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Refreshing Retail with Charabanc

Charabanc Shop Interior
Charabanc Shop Front
Charabanc Shop Front

Blackpool’s retail dynamics have been enhanced, thanks to a new and inspiring permanent shop, in the form of Charabanc.

Some of you may wonder, what is a charabanc? A Charabanc is an early motor coach, common in Britain in the 1920s and especially popular for sight-seeing or ‘work outings’ to the seaside. It is therefore fitting that this beautifully renovated unit within the infrastructure of Blackpool Winter Gardens, is named after such a fun and magical adventure experience.  In this case, however, the adventure lies in retail.

Walking through the town centre on Friday 23 August, past empty shop units, followed by Primark, followed by cafes, I began to see hope thanks to NW Baseline arts space on my right and the rear of Marks & Spencer’s on my left. This ‘yellow brick road’ of creativity opposite quality, was a helpful way of generating the momentum and reference point when arriving at to the end of Victoria Street, where the Winter Gardens stands proudly. At the junction where Victoria Street meets Coronation Street, my eyes were immediately drawn to an intense Mallard colour with bold lettering calling to me…’Charabanc’. The gold detail that highlighted the letters, shone in the late sunshine of the day. Like a moth to a flame I began to walk closer, paying particular homage to the beautifully renovated frontage, recently put back to its original form. Not only does this best showcase Blackpool’s history of presentation, but also the hard work and negotiations by Aunty Social– the masterminds, makers, and doers behind Charabanc.

You may know Aunty Social through sustainable volunteer-based activities such as Knittaz with Attitude and Pop-Up Picturehouse, as well as their events during the Wordpool Literature Festival. Last year, the group won a Community Award at the annual Blackpool Civic Trust Awards Dinner to mark the first year of Aunty Social’s growing success and popularity with those looking to socialise through the up-cycling and reinvention of materials into engaging and eye catching crafts.  Most notable is their innovative and bold use of knitted art pieces cheekily adorning Blackpool’s lampposts, railings, trees and bicycles. We see many Hens and Stags in Blackpool but now we have knitted reindeer, cats and mannequins to add to the tourist attractions.

I have had the personal pleasure of working with the group as part of last year’s Me&FYC Pop-Up Fashion Boutique, which highlighted AuntySocial as one of the best sellers, primed to enhance their retail offer to customers in Blackpool. After a previous shared shop scenario on King street, we now see Aunty Social going it alone.

Charabanc Shop Interior
Charabanc Shop Interior

The shop itself is minimal yet well presented, with beautiful flooring, display cabinets and vintage chandeliers dressing the space (as well as the reindeer and cat I mentioned). The stock is varied and eclectic, including some familiar items thats make an affordable splash such as scrabble rings and Lego accessories. We can also be introduced to local designer-maker products of varied materials and function including jewellery, clothing and household items.

Charabanc begins to make us question what ‘shopping’ should be as an experience. Is it purely something of a chore now where we care less about product and more about affordability? Or can it still remain something of a cultural education, where we encounter new ideas, new people and a product that holds some local spirit and graft. This is a space led by those seeking to engage and share in the hope that this becomes a sustainable resource as much as the trinkets we desire for our homes. It is something that Blackpool should take hold of and support- the spectacle of the boutique as opposed to the monotony of the corporate brand.

Let’s see this as a mark for change and enhancement of Blackpool’s retail offerings, that reminds residents and tourist not just about the attraction of the handmade, but also introduces the magic of heritage and the inspiration for one to become many in this great seaside resort.

Charabanc is an example of the many words which are rarely utilised in our modern era.  This language is beginning to be considered obsolete and is no longer included in small print dictionaries.  Perhaps this reinvention will not only invigorate our spoken language, but also a fresh approach to Blackpool retail dialogue as well.

It is time for a fleet of motor coaches to take visitors and workers sightseeing once again in order to reintroduce our eyes and senses to more new experiences such as this.

What are you waiting for?  Step aboard the Charabanc.

  • Show Comments (3)

  • Diane Castles

    Love the reindeer x

  • Terry Uncle

    Looks great, nice article too.

  • monica rincon

    Great addition to Blackpool, I hope people appreciate and support local business.

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