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Having finished work today and in need of retail therapy I began to wonder as I passed men and women, young and old, what exactly does it mean to be fashionable? It was a cold and blustery day today, and yet scantily clad women moaning that they were cold and men who were dressed by their partners or mothers breezed by me with looks that suggested the end of the world was upon us. While some of those people clearly were keeping one eye on the 'fashion world', there were others thankfully like myself who dress how they want to, and in what makes them feel comfortable. I would like you to note that at 24 years of age I don't look like something that's been dragged out of the dustbin, but at the same time I would prefer to have certain bits covered up especially this time of the year. While New look has always been a very hit and miss affair for me when it comes to what I'm after, I've nearly always found something I like in peacocks at a very reasonable price. While they're high on my list for finding something I like, there are other areas that certainly need addressing and stop me from rating it as highly as I would have liked.
Location, Location, Location.
At present there are 460 stores across the UK with 4 more opening soon in London, Manchester, Wiltshire and West Lothian. Check out http://www.peacocks.co.uk/?page=storefinder where you'll need to enter your town or post code to find your nearest store. I visit 3 stores near to me on a regular basis, so this review will be based around my experiences of those. Each store caters for Men, Women and children stocking clothes, shoes, albeit limited, accessories and in larger stores they have now got videos and DVD's to buy (just don't expect them to be the latest films).
It's all about the presentation and ambiance.
Starting from the outside of the stores and there is already nothing to make you go "oooo I must go in there". While the Peacocks logo is a trendy purple, it's surrounded in a not so white paint that could clearly do with a new coat or two. In the window you'll find well displayed clothes that are changed round periodically. What stuns me however is why they insist on putting for example red or black clothes which as you know soon fade as it is, right in the window where the sun is pouring in on them. Suffice to say that it doesn't take long for that nice red top to look very sorry for itself indeed. Upon entering either of the stores what pleases me first of all is the lighting that they use. Thinking about it really hard, how many times have you bought an item that you loved the colour of, only to get it home and find that you don't like it as it no longer looks the colour it did in the store? I know I have when I bought what I thought was a rather nice green/blue jumper, only to find that it was pale blue. I've never had this problem in these stores, and neither have I been blinded by the light which can also happen in other shops. Another plus point for Peacocks is the fact that they don't play deafening music that New Look is guilty of. What New look and other stores fail to realize is that if a potential customer has got a headache due to the club like music, then they will tend to seek the exit out pretty damn quick.
Moving on to the store's layout, and that's a whole different kettle of fish altogether. Each of the stores is laid out in clear sections headed up by banners so you can whip straight to your area of interest easily. However in an effort to stock as many items as they can, I have noticed recently that it's becoming increasingly difficult to walk freely around the racks. I'm a size 10/12 and let me tell you that I have a terrible job trying to squeeze around each of the clothes racks. While disabled people or buggy users may be able to get in the large automatic doors, they might as well turn around and go back out as they would have a difficult time maneuvering in and around the stores. The Larger stores are slightly better, but even they seem to be cramming in as much as they can and losing walking space rapidly.
Another thing I've noticed is the fact that while the number of staff seems to be increasing within these stores, the shop floor is looking more like the Mad Hatters tea party. There are garments all over the floor which not surprisingly ended up marked, and hangers chucked about everywhere and yet the staff seems incapable or uninterested in tidying up the place to make it more welcoming and accessible to potential customers.
The price may be right, but what about the stock.
As I mention at beginning, it's very rare I enter a Peacocks store and come away empty handed. Whether you're seeking a casual look, something smarter for an interview or accessories to go with an item you have already have, then you can be pretty certain you'll find what you're after in Peacocks. It all sounds good so far, but the problems I have are finding bras in my size (lets just say I'm no Jordan), and the fact that a lot of there clothes are clearly not the size it states on the labels. Not so long ago I went in my local store as I was after some vest tops in a size 10. As with a lot of clothes shops my choices were to either purchase the 8/10 tops or the 10/12 ones. As I didn't want them to fit too tightly I opted for the later, but found that they looked like a parachute on me. Thinking that the other size would be bound to fit, I also found that they too were extremely baggy on me. Suffice to say I ended up purchasing some tops else where in the end, as these were certainly not the sizes they claimed to be. When I tend to buy clothes now in Peacocks that I haven't bought from them before, I either keep the receipt safe or try them on first to be sure they fit alright.
On the whole I find that the racks are stocked up well with all of the sizes (8-20), but there are far too many items on each rail which results in some difficulty trying to get out the items. Underwear is the only section that they seem to be having problems with keeping stocked up in a range of sizes and styles. Only last week I found my only choice for knickers were either elephant size ones that come up to your neck, or thongs that resemble dental floss. When it comes to price I find them very competitive with the likes of New Look, River Island and similar stores. Whether it's been shoes I've bought or a smart new jacket, I find that the quality is very high and it's a long time before I have to replace those items. To give you an example I bought a pair of work shoes last year for £5, and they're still going strong nearly a year later. Although I'm sure this isn't limited to Peacocks, what shocks me is they can charge £15 for a mini skirt and a full length one! This also applies to children's trainers (£10), which are the same price as adult ones. Surely items that are significantly smaller should be cheaper, but perhaps that's just me being daft. Trend setters will also be pleased to know that the stores do keep up to date with clothes similar to the ones revealed on the cat walks.
Does my bum look big in this?
What amuses me is the store in town where I work is smaller than the others I visit, and yet it has 4 changing rooms, but the bigger ones only have one small cubical. These are usually well sign posted and while they do point out there are a minimum number of garments you can take in, you can normally get away with sneaking in a few more. The rooms are a little on the cramped side and may require some breathing in, but they're clean and tidy enough with full length mirrors in so you can see what a Muppet you exactly look in that top you thought was great.
"If you're happy and you know it clap your hands"
When I'm queuing up to be served, I often find myself looking at the blank expressions on the assistants faces and wonder what it would take to raise a smile from them. Of course they're not all like that and if you're lucky you might even get them to utter a few words, but alas this is very rare. The other day there was a women in front of me who had just noticed that there was a hole in one of the clothes she had hold of, when she pointed it out to the assistant they just looked at her as if to say "what do you want me to do about it"? In the end the women went and got another item off the rack, but the assistant never commented or apologized. Returns is another thing I find they don't like, although you're certainly in your rights to do so if you have the receipt and you've taken it back within 28 days in its original condition. Of course they have no choice but to refund you or to offer you an exchange, but it means they've got to tap out a few more buttons on the till and as you can imagine that's very painful.
As already mentioned Peacocks are fairly cheap anyway, but when it's sale time the prices are slashed even further. In the January sales alone I came out with four pajama bottoms, one jacket, two pairs of jeans and some shoes all for just under £40. With the already limited floor space and not surprisingly more people, arm yourself with a cactus plant or something similar to get around and get more for your money.Should I stay or should I go?
Well by now I've hopefully made it clear that shopping in Peacocks is like a rollercoaster ride, as it has its ups and downs. While the quality and price of the clothes is very impressive, I would like to know how they can get the sizes so wrong. Also what's the point of having a large store, if the average size person has a job moving between the racks? For now I will continue shopping with them as it's very rare I come out of the stores empty handed, and as the song for Labour's election campaign went, things can only get better or so I hope. So if you're not made of money and looking to stock up your families wardrobes, then give Peacocks ago. Just remember to leave time to try things on or keep the receipt, and don't expect smiley happy assistants to greet you.