Welcome to the May Culture Report, a supermarket sweep through the rising trends in retail therapy. Editorial team: Kaeshelle Rianne, Alice Crossley, Caris Dollard, Francesca Briginshaw, Frank Broughton, Isaac McMorrow.
May Culture Report
A VINTAGE YEAR
Our need for lockdown positivity gave bike shops and DIY stores bumper years. Bookshops have also benefited from the shift to slower living, with 3.7 million books sold on opening weekend. A more surprising winning sector has been charity shops, which saw a dramatic upsurge. Vintage is golden for gen Z, propelled by their desire for sustainability, and abetted by apps like Depop and Vinted. So much so that debates now rage on TikTok about how thrifting is being gentrified, with leading influencers creating a surge in pricing. Globaldata estimated the secondhand apparel market will more than double from about $28 billion in 2019 to $64 billion by 2024. CARIS DOLLARD
Last year, when Hermes’ Guangzhou flagship store in China reopened after lockdown, the store reportedly made $2.7 million in sales in a single day, helping coin the phrase “bàofùxìng xiāofèi” or “revenge shopping.” Now, as UK retail emerges from an assault course of enforced restrictions and changing habits, how might it attempt its own revenge? What’s new, what’s changed, and what’s changed forever?
Gloomy closures on the high street didn’t deter turnout. Shoppers queued before 7am outside Primark, Zara and other chains, including Oxford Street’s Debenhams, soon to close for good. And despite a comparethemarket.com survey suggesting a third of people who had saved money during the pandemic planned not to spend it, British retailers reported the sharpest upturn in sales since 2018.
Its clear retail will have to fight hard for IRL shoppers with physical lures. The Design Museum paired with gin brand Bombay Sapphire to create a concept supermarket with artist-designed packaging of “essential” products—toilet roll, washing-up liquid and, of course, gin. Meanwhile Amazon continues to explore the thin line between convenience and total surveillance with its cashierless Fresh stores, three of which opened in London. Cameras track your every move, with weight-sensitive shelves monitoring when you “buy” something. Simply walk out and receive a receipt by email.
The retail park is also re-emerging as a contender in the game. The accessible car door to shop door entrances and larger shop floors have removed pressure from the shopping experience, and brands like Sports Direct and Five Guys have taken the opportunity to occupy the new empty spaces; where the footfall in retail parks jumped up 58.2% on opening weekend. Online retail orders falling by 12 percent in the UK is a good sign for in-person shopping, so we can hopefully avoid Vermont’s weird transformations of an abandoned department store’s turned high school. Mind you, the city of Stockton on Tees announced plans to turn its entire retail downtown into a country park. ALICE CROSSLEY, CARIS DOLLARD, KAESHELLE RIANNE
BRIT IT FORWARD
It’s win one, give one free at the Brits tomorrow. Referencing the spirit of lockdown cooperation, artists who win a Brit Award will get two trophies – one to keep and one to hand on to someone else. “Each recipient is invited to award the second trophy to someone they consider worthy,” said Es Devlin, who designed the statuettes along with fellow artist Yinka Ilori. “It might be recognition – or it might be someone that does something entirely unrelated to music.” ALICE CROSSLEY
UNITED SOUND OF KUMERICA
Drill is global – born in Chicago, raised in London, with offshoots now appearing all over the world. With all the smothering atmospherics, the digital bass intensity, the surgical lyrics and charismatic hooks of its Western progenitors, Asakaa, the Ghanaian take, is especially deadly. And it’s redefined the Kumasi region of Ghana, now widely referred to as “Kumerica”. There are twin towns; Abuakwa = Chicago, Ahodwo = Las Vegas, Buokrom Estate = Brooklyn. Even a flag and a passport, (as proudly displayed by Ghanaian parliamentarian Ursula Owusu). This is the sound of the Black Atlantic. Join us as we pledge allegiance to the United States of Kumerica. ISAAC MCMORROW