The other day I passed a ‘car spares and accessories’ shop. Immediately I started thinking “I’m glad I don’t have any possible reason to have to go in there.” Then an old lady nearly pushed me so I forgot all about it.
But later on it did get me thinking about the shops my dad loved going in when I was a kid. He mostly liked man shops that sold things made of electricity and concrete. If I was with him on a shopping trip, I’d have to spend a lot of time looking at man things. I was fine with this, because I’d probably get a Wimpy out of it.
The following are shops that tend to attract dads like a magnet. Most of them sell magnets. That’s probably why.
Sells: 10m speaker wires. Speakers. Wires.
Do they sell toys? No, and if you try to play with the stuff you die from all the electricity.
Dad appeal: Strong. My dad was forever dragging me into Tandy, leaving me to examine the weird grey carpet while he stood marvelling at things made by Alba and Basf.
See also: Maplin. But we never went to Maplin so fuck off.
Sells: Video recorders. Old saxophone reeds. One DVD of Only Fools And Horses.
Do they sell toys? Sometimes. But they’re always behind glass cases or some other fucking place where you can’t reach them.
Dad appeal: Medium. My dad hardly ever bought anything from Cash Converters, but that didn’t stop him having to go in there every time we were out, to look at guitars. However, now I’m in my 30s, I can wait for him in the pub instead of attempting to be interested in the stuff people have pawned to pay the gas bill.
Sells: 10mm rawl plugs. 14mm rawl plugs. 16mm rawl plugs. Slabs.
Do they sell toys? Do they fuck. But they do have those trolleys, if you can get away from your parents long enough to steal one and have a go on it.
Dad appeal: Strong. B&Q was the bane of my small life. This was made worse by the fact that my mother loved B&Q as well, so I had two parents telling me not to “show them up” instead of one. I couldn’t even play in the mock-up display rooms they had, because I had to accompany my parents to look at brackets instead.
I don’t know why parents are so fascinated with Ronseal and allen keys, but they are.
Car accessory shops
Sells: Mats in various shades of grey. Pine tree air fresheners. Those stretchy cords with a hook on each end.
Do they sell toys? No. They sell lots of shiny things that look like they might be toys at first glance, but turn out to be wheel trims.
Dad appeal: Weak. We didn’t exactly have a pimpin’ car when I was a kid. We had an old Peugeot that apparently used to be light blue back when it had some paint on it. It also backfired every time it stopped/started/moved. This was a cause of much hilarity for my parents, but not for me, as I had to be picked up from school in it, leading to the other kids calling me a “gyppo”.
We did go in occasionally though; my dad would look at steering wheel covers, as if buying one would somehow improve our car and stop it embarrassing me all the time.
Sells: shock-corded tent poles. Mallets (specifically, Millets mallets). Sensible things.
Do they sell toys? Not really, although display tents are always fun to play in.
Dad appeal: Weak. I don’t remember ever setting foot in a Millets when I was a kid. We didn’t do camping; we had a static caravan in Ingoldmells. I suspect my dad would have been all over their selection of sensible clothing though. He once bought me a pair of “insulated golfing mitts”. I never did get to the bottom of why he gave me those.
Sells: Minidisc players. Curly wires. Amstrad.
Do they sell toys? No, but they did have those boxes of software, and they were always fun to look at. Usually called things like ‘Corel Graphics Pack’ and ‘Quicken’, but sometimes they had stuff about Batman or The Magic School Bus.
Dad appeal: Strong. My dad was forever in Dixons looking at the minidisc players. In his defence, back then he was a musician with thousands of backing tracks to store, so he at least had a reason to be looking at minidisc players. Also: floppy disks, packs of 1000 batteries, watching Richard and Judy with the sound off.