Manchester is a city that is rightly known for its shops. Home to the high-end thrills of Selfridges and Harvey Nichols, it also boasts one of the largest shopping centres in Europe: the Manchester Arndale. But rather than a fix of known labels and high-street shops, make time for the independents for which Manchester is known so well. Unsurprisingly, most of them are located in the independently-minded Northern Quarter.
If people are in the market for a gift, maybe something for the home, send them right to Fig and Sparrow. This shop on Oldham Street in the Northern Quarter sells limited run, Manchester-made and refreshingly affordable homewares, stationery and eclectic gifts. There’s also an artisan coffee shop at the back, the perfect place in which to consider purchases; and we’ve already mentioned the Manchester Craft & Design Centre, which is a similarly good option. Arty types won’t want to miss Fred Aldous: three floors of artist supplies, stationery, gifts, cards and wrap, craft items and everything anyone could ever need should they feel the urge to make something.
Other options for gifts and keepsakes in the Northern Quarter include Oklahoma: kitsch homewares, kooky gifts, jewellery and a café vie for attention in this busy little shop. Felt slippers, mid-century-esque vases, cards and Mexican badges all for the taking. Nearby, Magmasells magazines, design journals, books, stationery, cards and posters. In our experience it never fails to please the (normally terribly hard to please) design-minded.
For clothes, we like Oi Polloi on Thomas Street, an indie boutique that sells the sort of hard to source, beautifully made menswear that’s good enough to make women cry with jealousy. Meanwhile, women and men will both benefit from a rifle through the racks at neighbouring vintage shops like Cow and Oxfam Originals.
Some visitors really are just here for the music, and the record shops of the Northern Quarter are legendary. Piccadilly Records is a Manchester institution, this purveyor of vinyl needs little introduction, and is complemented by neighbouring mainstays Beatin’ Rhythm (soul and R&B) and Eastern Bloc (house/techno/world) – the latter has a cosy café that is something of an insider’s secret. We can personally vouch for the quality of the coffee and cake.
Just outside the Northern Quarter Paramount Books is a funky second-hand bookshop at Withy Grove that’s old school in every conceivable way – no frills, just some nicely aged literary thrills. For something to sip while reading a new book, it’s Hanging Ditch Wine Merchants. A slim little outfit tucked into a shop close to the cathedral, Hanging Ditch is stocked floor to ceiling with excellent wines. Visitors can drink a glass in the store or take a bottle home. Or if beer appeals more, craft beer specialist shop Beermoth on Tib Street will do the job – and their Meet the Brewer events in the basement are also popular.