No change: the British shops where time stands still


Prince of Wales visits retail market

They're ancient, they're fusty and they're still relevant - not to mention profitable. Meet the businesses still true to their 19th century roots, barely changing in the last 150 years.

Though out-of-town shopping centres and internet shopping has decimated many, some British high street operations - from a shoe business to an umbrella maker - still thrive. How?

Glad to be old

By providing skills twinned to values that many consumers love. Particularly with family businesses. "We have a way of working which might be considered old fashioned, but it's necessary to our work," Jonathan Lobb, 44, director and last-maker at John Lobb Bootmaker told the Mail.

"As soon as we change something, something else goes awry. It's the nature of what we do - and it's something you can't just suddenly change."

Another business - more an institution, really - is the Princess Louise pub in Holborn. In Victorian times this ornately tiled pub with several separate bar booths under its roof saw segregated drinking (including keeping women out) according to social status.

But it remains vibrantly popular, helped by beautiful etched glass windows and woodwork. Then there's Manze's Pie and Mash cafe. It first opened its doors in 1890 on Deptford High Street, passing down through four generations. It still makes pies by hand to a secret recipe, baked fresh daily.

Acessorize, m'dear

Despite the proliferation of chains like Greggs, many similar operations continue. Some businesses just focus on understated quality or luxury. Like Bates Hats.

This venerable hatter has supplied caps, fedoras and Panamas to 'discerning gentleman' for well over a hundred years, not to mention a few stars - including some of the cast of Downton Abbey.

"Many of our customers ask about Bates' past and stars who have worn our hats through the years," salesman Anthony Bunn told the Mail. "We are very fortunate to have many loyal customers who have stayed with us for many years and been through all our changes with us as well."

It's also, increasingly, about accessorising. Lobb shoes, for example, now make gloves and ties alongside its £695 Lopez Leather Penny Loafers. Not cheap and some of the styling is plain, but beautifully made. No "quality products under a pound" here.

Meanwhile the roll-call of once well-loved British names that have crumpled or part-crumpled continue: HMV, Woolworths, Jessops. Even Comet. Further back, Safeway, Fine Fare...