I've discovered a whole new shopping hell on earth . It's a place called Hollisters . The designers and architects had a field day on their drawing boards. The branch at our local shopping centre can only be described as a Hawaiian / mock Tudor fusion with colonial overtones. If you're ever trying to find it a your local shopping centre just look for the hoards of pre-pubescent texting tweenies hanging around outside .
Once over the threshold, past the leather wing chairs and Victorian candelabra ... oh and you sometimes you have to queue up outside ( crowd control ) as if entering a hallowed nightclub, the light levels dip to about the strength of a 20 watt bulb. You don't need to actually see the merchandise as it's all identical - sherbert coloured T shirts sporting Californian slogans like 'Surfs Up' or 'Beach Bum' or maybe even ' I'm only buying this to show that I can afford £25 quid for a T shirt and all my mates have exactly the same one ' .
I stumbled my way past the throngs of twelve year olds fingering the merchandise, looking for something with an affordable price tag . Fat Chance. The sales staff are on permanent T shirt folding duties as everyone seemed to be doing the same thing - pulling out a T shirt from an immaculate pile , looking at the price tag , mouthing the words " How Much ?!" then replacing it in a crumpled pile for the folders to do their magic.
Deeper inside this hell-hole , your eyes begin to acclimatise to the dingy lighting but not quite enough to avoid serious injury to your ankles as you trip over the 5" high plinths clearly designed to catch you unawares. The teens presumably have memorised the floor layout in their sleep and can navigate their way around blindfold. Bruised but not defeated I rounded the corner and entered the preppy area where the clothing was emblazoned with fictional college emblems 'Californian Surf School Alumini 1963 ' and the like. Oh dear. It was all getting much worse than I'd dared imagine. The cotton felt nice though until you realised that it had probably been harvested at the expense of a 9 year old child labourer for the cost a bowl of rice a day.
Eventually I found a 'bargain' garment for £12 and made my way to the till where I found a snaking queue of at least 30 people clutching their prospective purchases . You could just about make out the whites of their eyes - difficult to determine whether this was due to a heightened pitch of shopping fever or a nervousness at the prospect of parting with a day's wages.
Gasping with disbelief I plonked my T shirt back on a random shelf in a crumpled pile - well , you have to give the brigade of T Shirt folders something to do , and groped my way to the exit, past the bamboo plantation, round the next bend , hang a right at the Georgian mahogany library shelves, emerging , blinking, into the sunlight.
I don't think my 11 year old will be too upset that I failed in my conquest to bag him an uber trendy T . Bless him - our local Oxfam is his favourite shop.
Next time you're in town , take a look at the passing shoppers. You'll be able to spot the Hollisters customers a mile away . They will usually be a 40 something Mum with bruised ankles and an empty wallet with a texting teen tagging along with a big grin on their face.