Although Strategist UK writers and editors are highly skilled online shoppers, we also love shopping IRL. There’s just no substitute for the expertise of a shopkeeper, the thrill of an unexpected find at a new boutique, or browsing the sales rack at a pricey department store. Right now, of course, attempts to stop the spread of coronavirus have shuttered shops across the country, including the small brick-and-mortar businesses we love. While that may be disappointing for us, it’s devastating for these boutique shops. That’s why we thought we’d mention the small businesses we’ve been shopping from (in London and beyond), highlighting all the best items you can still buy online. Supporting them through this crisis is a small but significant way that we can all help out (and get some cool new bath products, jewellery, and craft beer in the process).
Ailbhe Malone, Senior Editor
At the start of the year, I wanted to reduce my plastic use and found London Bathers — a North London–based organic and natural soap company — through Instagram. I use their hand soap, bar soap and bath salts daily (I especially like the green clay cleansing bar and the sea buckthorn soaking salts) and thought this was a good time to both stock up on essentials and place a bulk order with a small business that I love. I got three cleansing bars, a large hand soap refill (jasmine and geranium scented), and some bath salts, too. They use Royal Mail to dispatch the items and include a prestamped return envelope that you can use to send back your plastic for recycling. At the moment, they’re donating a soap bar to charities like Age UK for every sale made through to at least 31 May.
I love Pressure Drop brewery (full disclosure, one of my best friends works there) and realised that the closure of pubs, bars, and taprooms is putting pressure on small craft breweries. So I bought a pallet of 21 beers from them — including their fantastically sour Espadrille and perennial favourite Pale Fire pale ale. If you need convincing, I had a keg of Pale Fire on the bar for my wedding, and it was so popular that the keg was finished before the meal was over. I also then supported another brewery (where another friend works) and got a selection pack from Yeastie Boys, too.
This isn’t strictly a small business, but another one of my close friends is a nurse at a London hospital, running a large ward and very much at the centre of urgent care and treatment for COVID-19 patients. I wanted to support her, but the ways I normally support friends who are having a stressful time (sending flowers, or dropping over a meal) weren’t really an option. So I sent her a £20 email gift card to Just Eat — the idea being that when she got home, she would be able to feast on the Chinese takeaway of her choosing, or if she had to stay late, she would have an option outside of the hospital canteen.
Chris Mandle, Writer
Assembly is the sister brand of Volcano coffee (which is the stuff we have in the Strategist offices) and is based in Brixton. I ordered a couple of bags of beans (I grind my own, but they can do it for you), and the coffee comes in these semi-transparent bags that remind me of the aliens in Arrival. This Columbian blend is really light and sweet — each bag comes with illustrated tasting notes, which describe it as having pomegranate and “creamy stone fruit” flavours.
While I seem to be saving a ton of money not going out to dinner several times a month, I’m missing grabbing dinner and a strong drink with my boyfriend. We were planning on going for dinner to Forza Win in Peckham for some of the braised lamb rigatoni and gnocchetti with wild garlic pesto. Until we can get back, I picked up a T-shirt from their (very tasteful) merch store, which cost about the same as two of their Negronis.
All my favourite pubs in South East London serve beer from this brewery in Gipsy Hill, and I wanted to stock up on some of my favourites until I can hang out in my local again (my colleague Rosie is also a big fan, as she lives nearby, too). I love the core beers in their collection — it includes IPAs, pale ales and even a gluten-free option. I also added to my order some of their weirder special beers, too, like the blood orange weiss and the puckerish framboise-style sour. I get bored easily, what can I say?
Rosie Percy, Senior Manager, Audience Development
Staying indoors means I’m spending even more time gazing at my cat Tallulah. Noticing her generic pet store collar was looking worn, I found cat accessories specialist Supakit for a longer-lasting replacement that was a tad more luxe. Their collars come in a range of genuinely beautiful colours — we got pink — and are made from ultrasoft leather which Supakit says “is gentle on cats’ fur and smells just right to them.”
My new staying-home routine might mean I’m not applying as much eyeliner, but I’m still trying to do nice things for myself. I’d been eyeing Fat Pom Pom’s earrings for a while, and as an independent maker who could use all the support, it seemed the perfect time to buy. I ordered gold hoops with hearts, but the tinsel and pom-pom options are sure to shine some brightness in these strange times.
In light of recent events, my cousin had to make the hard — but sensible — decision to postpone his May wedding until 2021. I’ve sent them some letterbox flowers as a surprise to offer a spot of positivity in tough times — Bloom & Wild’s customisable options meant I could add a photo of their puppy to the gift card, too, which added an extra-personal touch.
The Strategist UK is designed to surface the most useful, expert recommendations for things to buy across the vast e-commerce landscape. Read about who we are and what we do here. Our editors update links when possible, but note that deals can expire and all prices are subject to change.