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VIPs (and the Blairs) throng the Bazaar

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The grand opening of Macmillan’s Bazaar, built on the site of the much-lamented BoJo Academy, took place at the weekend, and it was ‘the place’ to see and be seen at. TCWDF sent their retail correspondent to report.

‘THREE cheers for Macmillan’s’, and with those words, Christopher Biggins ceremonially cut the yellow ribbon tied in a theatrical bow across the front of the store. A large queue of shoppers had waited patiently for this moment, some having secured a prime position by arriving the night before to stake their place – no one wanted to miss out.

An array of delicious hot and cold food was available all day, with a large line forming at Mr Cameron’s Whelks ‘R’ Us stall. Other notable treats included ‘KK’s Vegan Burgers’ and from Germany, ‘Olaf’s Bratwurst fur alle’ mobile kitchen.

Waiting customers enjoyed musical entertainment from two of the UK’s best-loved troubadours, in the form of Chris Whitty and Patrick Vallance. Forming the acclaimed harmony duo Roll Up Your Sleeve, they provided an endless broadcast of re-worked classics including Lady In Dread and Testin’ The Night Away. Van Halen’s evergreen Somebody Get Me A Doctor proved a terrific crowd-pleaser.

There were VIPs aplenty, many ferried in via a relay of electric vehicles. First in line were the ever-popular Tony and Cherie Blair. Tony (although he is now a knight he has insisted in his characteristically modest way that he wishes to be known as plain Tony) drew admiring glances in skin-tight jeans, loafers and sporting a new hairstyle which many onlookers compared to Gandalf in The Lord of the Rings.

Shoppers were thrilled to see several former BoJo Academy staff deployed in sales roles, and there was great hilarity in ladies’ separates where the ex-Headmaster has secured a position as senior floor walker. Sadly, Mr Johnson’s ‘cheeky chappie’ routine led to an unfortunate misunderstanding with Mrs Blair who had stopped by, inquiring after silk directoire knickers. What he thought was light-hearted banter on the theme of Mrs Slocombe’s pussy proved embarrassing and led to a stand-up altercation witnessed by shoppers and Tony, who onlookers described as looking ‘absolutely mad’.

Macmillan’s managing director Mr Major swiftly intervened, his patrician air leading to a de-escalation of hostilities – crisis averted! Mr Johnson has since requested to be sent on unconscious bias training, but assures us that he will be back, promising ‘I will be big in lingerie’.

On the third floor, Ms Patel, who runs ‘Camping and inflatables’, was rushed off her feet the whole day. With a ‘special opening day offer’ on the ‘Calais’ dinghy range, she was ‘sold out’, but at the close of business was reluctant to broadcast actual numbers shifted.

On the same floor, visitors were keen to see the photographic department, ably manned by Mr Sunak. At lunchtime he gave an interesting talk on ‘Tips And Tricks For Party Pics’. Advice included ‘when to use wide-angle lenses’ and ‘how to get the best results in low-light situations’. Thank you, Rishi, for putting everyone ‘in the picture’.

The maps and atlases department seemed a natural home for GCSE Geography (grade D) expert Miss Truss. However, confusion reigned when she confidently assured one customer that Ashby-de-la-Zouch is a Mediterranean ‘hot spot’ and that a map of southern France would prove invaluable. With hindsight, perhaps a more suitable candidate could have been found, but for the time being Ms Truss will continue in this role.

One of the more enlightened aspects of Macmillan’s is the installation of gender-neutral lavatories on every floor. Ladies no longer need to join a ‘conga-like’ queue, the hallmark of less progressive emporia. Feedback was swift and positive, one elderly female shopper expressed her ‘comfort and reassurance’ at being able to walk past ranks of men relieving themselves. Progress in action!

Parents and children flocked to the toy department on the seventh floor where senior sales assistant Mr Wallace gave a very animated demonstration of two ‘old school’ board games, Risk and Battleship. Yet there was more interest in some new-to-market offerings such as Totally Tonto, Invasion and Pandemic.

It fell to Mr Major to sum up the opening day.

‘Oh yes, make no mistake, Macmillan’s marks a turning point in UK retail. In my estimation, and in no inconsiderable way, shoppers will be more than happy with making a detour to our out-of-town location. I have lots of other important initiatives which will become apparent over the next few weeks, and my at-a-glance year planner is overflowing with schemes concerning staff name tags and ballpoint pens, which will make the shopping experience a much happier event.’

We can’t wait, Mr Major!

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Alexander McKibbin
Alexander McKibbin
Alexander McKibbin is a retired media executive who worked across domestic and international media.

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