailers are gathered here. Then there’s the recent arrival of the Cult store in the former Borders premises. A welcome addition, particularly for male shoppers, judging by the amount of people I’ve seen wearing Superdry t-shirts. Next door, Karen Millen and French Connection. With Debenhams opposite, as it has been for years.
Also a presence for as long as I can remember, Sarah Coggles, on Petergate. Which, like most of the shops pictured, I can’t afford to buy anything from. But I’m glad it’s still there nonetheless.
I’m more likely to be in the street around the corner, on the ‘charity shop run’ along Goodramgate. When I last looked it included Scope, PDSA, Sue Ryder, British Heart Foundation, Mind, and Save the Children.
The presence of charity shops is often seen as a bad sign, as if they’re not ‘proper’ shops, and indicate poverty and hopelessness. Though of course they’re carrying out a useful role, aside from the obvious charity-supporting one, of recycling clothing. Perhaps clothes bought some time earlier in the shops previously mentioned, which we may have realised were a mistake and perhaps never wore. I think we’ve all done that, haven’t we.
Talking of mistakes – this would seem to be one? On Blake Street, another clothes shop – a big name prestigious one – though it didn’t last long in York city centre. I’m no retail expert, but it seems like a strange choice of location, doesn’t it? A bit out on a limb and off the beaten track for clothes shoppers. I guess the assumption was that the pull of the name Vivienne Westwood would be enough to get people down here, making a special visit.
In terms of clothes shops, the death of city centre retailing seems a long way off.
I am of course seeing this from my own personal perspective – as a forty-something female. Please feel free to share your own thoughts on our city centre clothes stores – present or past – particularly if you’re a man. Men seem to have enthusiastically embraced online shopping, which is, as many have said, probably a bigger threat to the city centre than anything else. Personally I’ve not had much success with buying clothing online, and end up returning it. I still prefer to head off ‘up town’ – as long as it’s not a Saturday afternoon. Coney Street packed with shoppers on Saturday afternoon isn’t as appealing as it was when I was fourteen.