Tuesday, 2 August 2016

BHS and the marvellous £10 maillot

I have in my possession a lilac swimsuit, purchased c. 2007, size 14, long body, scoop necked, high-cut leg – a real classic, you could say. It is the remaining one of a succession of suits, identical apart from their various colours, which I owned at the crest of a watery phase in my career. In my inward eye, I can see the late line-up in my wardrobe; fuchsia pink, bright blue, navy, black and exotic orange in addition to said lilac. I purchased all of them from BHS and, at £10 a pop, no better value existed for a water babe who had not yet earned the right to wear a suit marked speedo – and very appropriate merchandising for an erstwhile store owner who spends much of his time larking around on a luxury yacht. Certain of the suits were replaced a few times over; I got through three black suits and two pink ones, I think.
When I wanted a new suit, I simply went to the BHS swim shop with the product tag from off the previous suit, matched it and purchased accordingly. I can’t remember exactly when matters began to change, but change they did. I still have impressions of wandering confusedly around the swim shop, trying to match my product tag with luxury striped maillots and suits sprouting exotic blossoms – and all with at least a 50% price mark-up on the plain, classic suit. Was it a coincidence that my life’s circumstances began to change around the same time, leaving less time for going to the pool? It’s a moot point and one to ponder as I wander around the now ghostly BHS, customer voices echoing as the last bits and pieces leave the rails. My sadness at its demise is tinged with satisfaction at having supported the store in its heyday, and anger at the forces that have brought it down – and I’ll ever treasure my £10 lilac maillot.

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