A WOMAN on a mission, I aimed to tackle my holiday shop like ripping off a plaster: quick and painless.

It soon transpired my luck wasn’t in as I surveyed the abandoned dogs home of bikini shops. 

"In and out," I told myself, while entering Manchester Arndale with tunnel vision to avoid my magpie tendencies to pick up and consider anything shiny.

Naïve as always, I didn’t consider it a challenge to shop for bikinis in August for a trip in September. 

As I trawled the high street's major players in seasonal swimwear for my last minute attempt to chase the sun, I realised how wrong I was. 

Fashion is all about what’s to come and styles are forecasted way before their allocated seasons. We, the poor shoppers, have to make decisions of how to dress seasons in advance, leaving us in a mixed season time warp.

Yet again, surely it shouldn’t be so hard to buy a bikini at the end of summer.

Not exactly the Kim Kardashian of swimwear models, I set about finding a swimwear set that would not make me want to bury myself in the sand.

I visited five stores within Manchester Arndale Centre and documented my perils.

Spoiler alert: it didn’t end well.

New Look

NewlookNew Look

On entering the store, it was clear Autumn/Winter was in full swing with fur textured winter clobber decorating the walls. After a few minutes of playing guess the sales assistant I eventually spotted one lurking behind a rail of unruly clothes. I quickly asked where the swimwear section was located, yet was met by a losing combination of disinterest and lack of care. “I think they’re over there… somewhere,” she shrugged eventually.

Not the best start but I was willing to let it go and let the products speak for itself. After browsing New Look's options, it's safe to say if the product could speak it would be whimpering 'help me'.

Sets were thrown together making it impossible to find matching colours let alone find one in the right size. The best I could muster together was a garish boulder holder with tiny, printed bottoms.

Service: 1/5 
Product: 1/5 
Total: 2/10 
 Jessica Rabbit would have trouble balancing out this one




Disheartened after a failed first attempt, I ventured tentatively into Topshop with a little less enthusiasm. 

On this occasion Topshop’s staff were helpful and enthusiastic.  After pointing out their swimwear range over by the bag section, I ventured across to see what they had to offer. I was pleasantly surprised by the tidy display of swimwear organised by trend and colour. Granted, there was a limited array of choice but it was still better than average. My only criticism was the low stock. Whilst acceptable for me, anyone over a size ten would be out of luck for options. The best bikini on offer was a floral affair. While the under wiring on the bra for support was a welcome addition to a bikini piece, it still wasn’t meant and I again left with my purse untouched.

Service: 4/5 
Product: 3/5 
Total: 7/10 
Your best bet if you’re out of time for online delivery


River Island

Img_1962River Island

As someone who isn’t a regular at River Island I was hoping to be impressed. As it turned out, expecting anything at all would have been an over estimation.

“We’ve taken all of our swimwear off,” I was informed by yet another employee who'd blended into the wallpaper. After sensing my disappointment, the assistant, who still hadn’t stopped from his previous activity of shelf stacking added, “you could try online though?”

Good suggestion, but not what I dragged myself out of the house for.

Service: 1/5 
Product: 0/5 
Total: 1/10 
 If I wanted online shopping I’d have stayed on the sofa




If I was a betting person all my money would have been on Accessorize to not let me down. Luckily all bets were off as I tried and failed to find a suitable choice.

Playing the invisible man, I side-stepped two assistants who seemingly could not bear to part from their in-depth conversation to consider customers. It soon transpired my luck wasn’t in as I surveyed the abandoned dogs home of bikini shops.

The remaining dregs of what was once a colourful collection stared back at me, willing me to choose. Struggling to find a suitable costume, I eventually plucked the only complementary set, which sadly didn’t compliment me.

Service: 0/5 
Product: 2/5 
Total: 2/10

Verdict: Don’t take the gamble




Strolling into Primark as my final stop I’d already given up any hope of finding a helpful employee after my last visit entailed a gormless reply of “dunno” followed by awkward silences. Not that there was a sales assistant available amongst Primark's sea of bargain hunters.

Swimwear was easily located on the top floor and surprisingly, laid out neatly for Primark. Instant brownie points.

Unfortunately the stock itself wasn’t going to win it for Britain’s favourite bargain store. The problem wasn’t with the designs (some were close to making the ‘maybe’ list), again it was the lack of stock that left me seething.  Amongst masses of bottoms there were only few tops available - which would have been ideal if I had the rack of a Page 3 model and enjoyed frontal nudity.

The one matching pair I managed to find was reminiscent of something a scuba diving bond girl would wear to emerge from the sea before throwing down with an evil villain. 

Service: 1/5 
Product: 3/5 
Total: 4/10

Verdict: Good if you’re into nudity or scuba gear

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