I love to freak out salespeople. When they ask me what size I need, and I say, "Extra medium" -- Steven Wright

Commerce The Liverpool One shopping area had its soft opening this weekend and I managed to take a look this morning. The only choice these circumstances is to put your best Tom Hanks in Big wide-eyed face on and let the commercial experience wash over you. So far there’s not much there, the structure of South John Street and Paradise Street, roughly the area which runs parallel and at right angles to Lord Street. As promised at the presentation I attended this time last year, it’s a two tear shopping experience, so far basically a shopping mall like the new(ish) Bull Ring in Birmingham without a roof.

There’s no denying the novelty of finding that at the end of my usual bus route into town. It is slightly under whelming though to see so many of the same shops that are already in residence in Liverpool sometimes on a smaller scale and what seems like a general state of unreadiness There’s also a lot of clothes shops and since I can be quite comfortably described as Man at Asda when it comes to fashion I’m not the person to ask for a review of those. A Lakeland Plastics shop is opening soon though so at least I'll be able to get the latest pointless kitchen gadgets without having to travel all the way to Chester or wait for mail order catalogues.

Since John Lewis inhabited the old George Henry’s for so long, I’ve noticed that people are still calling the new edifice Lees even though it’s in an entirely new building. The Lees building was my first introduction to department stores and the best kind with all of its dead ends, massively inflated haberdashery department and old fashioned make up counters, oh and being in two different buildings and having to keep reminding yourself which building you were in.

In the new Lees (see, I’m doing it too) there’s none of that, the departments spread across the massive space, blocked out like a city, and even though there are maps available you don’t really need them, since every product area is visible from every other product area, the televisions from kitchenware, the stationary from china. Which was helpful today actually because on the couple of occasions I needed help and asked about spatula variety and Father’s Day card price coding (I'm a nightmare shopper) both of the assistants said that they weren’t in their proper department.

All veryuseful, but I can’t help but feel something’s been lost, an empty sense of history probably. No such problem with Debenhams of course and that’s very impressive with its black painted walls and central escalator/lift configuration. I was quite excited about Debenhams moving to Liverpool because I thought the last Debenhams I’d visited had also included a Muji within its walls. Then as I stood in the clothes department trying to decide if there really was someone called Ben Sherman (there was) I remembered that the Japanese gift shop is usually found in Selfridges.

But you know the best part of the visit? The hand driers. Both the visitor centre toilets and John Lewis have fitted Dyson Airblades; you put your sopping wet hands into a kind of metal socket and as you draw your fingers out, jets of warm air hit them from either side, shifting your skin on your bones (think Roger Moore's face at G-force during Moonraker). Dyson have a demonstration animation on their website and it looks like something from Bladerunner, which is apt. Am I wrong to think less of Debenhams because they haven't invested in any of these and have the boring old ones were you have to press a button? Less germs too.

Early days then and until the grand opening in September when the workmen have left the site and everyone (meaning the chains old and new and Oscar Schindler's cinema chain) have moved in, we’ll not really know the impact it’ll have on the city. Personally I’m a bit miffed that WH Smith is moving to the top end of Lord Street, will be half the size, have half the magazine selection and have the main Post Office within its walls. At least HMV’s opening a whole new extra shop and staying where they are on Bold Street, or my whole Thursday routine would really be broken. I’ll keep you posted on future developments. Literally.

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