Hidden gems: here's a list of great things you can buy on local high streets

Words: Rosie Mullender, Senay Boztas and Lauren Bravo - The Guardian - 10:29 13-10-2020

This year, we’ve all been shopping closer to home, discovering or rediscovering our local high streets. And what we’ve found there has been something of a revelation: treasure troves of everyday hidden gems. So, to help inspire your own local lucky finds, here’s a showcase of secret discoveries from local high streets across the country, along with the shopkeepers who explain why they’re so passionate about stocking them.

La Anita achiote paste £1.95 for 110g

Discovered in La Tiendita, Fulham, London

Merchant: Sandra Vega Neri

Made from seasonings including annatto seeds, garlic and chilis, achiote paste was used by the Aztecs as a condiment, and is widely used in Mexican cooking, usually to complement meat. “It’s a very popular product here, because it’s used to make the most famous tacos in Mexico, tacos al pastor,” says Sandra Vega Neri, owner of La Tiendita, a Mexican food and candy shop. “[Many] of the ‘Mexican’ ingredients you’ll find in supermarkets are Tex-Mex, but in our shop all the ingredients we sell come from Mexico. Our sweets are very popular too, as they offer customers an unusual sweet-sour taste.”

Website: latiendita.co.uk

Address: 365 New King’s Rd, Fulham, London, SW6 4RJ

Europe-wide delivery available, terms and conditions apply.

Homemade pork pies with apple topping , £1.20 each

Discovered in Thompson’s Butchers , Northallerton, North Yorkshire

Merchant: Neil Hemingborough

The beauty of buying homemade pies from your local butcher is that you can enjoy first-rate food made with quality local ingredients, without any of the effort. And, in the case of the topped pork pies you’ll find in Thompson’s, Northallerton, the provenance of the meat is second to none. “We use fresh-cut pork from local farms within 25 miles of Northallerton, which means we can control what goes into them,” says shop manager Neil Hemingborough. “We also have our own bakehouse, where we cook them. The pork and apple pies are very popular – we sell 60 a day, and up to 100 at the weekend. They just fly out.”

Website: shopappy.com/northallerton/thompsons-butchers

Address: 125 High Street, North Yorkshire, DL7 8PQ

Local delivery available, terms and conditions apply.

Cruffins , £3.50 each

Discovered in Baltzersen’s, Harrogate, North Yorkshire

Merchant: Paul Rawlinson

Made from croissant dough shaped in a muffin tin, Baltzersen’s cruffins are this innovative cafe’s twist on the cronut. “We opened our off-site bakery just before lockdown, where we bake all our own bread and pastries,” says Paul Rawlinson, owner of the Baltserzen’s, which serves Scandanavian treats to a hungry public. “After being baked, our cruffins are topped with a different flavour each week – for instance, pineapple and coconut, topped with candied lime. It gives our bakers a chance to be creative, and we have customers who come in each week just to try out our new flavour.”

Website: baltzersens.co.uk

Address: 22 Oxford Street, Harrogate, HG1 1PU

Local delivery available, terms and conditions apply.

Pickled cucumbers , £4.50 for 350g

Discovered in The Angel Bakery, Abergavenny, Monmouthshire, Wales

Merchants: Polly Hunter and Sophie Kumar

Tucked on the shelves of The Angel Bakery, customers will find a range of pickles and jams that change with the seasons, and make the very most of local Welsh produce. “We make and sell our own preserves, pickles and chutneys, based on whatever’s in season,” says co-head baker Polly Hunter. “We currently offer blackcurrant jelly made with currants from a local supplier, and pickled cucumbers, which are made in our bakery and are a customer favourite.” Crunchy, sweet and aromatic, the pickles go perfectly with cheese, smoked salmon or cured meats, and customers will also find them used to delicious effect in the bakery’s hot and cold sandwiches.

Website: theangelbakery.com

Address: Lower Castle Street, Abergavenny, Monmouthshire, NP7 5EN

Local delivery available.

Freda’s Cornish sea salt peanut butter , £3.90 for 180g

Discovered in Great Cornish Food, Truro, Cornwall

Merchant: Ruth Huxley

Great Cornish Food is dedicated to bringing homegrown food to local customers, which means there are plenty of delicious treats to be uncovered inside – including Freda’s unique peanut butter, which comes in a range of gourmet flavours including Coconut and Chipotle Chilli. “Freda’s peanut butter is a massive success story in Cornwall and beyond, and our customers love this peanut butter,” says owner Ruth Huxley. “Our favourite is the Cornish sea salt peanut butter. The mellow saltiness from our coastal waters combines brilliantly with crunchy peanuts. It’s delicious with celery or apple and is a spectacular ingredient in chocolate brownies.”

Website: greatcornishfood.co.uk

Address: Tregurra Park, Newquay Road, Truro, Cornwall, TR1 1RH

Local delivery available, terms and conditions apply.

Afroart wool dryer balls , £15.50

Discovered in Hoos, Glasgow

Merchant: Karen Harvey

When sourcing brands for homeware store Hoos, owner Karen Harvey looks for standout qualities such as Fairtrade or traditional craftwork – and these dryer balls, supplied by Swedish company Afroart, tick all the boxes. “They’re a great innovation – put them in your tumble dryer and they’ll absorb a lot of the water, reducing the amount of energy you use,” says Harvey. “They really work, and children love playing with them too, so they’ve got two uses. They’re very popular with our customers – it’s something they might not have seen before.”

Website: hoosglasgow.co.uk

Address: 715 Great Western Road, Glasgow, G12 8QX

Worldwide delivery available, terms and conditions apply.

Midori XS glue tape , £4.50.

Discovered in Black Bough, Ludlow, Shropshire

Merchants: Adam Withington and Alex Barter

Thanks to this clever glue tape, wrestling with double-sided sticky tape is no longer a nightmare for those who prefer a precisely wrapped present. This pocket-sized lifesaver makes an ideal addition to the shelves of compact but much-loved local store Black Bough, whose philosophy is all about seeing beauty in everyday things. “If you’re wrapping presents, it’s a godsend,” says co-owner Adam Withington. “It works a bit like a Tippex dispenser – you can hold it in one hand and apply a strip of glue instead of fiddling around with double-sided tape. I used it myself just yesterday, actually. It’s very handy.”

Website: blackbough.co.uk

Address: 2 Market Street, Ludlow, Shropshire, SY8 1BP

UK delivery available, terms and conditions apply.

Harewood greeting card , £3

Discovered in Boggle Hole, Northallerton, North Yorkshire

Merchants: Andrew and Melanie Turner

Husband and wife team Andrew and Melanie Turner opened their gift shop with the aim of supporting as many local, independent small businesses as possible. So Folded Forest’s range of hand screenprinted cards, made on their doorstep in Yorkshire, seemed the perfect fit. “All our products are handmade, and Folded Forest makes beautiful cards, prints and tea towels,” says co-owner Melanie Turner. “This is the most popular card in their range, and we chose it because it’s so unusual – I just love the design.”

Website: boggleholeyorkshire.co.uk

Address: 3 Market Row (Barkers Arcade), Northallerton, DL7 8AN

UK delivery available, terms and conditions apply.

Utility Tin soy wax candle , £14

Discovered in The Botanical Candle Co, Shaftesbury, Dorset

Merchants: Amalia Pothecary and James Osborn

High-end candles usually have a matching, high-end price tag attached. But the candles produced at The Botanical Candle Co are eco-friendly, one-of-a-kind, and impressively priced. “We make all our candles ourselves onsite, in a studio above our shop,” says the shop’s aptly named co-owner, Amalia Pothecary. “It means we can offer something a bit different, and keep our prices competitive. The tins are made in the UK from recycled tin, so they’re especially popular with people trying to reduce their use of single-use plastics.” The latest scent developed by the pair is a woody, spicy candle called Late Summer. “The feedback we’ve had from customers has been incredible,” says Pothecary.

Website: thebotanicalcandleco.co.uk

Address: 6 The Commons, Shaftesbury, Dorset, SP7 8JU

UK delivery available, terms and conditions apply.

Portulacaria Afra, £8

Discovered in Prick, Hackney, London

Merchant: Gynelle Leon

Gynelle Leon opened the shop of her dreams when she found herself trawling London for succulents and cacti, and discovered that finding unusual specimens was a surprising challenge. “Even though there are thousands of varieties out there, I couldn’t easily find them to buy for myself,” says Leon. “This particular variety isn’t easy to find,” she says of the distinctive Portulacaria afra. “But the striking red stem contrasting with the lighter green leaves – which are round, and quite cute – make it a very attractive plant, and one that’s very popular with my customers.”

Website: prickldn.com

Address: 492 Kingsland Road, London, E8 4AE

UK delivery available, terms and conditions apply.

3 Metres of Facts tape measure , £4.99

Discovered in Bartrums, Hay-on-Wye, Brecknockshire

Merchant: Kate Brotherton-Ratcliffe

Kate Brotherton-Ratcliffe is the owner of Bartrums in Hay-on-Wye, which even smells like an old stationers. Her entire team is passionate about the carefully chosen stationery, fine pens and gifts on offer in her small, lovely shop. “We like to pick items that are quirky and a bit different, and although this tape measure is pocket-money price, it appeals to both children and adults,” says Brotherton-Ratcliffe. “It’s traditional and practical, but with a twist: along its length, you’ll find facts such as the size of the largest recorded human foot, and the height of the queen. And three metres is a lot of facts!”

Website: bartrums.co.uk

Address: 2 Lion Street, Hay-on-Wye, HR3 5AA

Worldwide delivery available, terms and conditions apply.

Rafi’s chai masala , £1.95

Discovered in Rafi’s Spicebox in Sudbury, Suffolk

Merchants: Kevin and Lee Fernandez

“Chai is an essential part of Indian daily life, and every family community makes it slightly differently,” says Rafi’s managing director Kevin Fernandez. “Our recipe comes from Rafi, our founder who grew up in Hyderabad, south India, and uses fragrant spices such as cardamom and cloves as well as fresh ginger.”

The late Rafi Fernandez started the store in 1989 and it is now run by her two sons, Kevin and Lee, who are about to open their 10th site. Kevin adds: “On my most recent trip to India, chai was extremely welcoming on a 14-hour train journey bought from chai wallahs [Indian term for a tea salesperson] for less than 10p.”

Website: spicebox.co.uk

Address: 77 North Street, Sudbury, Suffolk, CO10 1RF (and nine other sites)

UK and international delivery available, terms and conditions apply.

Pretender Single Origin Decaf Guatemala coffee , £10

Discovered in The Gentlemen Baristas, Borough, London

Merchants: Henry Ayers and Edward Parkes

When Henry Ayers and Edward Parkes launched their “well-mannered” coffee house in 2014, they had a mission. “We said from day one that the decaf had to be as good as any other coffee, because modern methods can preserve a lot of the integrity and the flavour of the coffee bean,” says Parkes. The coffee is sourced in Guatemala, decaffeinated using the Swiss water process in Canada and roasted in London’s Shadwell to give a bean with notes of caramel, cherry and dark chocolate. “The process doesn’t harm the environment, and in a blind taste fools anybody: my neighbour was drinking it for the past year, thinking it was caffeinated,” says Ayers.

Website: thegentlemenbaristas.com

Address: 63 Union St, London SE1 1SG, and four other locations of its nine sites currently open (see Facebook page for updates)

UK, EU and American delivery available, terms and conditions apply.

Tideswell tea , £2.85 for 30g

Discovered in Cup & Saucer, Chesterfield, Derbyshire

Merchant: Gail Hannan

The Tideswell tea is one of a range inspired by Lake District towns, created by Gail Hannan. “Tideswell is famous for the lime it produces so this is a black tea, with lime leaves, dried lime peel and pieces,” she says. “It’s refreshing, nice hot or with ice on a summer’s day.” She sources ingredients locally wherever possible, although the black tea comes from China and India and the limes are from the local greengrocer. “I haven’t yet found anyone who grows limes – or pineapple or coconut – in Derbyshire!”

Website: cupandsauceronline.co.uk

Address: 132 High Street. Clay Cross, Chesterfield, Derbyshire S45 9EE

UK delivery available, terms and conditions apply.

Eat Your Face Gift Box , £22

Discovered at Miss Macaroon in Birmingham, West Midlands

Merchant: Rosie Ginday

This sweet-treat baker invests its profits into its programme to train young people, ex-offenders, care leavers and people with mental health or learning issues in catering skills. “The ‘eat your face’ macaroons were created in response to customer demand,” says founder Rosie Ginday. “A corporate client had placed a large order of logo-printed macaroon gift bags and asked to print some pictures for a friend’s birthday in a gift box. We turned it into a product everyone could buy. We’ve had some hilarious pictures: my favourites were the ones printed with four different pictures of a customer’s pet llama.”

Website: missmacaroon.co.uk

Address: 8 Great Western Arcade, Colmore Row, Birmingham, B2 5HU

UK delivery available, terms and conditions apply.

Vegan brownie variety box , £18

Discovered at Love Brownies, Barden, North Yorkshire

Merchants: Lee and Chantal Teal

“Having an indulgent vegan range is extremely important, as I want everyone to be able to enjoy our brownies,” says founder and head baker Chantal Teal. “We source the finest ingredients for all of our products, locally where possible, and the rich, fudgy texture of the vegan treats makes them a firm favourite with anyone wanting an intense hit of chocolate.”

Last year the vegan coconut brownie, baked at the Brownie Barn in the heart of the Yorkshire Dales, even won a Great British Food award.

Website: lovebrownies.co.uk

Address: The Brownie Barn, Howgill Lane, Barden, BD23 6DJ, plus nine other locations

UK delivery available, terms and conditions apply.

Rose Petal Tea, £1.49 for 30g

Discovered at Persepolis Food Stores, Peckham, south-east London

Merchants: Sally Butcher and Jamshid Golshan Ebrahimi

“Rose petals are put in lots of teas in Iran,” says Sally Butcher, who also recommends sprinkling rose petals everywhere from your bathwater to the top of your smoothies and desserts. “There’s even unproven wisdom that they are the Persian love tea, but adding them to anything is instant happiness!”

They are just one of the treats and curiosities available in Persepolis, which is both a food store and restaurant founded by married couple Butcher and Jamshid Golshan Ebrahimi.

Website: foratasteofpersia.co.uk

Address: 28-30 Peckham High Street, London, SE15 5DT

UK delivery available, also international by contacting the store directly. Terms and conditions apply.

Wheely Great Reads Bike Week Book List , from £5.99, full set £57.72

Discovered in Mr B’s Emporium Bookshop in Bath, Somerset

Merchant: Nic and Juliette Bottomley

Mr B’s, run by Nic and Juliette Bottomley, has twice been named the UK’s best independent bookshop at the British Book Awards and specialises in guiding customers to fantastic reads. “What you get from a bookshop is discovery, so our shop and website are very much based around picking out books for people and drawing attention to books they don’t necessarily see anywhere else,” says Nic. They curated this list of bike-related books for kids of all ages to mark this year’s Bike Week. “I particularly like The Boy Who Biked The World by Alastair Humphreys, an adventure cyclist. This year, the lists have been particularly important as for a time we were running the business from the kitchen table!”

Website: mrbsemporium.com

Address: 14-15 John Street, Bath, BA1 2JL

UK and international delivery available, terms and conditions apply.

Frugi Little Norah tights, Scots Pine , £12

Discovered in Tinkers & Belles, Beaumaris, Wales

Merchant: Zoe Grant

This “shop for little people” has stocked Cornish organic kids’ clothing brand Frugi since day one. “My love affair began with a pair of Frugi tights given to my daughter long before I had opened my shop,” says owner Zoe Grant. “They seemed to match everything, made outfits even brighter and suited her sunny nature perfectly. These ones can’t help but put a smile on your face – there’s an entire farmyard scene on a pair of tights! Creative genius!” Customers and holidaymakers are back to the seaside town of Beaumaris, and she says that these responsibly-sourced tights are walking off the shelves.

Website: tinkersandbelles.com

Address: 15 Castle Street, Beaumaris, Isle of Anglesey, LL58 8AP

UK delivery available, terms and conditions apply.

Threadbear Design Fred’s farm apron , £9.95

Discovered in Ele and Me, Wells-next-the-Sea, Norfolk

Merchant: Andrea Golding

These wipe-clean aprons appeal to active kids, while saving their clothes (and several washes). “They are made of an oil cloth material and can be used for cooking, painting, messy play, muddy play – and they are easy to put on,” says Andrea Golding, owner of the shop Ele and Me, which she runs with the help of her mother, Shirley. “They are really fun and my customers love them! They keep clothes tidy, and children want to wear them.” Manufacturer Threadbear is a British company from Lincolnshire.

Website: eleandme.com

Address: 1 Bolts Close, Wells-next-the-Sea, Norfolk, NR23 1JP

UK delivery available, terms and conditions apply.

Teddy the Tiger 24-piece mini puzzle , £3

Discovered at Mooch Gifts and Home, Wyre Forest, Worcestershire

Merchant: Jon May and Luke Jacks

Winners of a string of local and national awards for small businesses, Mooch Gifts & Home has two high street stores in Stourport-on-Severn and Bewdley, particularly promoting British designers and producers. “The Teddy the Tiger puzzle is a fun, bright children’s jigsaw puzzle, great value for money and guaranteed to keep youngsters entertained putting it together,” says co-founder Jon May, who runs the stores with Luke Jacks. “It was one of a collection of both children’s and adult jigsaw puzzles launched during lockdown.”

Website: moochgiftsandhome.co.uk

Address: 5 High Street, Stourport-on-Severn, DY13 8DH, and 56 Load Street, Bewdley, Worcestershire, DY12 2AP

UK delivery and click-and-collect from stores available, terms and conditions apply.

Goki pellet drum , £7

Discovered at Luna & Curious, Shoreditch, London

Merchant: Polly George, Kharou Parry and Rheanna Lingham

The sound of this drum will bring parents a welcome rush of rejuvenating nostalgia, thinking about the drum in the original The Karate Kid Part II, and prove irresistible to modern-day children as well. Rheanna Lingham, one of the three co-founders of this miniature department store, is a big fan. “Everyone who is in the shop cannot walk past without picking it up,” she says. “It’s a nice noise, though: parent-friendly, not too loud, and part of a range that fits with our ethos of beautiful, responsibly-made products that are also made to last.”

Website: lunaandcurious.com

Address: 24-26 Calvert Avenue, Shoreditch, London, E2 7JP

UK delivery, terms and conditions apply.

Poppik Giant Poster Street Art , £15

Discovered in Bon Tot, Edinburgh, Scotland

Merchant: Kristina Currie

Bon Tot promises fresh, modern and ethically-made products for kids and it is continually scouring the world for new gems such as this sticker art collection. “This poster is fantastic because it is like a puzzle but with stickers, with elements of painting by numbers too,” says co-owner Kristina Currie, who has been offering a click-and-collect service for local customers and using the store as a warehouse for internet orders. “The posters are French and have only just been introduced to the UK market, but the feedback is that young children are spending a lot of time with them.”

Website: bon-tot.com

Address: 46 St Stephen Street, Edinburgh, EH3 5AL

Local and international delivery available, terms and conditions apply.

SEAMS hand cream , £14

Discovered in The Stamford Fabric Company, Stamford, Lincolnshire

The merchant: Lucy Findlay

The perfect balm for palms ravaged by hand sanitiser, fast-absorbing SEAMS was originally developed for milliners who needed a hand cream that wouldn’t leave greasy marks on fabric – making it popular on both sides of the till at The Stamford Fabric Company. “It’s an absolutely brilliant product, even if you don’t sew!” says Lucy Findlay. “We always keep a tube open in the shop.” The fourth owner of this Lincolnshire haberdashery, Findlay was also one of its very first customers back in 1983. “I’d like to think that we have become as much a service to local people as a shop,” she says.

Website: thestamfordfabriccompany.com

Address: 10 Stamford Walk, Stamford, Lincolnshire, PE9 2JE

UK shipping and local delivery available, terms and conditions apply.

Holy Water Mountain bath salts , £15

Discovered in A Slower Space, Liverpool

The merchants: Michelle and Mike Waterfield

If Lennon and McCartney were writing Penny Lane today, they’d need to find a rhyme for A Slower Space. Located on the iconic Liverpool street, this eco-conscious lifestyle store encourages shoppers to take time out, take a breath – and perhaps take a bath, too. “As soon as we found Holy Water we immediately fell in love with the products,” says Michelle Waterfield, who runs the shop with husband Mike. Handmade in Devon, the bath salts are a bewitching blend of Himalayan pink salt, Australian pink clay, organic yarrow flower and rose oil. More importantly, “they smell like Turkish delight”. We’re sold.

Website: pennylanelifestylestore.co.uk

Address: 38 Penny Lane, Liverpool, L18 1DG

UK delivery available, terms and conditions apply.

Thinx period pants , £28-36

Discovered in Sancho’s, Exeter, Devon

The merchant: Kalkidan Legesse

Kalkidan Legesse discovered this comfy, sustainable alternative to tampons “after having a dream about reusable period pants” and Googling to see if her idea already existed. It did, and for the past 18 months her ethical Exeter fashion store has been stocking Thinx and sparking conversations. “The most enlightening thing has been seeing that left to themselves, women will design products with no compromise and full candour,” she says. “Our customers love them, as do I.” Sancho’s gives customers the choice of two different prices, so those with deeper pockets can make the pants more affordable for others.

Website: sanchosshop.com

Address: 117 Fore St, Exeter, EX4 3JQ

Worldwide delivery available, terms and conditions apply.

Nutscene Scots Oats and Honey soap , £4.99

Discovered in The Longship, Kirkwall, Orkney

The merchant: Ingrid Tait

“In a place as small as Orkney, you have to be good to your customers,” says Ingrid Tait. “Word soon gets around if you’re not!” Luckily, The Longship has a loyal fanbase, having been at the heart of the island community since the shop was founded by her great-great-grandparents in 1859. Five generations later, it’s still full of treasures – such as this sweetly scented soap, handmade in rural Angus county by a company best known for its garden twine. “What could be more Scottish than oats and honey?” says Tait. “All you need is raspberries and whisky and you have cranachan pudding.”

Website: thelongship.co.uk

Address: 7-15 Broad Street, Kirkwall, Orkney, KW15 1DH

Worldwide delivery available, terms and conditions apply.

Iris Hantverk biodegradable wooden toothbrush , £6.50

Discovered in KIN, Moseley, Birmingham

The merchants: Lewis Jenkins and Neil Houston

Handmade by visually impaired craftspeople in Sweden and Estonia, Iris Hantverk’s chic biodegradable toothbrush aims to have a social impact, not just an environmental one. We discovered it at KIN, an oasis of Scandi calm just outside the UK’s second city, Birmingham. Founders Lewis Jenkins and Neil Houston source their stock from designers and makers around the world, but everything is tried and tested in Birmingham. “Our own home is filled with the lovely pieces we curate, so we have a passion for each and every one,” says Jenkins.

Website: kinhome.co

Address: 10 St Mary’s Row, Moseley, Birmingham, B13 8JG

UK and Europe delivery available, terms and conditions apply.

Lucia Loves Citrus Whip Organic Hair and Body Butter , £2.50

Discovered in Moor Hair, Walthamstow, London

The merchant: Ebony Janes

If necessity is the mother of invention, Ebony Janes is living proof. Having struggled to find natural products to care for her daughter’s afro hair, she helped set up family business Moor Hair to fill the gap. Everything the shop sells is certified 100% organic – but the jewel in its crown is Lucia Loves, a hair and skincare range developed by her daughter Lucia when she was only 14 years old. Citrus Whip is a lusciously scented blend of raw ingredients sourced directly from Ghana, in packaging also designed by Lucia (now 18). “I’m super proud,” says her mum. “She’s the coolest kid you’ll ever meet.”

Website: moorhair.co.uk

Address: 375b Hoe Street, Walthamstow, London, E17 9AP

Worldwide delivery available, terms and conditions apply.

The Women Who Built Bristol Vol.2 , £13

Discovered in CoLab, Bristol

The merchant: Andrea Mahoney

The untold stories of women could fill volumes. That’s the message of the Women Who Built Bristol series, which features Bristolian Olympians, bootmakers, suffragists, scientists and 38 women called Mary (among others). We found the book at CoLab, which has been showcasing local artists, designers and innovators for almost a decade. “This second in the series digs further into the roots of Bristol from a female perspective,” says owner Andrea Mahoney. “Without these incredible women from a huge range of backgrounds, the city that we know and love would be a very different place indeed.”

Website: bristolcolab.com

Address: 123 Gloucester Road, Bristol, BS7 8AX

UK delivery available, terms and conditions apply.

Toots & The Maytals Limited Edition Vinyl , £22.99

Discovered in Pie & Vinyl, Southsea, Hampshire

The merchant: Steve Courtnell

Southsea’s Pie & Vinyl is “a sensory experience”, says Steve Courtnell – who opened his mash-up record store and cafe in 2012, with the dream of creating a community music hub that looked, sounded, smelled and tasted better than anything internet downloads could provide. Alongside the mushy peas and gravy, you’ll find choice cuts such as Got To Be Tough, the final release from legendary reggae artist Frederick “Toots” Hibberts. “Toots was making incredible music for 60-odd years,” says Courtnell. “This version is an olive green LP, highly limited – but just listen to it. It’s a special album. A true legend in so many ways.”

Website: pandvrecords.co.uk

Address: 61 Castle Rd, Southsea, PO5 3AY

UK delivery available, terms and conditions apply.

A Surprise Read , £8.99

Discovered in Mr B’s Emporium, Bath, Somerset

The merchants: Nic and Juliette Bottomley

During lockdown, when supply chains were slow and browsing serendipity was in short supply, this Bath bookshop came up with a novel way to capture its customers’ imaginations: surprise reads. Just choose your mood, from uplifting comedy to sci-fi dystopia, and the team at Mr B’s Emporium will do the rest. “A lot of people have found solace in gifting themselves a little surprise through the letterbox,” says Nic Bottomley, who has run the shop with his wife Juliette since 2006. Mr B doesn’t claim psychic powers, but customer feedback suggests otherwise. “One woman ordered three in a row – we kept nailing it.”

Website: mrbsemporium.com

Address: 14-15 John Street, Bath, BA1 2JL

UK delivery available, terms and conditions apply.

Boys Don’t Cry Butcher Billy Giclée print , £25

Discovered in Avalanche Records, Edinburgh, Scotland

The merchant: Kevin Buckle

Boys don’t cry, but musos might weep over this graphic reimagining of the Cure hit by cult Brazilian artist Butcher Billy. With only 100 made, stocking the print was a coup for Avalanche Records, a stalwart on Edinburgh’s music scene since the mid-1980s. “We have always tried to bring interesting things to people’s attention,” says owner Kevin Buckle, who had a surprise visit from the artist when he was in town to design the poster for 2020’s Edinburgh Fringe. “While Billy has many followers on social media, his work is still quite niche, so his prints make great gifts for fans.” The festival may have been cancelled, but the show goes on.

Website: avalancherecords.co.uk

Address: Waverley Mall, 3 Waverley Bridge, Edinburgh, EH1 1BQ

UK delivery available, terms and conditions apply.

Rappers Tea light mug by Kazvare Knox , £11.95

Discovered in Diverse, Brixton, south London

The merchant: Anita Thorpe

Founded 21 years ago as a stall on Brixton market, Anita Thorpe has grown her business into a creative hub that nurtures local talent and champions black artists, writers and makers from across the world. This Rappers Tea light mug by local illustrator Kazvare Knox features hip-hop legends Biggie Smalls, Jay-Z, Tupac and Drake. “I chose it because I love the humour in Kazvare’s work, and also because it features some great black male icons – something you rarely see in giftware,” says Thorpe.

Website: diversegifts.co.uk

Address: 390 Coldharbour Lane, Brixton, London SW9 8LF

UK delivery available, terms and conditions apply.

Beneficial Shock! film magazine , £10

Discovered in Magalleria, Bath, Somerset

The merchants: Daniel McCabe and Susan Greenwood

A magazine shop might sound quaint in our digitised times, but business is thriving at Magalleria, where Bath locals can replenish their racks with about 1,500 different mags from around the world. One title you won’t find at your local newsagent is Beneficial Shock!, a bold, bi-annual film mag created by illustrator Phil Wrigglesworth and designer Gabriel Solomons. “It operates away from the grind of dealing with cyclical film releases, opting instead to explore offbeat cinematic themes using both fine-art illustration and humour,” explains the shop’s co-owner Daniel McCabe. Cool, entertaining and collectable, it’s a treat for film freaks and design geeks alike.

Website: store.magalleria.co.uk

Address: 22A Broad Street, Bath, BA1 5LN

Worldwide delivery available, terms and conditions apply.

Third party products mentioned in this article are not Visa products and are not associated with Visa or endorsed by Visa in any way. All prices accurate as of publication on 13 October