Scene: A damp and dreary November morning. Bristol.
Mission: Find a bikini for impromptu holiday in the sun.
Jenni's reaction: Panic. Sheer panic.
Having not actually gone on holiday for the last three years, I'd seem to have misplaced all my bikinis and so I was set the unenviable personal challenge of trying to find swimwear, in England, on the run up to Christmas. House of Fraser laughed and H&M asked, "You want a bikini in November?" Things weren't looking good. And then I remembered Debenhams. Lovely Debenhams. The place I used to consider "quite classy" as a child, and where I used to go with my Nan to try on perfumes.
I hadn't been into Debenhams for over a year and it hadn't changed one iota. It was a little bit like stepping back into my childhood; smiling made-up ladies behind the counter, unflattering lighting, mums and their children looking for sensible shoes. I approached the nearest shop assistant and looked pleadingly into her eyes. Swimwear? "Let me show you Madam," said the lovely woman as she led me to the first floor sale section. There, in the furthest corner of the store, four bikinis - 70% off.
A bit behind the times, but very reliable!
To fully appreciate Debenhams take a trip to Primark first. After the barely controlled chaos (well that's a slight exaggeration) to the latter shop, Debenhams will feel like a paradise of tasteful muzak and neatly folded clothes.
The staff are keen, sometimes overly so, to help you out. The quality is always good - the suits in particular are lovely. Excellent ranges up on the upper floors in the home and electricals departments.
Unfortunately this all comes with some hefty prices. Although the new Harvey Nichols has probably taken the crown for Bristol's most expensive department store Debenhams comes a strong second. This is probably why it's so empty of customers, and makes the rock-bottom prices of next door Primark all the more attractive.
Give everything in there a 30% discount and I would be in there like a shot, at the moment Debenhams offers good stuff in a pleasant setting but is just a bit too pricey.
Debenhams is a truly British department store, selling clothes, accessories, shoes, makeup, home ware, gifts and pretty much everything else to the nation. It's modern and up to date, with concessions that appeal to all the ages. The staff are friendly and accommodating, but also have an ulterior motive; selling store cards. The 10% offer is worth it if you're buying loads, but don't forget to pay it off, or you're in for some seriously hefty interest.
The women's clothing department is particularly good in this branch, the layout making customers walk around three or four times at least looking for an exit. I do like the topshop concession (they had a great sale section when I visited) and the area around Dorothy Perkins.
Look out for special sale days, where pretty much everything is 20% off.
This is a large branch of Debenhams and is in Broadmead I used to work near here and wander through Debenhams on my way into town everyday.
The ground floor includes, accessories, make up and perfurme and gifts.
The First floor is high street fashion shops e.g. Top Shop, Faith, Dorothy Perkins, Miss Selfridge.
This branch's second floor has designer brands such as Coast, John Rocha and Betty Jackson.
The store also has a restaurant and floors devoted to furniture and homeware, electrical goods and all the other product ranges you expect to see in a Department Store.
Debenhams was always like the poor relation to House of Fraser next door and now with the era of BRAND SPANKING NEW House of Fraser in the immense new Cabot Circus development, it can only look worse than before.
I used to like going in there to look at the La Senza concession and Urban Decay counter but it seems that both of these have long since been removed and I now rarely have a need to go in there at all.
The saving grace for younger customers may be the clothing for the 20-30 age group upstairs, with concessions from shops such as Topshop, Morgan and Faith shoes. It can be useful if you find things out of stock in these stand-alone shops. Other than that, Debenhams seriously needs a revamp!
I must say what a good job the ladies manning (womanning?) the top floor restaurant do in looking after their customers. On my recent visit for breakfast they were almost fighting over me did they think I was a mystery shopper or what?! I went for the 10 item breakfast (with free toast and butter) with a large coffee and marmalade, which at £8.60 including ten bob for the marmalade was not cheap but was of good quality. The restaurant is spacious and nice and empty first thing so there's plenty of elbow room to spread out your newspaper and do the crossword. The decor is somewhat dated it has to be said, but you might argue that the time-warp Grace Brothers environment is one of the attractions of shopping at Debenhams.
It's hard to explain to my fashion conscious friends but I really cannot stand going in to Topshop. I find it really pretentious, full of wannabe Kate Mosses and at times quite intimidating. I'm not a size zero and it is not good when a shop makes me feel fat, which Topshop does. However, I have always liked their clothes. For ages I was looking for a red and black checked top and everyone I asked told me Topshop had them, but I just couldn't bear to go in there. Then as I was searching for a tiara for my wedding I found the Topshop section in Debenhams. Problem solved. Debenhams is now one of my favourite places to shop, I can browse the dreaded Topshop, Dorothy Perkins, Miss Selfridge and Warehouse without having to go into each individual store. Amazing. They also have a wonderful Benefit make up counter with a lovely Welsh sales assistant who does free make up trials for you. And if you like the slap it on thick approach, a Mac counter.
I'm not surprised about all the negative reviews about New ID Studios in Bristol. I'm also somewhat suspicious about all the positive reviews written by people who haven't reviewed anything else on Qype! I was dragged here by my mum as she got given a photoshoot experience for her birthday. The thing was about to expire so she asked if I'd go with her for moral support (she wasn't too enthusiastic about doing it either). When we got there, we were greeted by a bunch of overly made-up girls who looked about 19. She wouldn't let them go near her hair but one of them trimmed mine which was fine. However she then spend about 40 minutes faffing around trying to backcomb it into some chavvy hairstyle. My hair was obviously as resistant as I was to the idea, so she eventually gave up, thank god! Next up was the make-over carried out by another, more surly 19 year old. Drag queen is probably too harsh a word, but can't say I've ever worn so much make-up in my life and I asked for a 'natural' look! The actual photoshoot was okay, but as others have said, the charges for extra photos are ridiculous. I wonder who on earth pays £1,400 for a few photos?! We picked our favourite one and walked away. The staff were sweet but it is definitely not a five star experience and a birthday present which makes you pay more money is a rubbish present in my opinion!
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