Blackheath Standard

We’ve all been waiting for it – and today at 10.00am, Old Dover Road was the fullest I have ever seen as throngs of nosy people like me queued to get in to have a first peek. The local law enforcement services were also out in their droves in case there were any brawls between overexcited old girls with shopping trolleys driven crazy on M&S champagne.

As was to be expected, there was rather more hoo-ha than when the Co-op reopened last week. The celebrations involved PR girls handing out fizzy and tying balloons onto kiddies’ prams. They also had hi-tech raffle tickets to win M&S vouchers if you could battle your way to the back of the store to get it checked on an ultra-violet reader. A boom-box blasted out Magic Moments and people milled around doggedly pushing giant shopping carts in a most antisocial fashion.

I naturally wanted to explore every corner of the new store, but had already made the decision not to buy anything today. Part of it was, of course, the vast queues at the checkouts (I don’t think they would be a problem on any other day – they seem to have enough) but most of it was that today, of all days, it was important to visit the other shops at the Standard who have been supplying us through thick and thin (mostly thin recently.)

When it boils down to basics, this is a Marks & Spencer store. If you’ve seen one, frankly, you’ve seen them all. It’s very nice indeed, with dinky boxes of dinky food at rather less dinky prices. The quality is high, and the presentation modern and fresh. It still feels a bit – well – dark inside – a problem of the building as much as anything, but the food is well displayed and appealing. I have always felt I could spend a small fortune on M&S food. There is a small bakery at the back (though don’t forget Hirst &Sons) and the usual excellent ready meals.

I am pleased to see a very basic selection of M&S clothes. There is a paucity of clothing stores at the Standard (unless you’re into the charity shop look) and the pants, socks, jeans and woollies are a welcome addition. There are also various toiletry items and basic homeware.

The car park is back in action – though do remember that if you stay longer than an hour it will cost you.

I squeezed out through the throngs of customers queueing round the store and visited the other shops which were, understandably, empty. GG Sparkes, Apple and Orange, Pegga Stores. NOW is the time to visit these guys, while we still have them.

Although M&S is going to be pricier than the old Somerfields I’m really hoping that this new store will begin to turn the quality of the Standard around. We have some fine specialist shops there already; hopefully they will enhanced by M&S supplying the rest of our needs and we may even get some lovely new ones. Laziness mustn’t be allowed to sneak in – remember, kids – if we don’t play with our toys they’ll be taken away…

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