Being in London for the weekend I was tempted back to Covent Garden's gear shops. Yes I know – these places are bad for my mental health but the temptation is often just too great!
My stroll confirmed all of the trends we've seen over the last year or so: a move towards stylish leisure gear even in the most 'serious' of stores, tons of expensive, new, Gore Tex jackets with nobody looking at them and the domination of clever point of sale displays from the likes of Jetboil. It is impossible to enter a decent gear store today without first being attracted to the Jetboil display.
I'm more convinced than ever that we will see a lot of expensive jackets heavily discounted in the new year. I've spoken to store managers about this and I realise I am not alone in my views! Most of the stores I had visited yesterday were crammed full of a new waterproof from Mountain Hardware made not from Gore Tex but from a non-branded membrane; a basic jacket this and cheap. It looked as if loads of these have been ordered to redress the expensive balance. The price hike of Gore Tex – and with it the increased cost of Neoshell – has changed the way we see the world. Arcteryx no longer seem an expensive top of the range product! They have been joined by many others.
I also realised that we are seeing the complete disappearance of cheap items from the high street. Basic MSR cook sets are being den out of view in favour of more expensive 'systems'. I was half looking for an MSR coffee filter, an inexpensive item that just works. We have two in our house but both seemed to have been filed away to some place that is totally secure, or maybe even that exists in another dimension. It might be the wrong part of the year to find something like this but none of the main stores had one. They did have lots of coffee options though. There were Jetboil coffee plunger accessories and new brew in the bag offerings of various exotic bean blends and fair trade options. As far as I could see these made 1 decent cup of coffee for the price of almost £3 a cup!
Our high street stores seem to be changing fast, concentrating on leisure brands and selling stuff like tents on the web. There are exceptions of course; I usually find that I can always buy useful gear in Aviemore for example, but London (and Birmingham) seem to be well on the way to leisure emporium status.
Things are so bad now that even I might find I can ween myself off gear-shop addiction during the next twelve months.