Lifestyle,  North Wales

Move over Mr Selfridge, it’s time to meet Mr Clare

Listen up. I have news. And you won’t want to miss this. Say hello to Clares Llandudno.

We all love a trip to Chester for a spot of shopping and a nice lunch. I certainly do. But it’s a whole day out for me. I avoid Saturdays because of the crush so I have to set aside a working day between blog writing and cake work. Realistically I only make it a few times a year and that really doesn’t satisfy my retail cravings. Anyone else?

But I just need …

What about those moments when you just need a new dress for an interview, or a few bits for a weekend away. That night when you’ve invited friends for dinner and you suddenly realise your entire wine glass collection does not include 6 that match. What about that afternoon when you’re baking a family birthday cake and your weighing scales terminate (this actually happened to me). And if you know anything about cake making – scales are essential. It’s a precise business.

What you need is somewhere local. Somewhere that stocks all the brands we love. Folks – I have the solution.

Shopping heaven since 1927

I wonder if you’ve discovered that you can find all your favourite brands right on the Llandudno high street. All in one shop. Clares Department Store Llandudno. It’s probably a 10 minute walk from my front door or a 2 minute drive. Fantastic.

We may not have Mr Selfridge adorning our high street. But we have the next best thing – Mr Robert Clare Baxter

Robert Clare Baxter built Clares Department store in 1927 with just £200. If you weren’t around in the roaring 20s so here’s a few pointers to help you

  • George V, our Queen’s grandfather, was King
  • Stanley Baldwin, 1st Earl Baldwin on Bewdley was PM – yes, a conservative – well spotted.
  • 2 million workers went on General Strike for 10 days. The most ever.
  • The TV was invented. Thank goodness for that.
  • Winnie the Pooh was first published. Hooray for Pooh.
  • Women almost had the vote, but not quite. C’mon chaps.
  • Penicillin and Insulin were first made available. All the things we take for granted.
  • Queen Elizabeth was born. Bless her heart.

Britain was recovering from the First World War. It was a time of peace, optimism and social revolution.

It was against this social context that our Mr Clare decided to rebuild Clares and create a boutique department store in the stylish seaside town of Llandudno, Queen of Welsh Resorts.

What even are Fancy Goods?

It began as a ladies dressmaker and milliners, in the days when you had dresses and matching hats made for you. Imagine that. Later they added china, cutlery and glass, kitchenware, electrical goods, furniture, carpets and fancy goods.

Fancy goods, for the record, are “items that are primarily ornamental or designed to appeal to test or fancy rather than essential” And we all need a bit of fancy in our homes. Right?

The Ulster connection

Mr Clare left his business to his son Dougie, and his grandchildren John and Ann. Ulster Stores took over the shop in 2002 to add to their family portfolio. You can visit their 3 other department stores in Portrush and Coleraine, Northern Ireland, and the Island of Jersey.

Clares is unsurprisingly one of the oldest businesses in Llandudno. It boasts a beautiful heritage building complete with the original cage lift, which doubles up as a fun tourist attraction and welcome alternative to the very steep staircase. The owners splashed out on a £100k refit 5 years ago and make a magnificent job of restoring the original features of the building whilst modernising the shop and bringing in new premium brands through all their departments.

Happy Faces all round

I was invited to their store for a Charity Fun Day and met at the door by celebratory balloons, a glass of Prosecco, and Claire – the most joyful Store Manager in the history of store managers. Amazing prizes on offer in the Happy Faces Children’s Charity Raffle including a £150 gift card, Providero voucher, the cutest little house from Dirt and Hands, and delicious Maisies Chocolate. Lovely to see local businesses working together to support local charities.

90 years of fashion

If you think Clares Llandudno is a “fuddy-duddy” store for the over 65s you’d be quite wrong. It was exactly this when I was growing up. We’d go with my Nana twice a year for a batch of dresses, a couple of handbags and afternoon tea. It was like stepping back in time – the clothes were the same vintage as the building, which suited Nana very well. Couldn’t get out quick enough.

Today you’ll find stylish handbags, accessories, and men’s clothing on the ground floor. Think Cath Kidston, Brakeburn, Guess, Esprit. Upstairs you’ll find ladies clothing – all my favourites – Phase 8, Joules, White Stuff, Masai, SeaSalt, Gant – and the loveliest fitting rooms to try everything on.

Judith in Wonderland

Venture downstairs and you’ll find a home-makers’ wonderland. Kitchen department have always been a particular favourite of mine. I get it from my Mum who spends most of her life touring cook shops and garden centres. Kenwood, Kitchen Aid, Morphy Richards and Magimix. Joules Home for your favourite florals, Denby for your tables and Stellar for your stoves. Dualit and Bodum for your coffee. Joseph Joseph and Mason Cash for your home baking.. It’s without doubt, the best stocked kitchen department in the town. If you visit often, you’ll always find new on trend products and brands carefully chosen to offer quality, and great design.

I was delighted to take a few gifted goodies home from the new Simply Home range. It’s a dead ringer for Denby and the perfect shade of blue to be right at home in my cottage kitchen. Thank you ladies. This set comprise a lovely big cereal bowl – perfect for muesli, porridge or soup, a side plate for your morning toast, and a morning coffee mug.

Rooftop refuel

If all this shopping is a bit exhausting and you need a caffeine break, head up in the 1920s cage lift – an exciting trip in itself – and grab yourself a latte and slice of home make cake in the rooftop cafe.

Promises, promises

I can’t promise you prosecco and nibbles every time you visit, but if you follow Clares Llandudno on Instagram and join their mailing list you’ll be the first to hear about their regular special events, and you’re always guaranteed the smiliest service, the most tempting offers, and your favourite brands without the 80 mile round trip to Chester.

Dad gifts

And don’t forget the blokes. There’s some great offers in the Gant clothing, and a gentlemanly collection of natural skin care and aftershaves for the men. Something for every price range.

Clares Llandudno is a great example of holding onto the best of the past – our history and heritage – and combining this with current and ever changing fashion and home trends.

Say hello when you visit

Retail is tough. Surviving on today’s high street is not easy and Clares Llandudno has been there longer than most of us have been alive. I’d love to be part of their centenary celebrations in a few years time. Check them out. And if you see the “oh so joyful” Claire, tell her I sent you.

Meanwhile, I’ve got my eye on a very shiny new Kenwood mixer. What d’you think Mr Bond? For the cakes, obviously. And that pretty Cath Kidston shopper would make the perfect laptop bag …..

Judith xx

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Subscribe to our Blog