Leeds Loves Shopping…

This is the brand for a 10 day ‘fashion lover’s festival’ to be held in the city in October.

Just think about that as a brand.  Something to be known for.  A perception to be planted in heads around the world….


‘Oh yes, that’s the place that loves shopping

‘Sounds interesting! Why don’t we go there and spend some of our hard earned….’

The fact is that many of us don’t love it.  Hate is probably a more accurate description of our relationship to ‘shopping’.

Some for the mind numbing tedium that it induces.

Others because of its role in driving consumption, environmental degradation and sexualisation of society.

Still more because of debt.

So for a large chunk of Leeds residents this brand leaves a bad taste in the mouth.

It is just not true.

‘We’ are telling a little white lie to help drive our retail economy.

I wonder what else we will tell little white lies about if it delivers the holy grail of economic growth?

And who are the ‘we’ in this case?

As far as I can make out it is a partnership between Leeds City Council’s marketing team and a group of retailers.   I am OK with my relationship with one of these being ‘caveat emptor’….but the other, well, I would quite like to trust them.

Now I suspect we paid a lot for the Leeds Loves… brand and the whole ‘Leeds. Live It. Love It.’ campaign.  But does it give us more than a neat line to attract outsiders to come and throw their money at us?

  • Does it gives a brand that we can rally a diverse community around?
  • Does it open up space for conversation and dialogue?
  • Or does it just provide a set of ready-made assertions that mean we don’t have to work too hard to get our messages out?

Just to be clear, I have no problem with some kind of fashion and retail festival being used to pull in the crowds.  I’d prefer my city to be known for things other than its retail offer, but we are where we are.  Pragmatically, perhaps, it makes sense.

But ‘Leeds Loves Shopping’.  Really?


  1. Hi Mike

    Thank you for saying this. I enjoy fashion, design and style, but not ‘shopping’. If the tag/company/concept was ‘Leeds Loves Fashion’ or ‘Leeds Loves Style’ I believe there would be space for the diverse community and conversations to grow around it, due to our artistic student and graduate population, independent designer/retailers and vintage and charity shop loves.

    However, ‘Leeds Loves Shopping’ conjures up too many images of mindless consumerism of anonymous products. Like the staff room mugs that scream ‘Shop til you drop!’, ‘Leeds Loves Shopping’ as a brand encourages a lack of understanding and engagement with both the products that the individual is consuming and their role (and positive power) as an economic cog.

    We don’t like the activity by itself, as ‘Leeds Loves Shopping’ suggests: we like it when it is for something, with someone, around an area. We’re encouraged to ‘shop local’ and ‘shop organic’ for our food suppliers: so why not ‘shop independent’ for our style supplies?

    The best things about retailers in Leeds – primarily independent or small retailers – are their diversity, passion, excitement and determination. ‘Shopping’, the activity that induces ‘mind numbing tedium’ as you point out, doesn’t communicate any of this. It’s like the Primark of crap brands: cheap and faceless.


  2. philkirby says:

    Does that mean neither of you are coming to The Corn Exchange this evening? Aw, come on, there’s canapes and everything . . . Goodie bags? Everyone loves a goodie bag . . . no?

  3. I am saddened that something which aims to create a positive atmosphere in the city should be so damned before it has even started. I have worked with retailers across the city for many years, and am fully aware of the challenges faced by both Leeds City Council and Marketing Leeds when creating events such as Leeds Loves Shopping.
    Leeds Loves Fashion, Leeds Loves Style – both fantastic suggestions but aren’t they a little exclusive? What about non-fashion retailers? Surely it is the Council’s job to be as inclusive as possible?
    Everyone shops; you might not like it, or celebrate it, but you do it, probably every day of the week. Shopping hasn’t become a dirty word just because the country is in a recession. Agreed, times are tough for everyone, but that doesn’t stop us from buying little luxuries where we can. There are a lot of people (myself included) who are working incredibly hard to deliver a series of events which will be interesting and informative. I am not getting paid to deliver these events – I’m doing it because I am hugely passionate about the city in which I live, and about the fantastic retail offer we have; from small, independent boutiques to the fashion powerhouses within the Victoria Quarter. I would suggest you look at the event being staged by Birds Yard, an independent vintage shop which has recently opened near Leeds City Markets. The shop is vast, over three floors, and every nook and cranny goes against your statement about ‘driving consumption, environmental degradation and sexualisation of society’. It’s vintage, it’s resouceful – one of the stores inside the shop makes cufflinks from old typewriter keys, another lovingly restored furniture. It’s giving opportunity to budding young designers, flexibility to working mothers and, above all, provides a vital, hands on education in retail to those who cannot afford sprawling square footage.
    Leeds is a fantastic city for shopping – the shops and those who own and run them are an asset to the city, so why shouldn’t we celebrate them? I for one will be attending as many of these lovingly created events as possible, and supporting Leeds Loves Shopping every step of the way. If there are negative comments to be made post-evet then so be it – but let’s do it in a constructive way which will help improve future events in our wonderful city.

  4. Refreshing and Lovely to read Sam Wards comments on this article. I am a working Mum, with a Shop at Birds Yard. Having moved out of The Fashion Industry into that of the smaller and more intimate trade of recycling what – we have already manufactured. And encouraging young artists to create their talents for the Local Community. I run this business with my son who is a full time Student at Leeds University. The future of my family is that of a venture such like Birds Yard, and one of my reasons for moving from The West Midlands to start a new life in the glorious suburbs of Leeds!

  5. The headline on this blog led me to read it, even though I know nothing about Leeds. (Now I know a little, so thanks, commenters!)

    Sounds to me like a word-smithing problem. Our thought (we are website producers happening to meet today) would be to proceed with the first festival and then to find a more innovative and catchy title for the next one. It’s not that your community loves shopping (show me one that doesn’t, if people have extra money), but that visitors will find unique, creative, and artful shopping opportunities. Can you add something more thought-provoking and culturally useful to the mix next year? If so, do it, and if not, just re-name to be more inventive.

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