Why You Should Know What Each High-Street Store Does Best

Remember when Saturday afternoons were made for spending your pocket money? You’d gather your girl gang, traipse endlessly around your local shopping centre or high street, and treat yourself to an Extra Value Meal at McDonalds. It was a formula that needed no adjustment. Back then, shopping never made you weary or frustrated; you relished every single queue for the changing room, every discovery, every new purchase.

Nowadays, who has the time for this weekly ritual? Shopping is something that many of us prefer as a solo pursuit, only sending a quick changing room selfie to our grown-up posse on WhatsApp in moments of serious hesitation. 

Speed is of the essence in our hectic lives, so a streamlined approach to shopping pays off. Rather than starting from scratch every time you’re in need of a specific item, it helps to have a plan of attack and knowing the forte of each of the shops that line our high streets is a good place to start.

Which is why we’ve compiled this handy guide. Sure, there are certain stores you might not assume are very ‘you’, but you’re missing out on their secret arsenals of jewellery, jackets and lingerie as a consequence.

As borderline professional shoppers, we’ve come to know what our most popular retailers excel at every season. So check out our tops picks and take notes—you’ll thanks us next time you need a showstopping dress or a luxe-looking handbag. 

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It’s easy to image that COS is only targeted to a 6-foot-tall 30-something who works in the art world. But look past the never-ending tunic tops and you’ll see that its skirts are like a piece of architectural wonder. Made from fabrics you don’t see everywhere, they are often structured, cut in interesting ways or brought to life in the most unexpected of colourways. The result is an outfit-topping prize that looks like it cost three times the price.

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If you’ve yet to secure yourself a wear-forever leather jacket, head to AllSaints. It has the leather biker jacket nailed down, in hues of black, moody charcoal and pale greys, along with seasonal updates in leopard, cognac suede and studded embellishment. We want them all. 

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The design team at Finery—headed up by Topshop’s former design director—march to the beat of their own drum. They are masters at coming up with outfit-transforming tops, of which we have already snapped up plenty in the 18 months since the brand launched. No chance of a boob-tube here, just grown-up designs with a clever spin that makes everything look luxe.

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If you’ve imagined yourself a cashmere cardigan/sloppy jumper/V-neck knit in the colourway of your dreams and you can’t find it at Boden, it probably doesn’t exist. The e-tailer has made accessible cashmere its forte (prices start from £80). We love it, and our mums do too. Best of all, you can throw it in the wash.

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If we need a statement necklace/bracelet/ring, we’ll always head straight to Banana Republic (especially before the US retailer shuts all of its UK stores). The design team must be absolute magpies, richly encrusting their styles with gems, cameos and crystal. There are more minimalistic chain-link styles too. Costume jewellery never looked so enticing—or so kind to our wallets.

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For a serious coat without a price tag to match, head to Jigsaw. Sure, its coats aren’t that cheap, but then again, they aren’t one-season wonders either, and that’s the point. Comprising everything a winter coat should be—generous with the wool count, beautifully lined and with perfectly-placed pockets—these are coats you’ll want to wear again and again. A very smart investment.

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You need a new handbag, but you don’t want a flash-in-the-pan PU imitation and your budget doesn’t quite stretch to something designer. So where do you go? Whistles! The retailer has captured the midrange accessories market masterfully with hobo bags built to last, gorgeous pochettes for evening and crossbody styles for weekends.

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With its boutique-like approach to stores (of which there are only a handful in the UK) and a team made up of designers who clearly aren’t slaves to knocking off the latest trends, finding something you love in & Other Stories feels like coming across an undiscovered gem. We love it for its choice of dresses, which are big on prints, ruffles and embellishments, with zero compromises on the fabric. 

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Hands down, Uterqüe produces the most expensive-looking shoes on the virtual high street. Zara’s sister brand puts its own spin on the newest footwear trends to bring to life the most covetable and affordable styles. From velvet-embellished smoking slippers to these fabulous ankle boots, we have its shoe section bookmarked.

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It doesn’t matter how old you are, the sudden realisation that you’ve got nothing to wear for an evening out always leads you to Topshop. It’s a reliable destination for metallic pleated skirts, slip dresses and lacy LBDs.

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It’s hard to pick just one thing that Zara is good for (although these iconic items may give you a hint), but tailoring is definitely up there. A workwear saviour for smart suits and earnest-looking pieces, we’d be lost without it.

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ASOS has outrageous quantities of the cosiest, most-wanted jacket style of the season (80 at present), and all at prices that won’t break the bank. Besides offering name brands, its own line is pretty covetable too.

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For knitwear with a twist, you’ll find us raiding the rails in H&M. The Swedish retailer excels at practical styles embellished with subtle but impactful details, such a fluted cuffs or this style with dramatic, oversize sleeves.

Discover the 12 cult pieces that London girls are wearing right now.

Opening Images: Getty Images