Through my voluntary work I get quite a few nice perks, one of which is my own account with Booker - a national chain of cash and carrys. The key features of this type of place, for those unfamiliar with the concept are: ? Entrance to members only To apply for membership with Booker you need some kind of corporate connection. They are set up for independent retailers, caterers, hotels and so on, but other groups such as schools and charities can also join. However, individuals wanting to save a bit of money with no commercial reason behind them are not eligible. Entrance to the store is by card only, as is purchase meaning you cannot even go and have a look round if you are not a member. There doesn't seem to be any limit on the number of people who can enter on one card, however, and I often take friends along with me on mine. Technically, cards are not transferable - but mine has only my signature on and no photo so I suppose someone else could use it. However it's more than my job's worth to let them try. ? Wholesale prices Goods are considerably cheaper than in stores, meaning shop owners can buy them here and sell them on at a profit. Each shelf ticket clearly marks the price they're selling them for, the rrp and the % mark up that is (= the profit you make). The only thing that annoys me is that prices are quoted without VAT, so you have to keep calculating 17.5% in your head. The wholesale prices vary depending on the items involved but some sample Booker prices are: £4.19 + VAT for 24Coco Pops Cereal Bars £0.65 + VAT for a box of Lindt Reindeer £4.59 + VAT for 12 Duracell Batteries £3.30 + VAT for 24 bottles of brand name water £6.40 + VAT for 48 packs of Walkers crisps £16.99 + VAT for 24 cans of Budweiser See how annoying that + VAT gets? Prices are not always cheaper than in supermarkets such as Tesco, or in Pound shops, but most things are available at a substanti
ally reduced rate here. Often there are helpful offers on, too - buy 5 cases of Nestle chocolate bars and get one free, that kind of thing. ? Good stock range My local Booker is typical of most I would imagine. It stocks, among other things, alcohol, cigarettes, bread, cakes, chocolate, crisps, tea, coffee, chewing gum, sweets, canned goods, culinary items (everything from frying pans to kitchen roll), soft drinks, toys, stationary, uniforms (for kitchen staff etc), toiletries, jams, cereals and much more. There are several sorts of item they don't sell - milk (and in fact all dairy), for example, and fruit and vegetables. Frozen goods, too, don't really feature. Ditto books and magazines, and things like blank CDs and video cassettes (though they sell the CD players and TVs and video recorders you need to watch / listen to them on) .The focus is mainly on items that last a long time. The goods at my local one are split into two sections. When you arrive you enter the individual goods area - here you can get loaves of bread, cakes (packeted - not fresh), boxes of chocolates and biscuits and non food items. These are sold on their own, so you can buy as many or as few as you like. The remaining area (around 75 - 80% of the store) if for bulk buying where you can pick up drinks by the case, chocolate bars by the carton and so on. Perfect if you want 48 Dairy Milks, not so if you don't. The "clumping" configurations are varied, even within the same product line. I drink Diet Coke, for example, and here I can choose from buying it in cans (small or large, in 12s, 24s, 48s and so on) or in bottles (different sizes, plastic and glass, from 6s to 12s to yet more). And that's just the Diet Coke - all these varieties are also available for full fat, lemon, Pepsi, diet Pepsi and so on. ? Warehouse setting Shopping at Booker is not like going to a normal shop. There are no pretty displays, no baskets, no musak, no
fresh produce calling out to be nibbled on as you go round. Instead, it is very much like a warehouse. The goods are stocked from floor to ceiling, and transported around my little men driving machines reminiscent of those in Bertha. Customers generally take big Garden-centre style trolleys around with them to enable them to collect their 50 bottles of this and 20 boxes of that. Most aisles are not marked, but you can find your way around quickly and we can now get from entrance to chocolate in less than 10 seconds, thanks to much practice. They don't try to make the place appealing, but I doubt it would work even if they did, as you just cannot arrange 24 can crates the way you can arrange individual ones. ? Business friendly opening hours You own a shop that is open 9 - 5. You need to man it during those hours, so how do you find time to go and collect stock? Booker need to accommodate these people, so they open typically from 7am until 10pm 6 days and from 9am until 8pm on Sundays giving most business owners time to get there at a convenient point in their week. We generally shop around 10am mid week, when it is lovely and quiet - we usually only have to share the space with a handful of other customers. ? Out of sinc seasons Booker illustrates something I suspected all along - Easter Eggs are an almost all year round phenomena. They hit the shelves of supermarkets and smaller stores straight after Christmas, and as such they can be found in Booker from November onwards. Quite scary really, when you're in there for Christmas presents and are being presented with Cadbury's Crème Eggs all around. At the moment they are selling off Christmas stock super cheap - giant Lindt Santas are 99p + VAT as apposed to £4.50 + they would be in store - though this must only be for members' own use as no self-respecting person would deliberately choose to buy Christmas stuff from a shop in the spring / summer. ? Paying Booker let you charge things to your account, but if this is not convenient, you can also pay by normal shop methods - cash, cheques, credit and debit cards. I tend to put business stuff on my account and pay for my personal stuff by cash, and they are generally quite good about letting you split your goods and pay in two goes if you want to. My only gripe with this part of the shopping process is that after you have paid for things another member of staff has to count the items on your trolley and sign them off before you can leave the store. Still, they are usually ready and waiting for you and this doesn't really add more than a minute to your trip. ? My view The reason I like Booker, and continue to shop there is simple: it's cheaper for me to do so than to go elsewhere for lots of things I buy. I have used them for all sorts of occasions and events - trampolining competitions (snacks and drinks for the judges and marshals), kids club sessions (crisps and sweets for a fraction of the usual price), presents (boxed chocolates around half the price of my student shop) and more. They have a good range of all brands - you can get cheap happy shopper stuff if you want, or go for the more expensive international brands. The staff are efficient and helpful (reaching up to the top shelves for you if you need them too, whisking items through checkout as quickly as possible). The stores don't provide an especially pleasant shopping experience, but for those prices I'll still chose them over places that do. For more information www.booker.co.uk/ lists details of the current special offers as well as the addresses of all stores.
Some people might begin to think I am a cheap skate with a second opinion about discount shops..........you'd be right then! I have been a regular visitor to TRADEX for the last 18 months or so and have picked up some incredible bargains......mainly knickers would you believe! Tradex has 5 brances open at the present time, Leeds, Lincoln, Pudsey, Preston and Nottingham. The goods news is that ANYONE can join Tradex, turn up at the warehouse, fill in a form, take some ID with you (driving licence or utility bill to prove your name and address), hand over the princely sum of £2 and they will issue you with a membercard. All you have to go is sign in and away you go. The membership fee is payable once only and each card allows the card holder and 2 guest entry into Tradex. A point to note here, is that if you have a large handbag or changing bag they will ask you to leave it at the reception desk for collection when you leave the store. I have done this on a few occasions (remembering to take my purse with me of course) and have had no trouble in retrieving the right bag. However I did forget to pick it up once, fortunately I realised and returned promptly to the reception where it was waiting for me. I now leave my bag in the car - just taking my purse. Tradex sell a wide variety of clothes for men, women and children, you will find many 'brand' names such as Addidas, Nike, and Fila. A fila sweatshirt for an adult will set you back between £15 - £20 (usually about £30-40 in sports shops)or a Ben Sherman shirt will set you back £19.98 (rrp £25 +) They also sell shoes, again for all ages, although this section is very limited and more often than not they don't have my size! Still the prices are very cheap. The childrens clothes are fantastic value, with prices starting at as little as £1 for good quality t-shirts. I bought James his first demin jacket from here (Levis) and it cost me £5! Mor
e recently I bought winnie the pooh and tigger shorts set, costing £4.98. There is more choice for girls but if you hunt around there are some great bargains for boys too, especially in the trainers section as they carry addidas, nike and fila trainers for young 'uns. Their baby section is a must visit too, as you can pick up packs of vest, babygrows and outfits very cheaply. The womens clothes are a complete bargain, there is always a sale rail with all the latest fashions for as little as £2. The quality is usually very good, but at £2 it doesn't matter if you only wear it a couple of times! The sizes range from a dinky size 8 ( a wee hint of jealousy here!!) to a voluptuous size 24. The sizes are a good fit too - if not slightly on the genourous size - nothing more frustrating than buying a size 16 to find it is designed for a size 14! The underwear section for women is brilliant also - they cater again for the dinkiest women, right up to the most curvaceous, who says larger women don't want to wear pretty, skimpy knickers! Their matching sets are great value ranging from £5 upwards. Again their sizing is spot on! The only downside of buying knickers etc from here, is that they shout out the size to make sure you have got it right! I was asked by a rather cheeky young male assistant once whether the bra size I had picked up was right - I thrust out my boobs and said 'dunno what do you think!'. He was rather red faced after that but spoke with a much quieter voice after that! As well as selling clothes for everyone tradex sells a range of goods for the home, including carpets, rugs, curtains, pillows, duvets, and towels. These I have found are all good value and quality and at such cheap prices a real bargain. I bought a king size duvet (13.5 tog) for £9.50 - which I thought very cheap. All this and more.......you can also buy a limited range of household ornaments, aftershaves and perfumes, this is
usually at christmas time and believe me you have to be quick off the mark as they sell out very quickly. There is also a great collection of cleaning and washing goods for sale at very cheap prices, domestos active mousse three for £2.50 ( in safeway £1.59 each),two 8 roll packs of bounty will only cost you £5. Two 8.1kg boxes of washing powder will cost only £21.98. So there are real bargains to be had here the beauty of which you dont HAVE to bulk buy - but it is well worth going with a friend to take advantage of special offers. Another good pioint about Tradex, is that all the prices shown are the prices you pay - you don't have to wander round with a calculator (ok my maths isn't that good!) working out the VAT. Tradex have a lovely coffee shop also complete with toilets/changing facilities, the whole place is disabled/wheelchair friendly too! A word of warning dont go on a Thursday or a Sunday as these are the busiest times of all - as Thursday is new arrival day and Sunday because they send flyers out on Saturdays! Monday daytime is usually the best time to go, as it is not that busy, you will only wait in the queue for about 10 minutes instead of 40 minutes plus!
If you are self employed, work for the local authority or just have a good employer then you can get a makro card, the cards are free on production of an invoice or proof of self employment, or alternatively a letter of request from your employer. Once registered you will recieve regular postal copies of the makro mail detailing latest bargains. Dont get me wrong not everything is a bargain, and prices are shown without vat, but if you shop wisely you can make a killing, 28inch tvs inc vat for about £150, toys at christmas you will save an average of £1-£2 per game upwards,last year i picked up an aiwa cd cassette for £19 which is still in argos for £69.99 not bad eh. Has everything, clothes, foodstuffs, toiletries, electrical, household, toys and even mopeds.
Fancy a shopping spree? With a difference, well visit Freeport in Fleetwood, Lancashire. It's a massive designer village, the idea is they sell designer clothes and household items at less than half price. There are lots of bargains to be had. There are loads of high street shops and also designer shops, but everything is much less than the high street. Last time I visited they had a big theme featuring American classic cars, they also had a kids playground and plenty of places to eat. There is a large car and coach park, so parking isn't a problem. If you fancy going save up your money, leave your other half on Blackpool Pleasure Beach, this will keep him amused. You can then shop at your leisure, with no man moaning and getting in your way. If you don't live up North, I'm almost positive there is a Freeport, somewhere in Essex. It might be worth finding out about this, if I do find out exactly where it is I will post it straight on.
Freeport Shopping village is in Fleetwood, Lancashire, it is exactly what it says, a shopping village, the thing with Freeport is it is supposed to be a place were you can go and buy top high street name clothes at a knock down price. The shops inside the village are indeed very cheap compared to the high street, they also have a few places to eat and an adventure play area for kids as well as a few extra kiddies rides(they just have to put those in ). The shops are Next, BHS, Evans and numerous designer clothes, sports shops, toy shops, textiles, leather shops, music and video. I particularly like the shops which sell children's clothes, clothes made by rockport, timberland, ysl and many more, believe me paying £15 for a boys Timberland sweater is a good buy. These retail at £50 in catalogues and if you have kids who will not wear anything other than the "in" thing it is a good place to go to. Some people will say, "I'm not paying that, they should learn to do without", well I could quite easily say that myself, but if I can afford it I will buy it, after all a good quality jumper for £15 will be hard to find in a high street shop and a cheap jumper will not last. Another shop in freeport which has really good buys is the Evans, it caters for most sizes, not just those large sizes. The prices of the clothes in this evans have got to be seen to be believed, they are at least half the price you would pay in a high street evans, the same applies to the next shop which has choices for all the family and BHS also sells cheaper than high street. Plenty of places to eat although expensive, take a packed lunch they have picnic areas. Disabled facilities are good, with lots of disabled parking spaces(even though some people won't think twice about parking in a disabled bay, when they don't have an orange badge)I would advise to go early.
This is actually a small Next discount shop in the Waterglade Centre in Ealing Broadway (I don't know whether there are any others in the UK). If you are a fan of Next clothes it is definitely worth a visit. If you live near Ealing it's worth popping in regularly to check out the latest stock. This is a tiny shop, but it sells a good variety of mens' and womens' clothes at discounted prices. I have seen women buying evening dresses for £8 before, I recently bought a blouse for £12 and a winter coat for £20 down from £50. You need to have a good rummage, but you can usually find some bargains. Discount shops often seem to be full of size 8's and 22's, but I have found a good range of sizes in Next To Nothing. If you are in the area do pop in, you never know you might find a bargain!
Most eople say that the Trafford Centre (Manchester) is a 'Shopping paradise'. I'm not so sure though. This new multi-million pound shopping centre, that took nearly two decades to complete, has taken custom from Manchester's shops, which are already suffering from the IRA bombing a few years ago. However, the effect on other businesses is not only felt locally, but on all town centres in the North West and even further afield,with similar complexes such as Meadowhall in Sheffield. The result of this is that many local shops will go out of business, which would eventually force people to travel to the big centres. The money people spend at the Trafford Centre can only be money they would have spent elsowhere. Another negative view on the Trafford Centre, is the congestion it is causing on the M60. Most people who use the M60 to get to Manchester are following a schedule, which was usually kept to. This has now been altered as the amount of traffic around the area has dramatically increased, therefore delaying people who are working to a strict timetable. All this new traffic is not only causing queues, but lots more pollution. Although the people who desinged the Trafford Centre made a big attempt to make it look attractive, I believe that something so large can not be anything but a blot on the landscape. Although unlikely, it could also cause accidents at night, if people are looking at the blue dome and not the road. Providing public transport to the centre to meet demands is also causing problems. A new metro-link is desperately needed, but nobody can agree to who should meet the costs. As well as shops, the centre has a huge entertainment complex which opens late at night. This has huge implications for local residents. Local towns and villages have their own individual facilities. Local communities can take pride in organising and providing these. Large out of town complexes like the Trafford Centre will cause these to b
e lost. It also provides a place for troublesome teenagers to meet and cause riot. So the Trafford Centre is not only causing a loss for parents (as the mother and father of the young child who died after falling through unsafe railings found out) but for businesses, people working to strict timtable and local residents. But ending on a brighter note, it does provide a great night or day out.
I am not sure if this is a national chain but for anyone who lives within a shopping trip distance of Swansea the one in Fforestfach is definately worth a visit if you are looking for a bed, furniture, vinyl flooring, household odds and ends and designer sports wear and shoes. The warehouse is very basic and the stock seems to change very often with a lot of items sold quickly. I bought a very good make bed for half price because the mattress was a slightly different colour to the base. They delevierd for asmall charge the next day. Also bought a payphone for £35. Worth listening out on local radio for when they get an extra 10% of weekends as well.