One of my favourite shops in the world (and I've been to quite a few) is Coopers of Halesworth. Never heard of it? I'm not surprised. Coopers is a chain of hardware shops, well known in Norfolk and Suffolk and beloved by many for their knowledgeable (if a tad grumpy) staff and essential, practical products for the home and garden. Coopers became a limited company in 1938 and is the kind of shop every high street needs. I never ever leave empty handed.
You know our current shopping mantra is 'it has to be useful or it has to be beautiful.' Well hardware shops defiantly fit the useful category, and we love them. There's nothing more satisfying than buying a really practical product that not only looks good, but will also make life so much easier.
Simon Watkins and Rachel Wythe-Moran tapped into this thinking in 2001 when they opened Labour and Wait on Cheshire street, just off London's Brick Lane. Their idea was to open a shop which resembled an old-fashioned hardware store, selling sturdy brushes, wooden clothes pegs and the like.
'Why redesign?' they asked. 'Why not find things that aren't about fashion.' As well as traditional household items from all over Europe, they also sell authentic French Breton tops for adults and children and workwear style aprons.
The business has gone from strength to strength, with three outlets in Japan and a space in the prestigious Dover Street market in London.
On a trip to Europe several years ago we discovered the amazing retailer, Manufactum. A German chain of hardware stores their philosophy is to offer reliable and practical everyday items that are built to last and are manufactured according to traditional methods. Their online shop is now available in the UK and offers around 500 quality items, some of which are true classics. Made from the highest quality materials, products are practical, functional and stylish and will outlive any trend or fashion.
Isn't it a shame Woolworth's didn't recognize how many people are looking for practical products that last and open a chain of recession proof hardware shops, instead of selling dispensable rubbish that nobody needed.
John Lewis local anyone?