The best stores in London for handbags

As a Londoner born and bred I like to think I know my way around the captial.  With a passion for bags I also like to bring you where’s best to shop; which store has the best selection of bags – who will over deliver in choice so you don’t won’t have sore feet at the end of the day.

On this blog you may have read I’ve headed to Knightsbridge to compare Harrods and Harvey Nics.  I’ve gone central and strolled the floors of Selfridges and Fenwick.  And now, as promised (albeit a few months ago), I’ve added two mid priced high street heavy weights to my comparison shopping list; John Lewis and House of Fraser.

They might seem a much of a muchness; both department stores; both started with roots in drapery, with John Lewis having nearly a 20 year head start on House of Fraser when it comes to defining its retail strategy.  So would you expect there to be little difference in their handbag offerings? Do you already have a favourite? If so which one?

First, get a brew on, and then sit and enjoy the stroll around these two department stores without getting out of your chair.  I’m glad to report, yes, expect two very different handbag shopping experiences between these two Oxford Street neighbours and here’s my guide on what to expect at their flagship stores, so you know where to head.

Quantity of bags to choose from

At a glance House of Fraser seemed to have more bags to choose from.  Honestly, it was too difficult to count the bags on offer; whilst both have their handbag departments on the ground floors, John Lewis seemed to have a lot more in and among the womenswear concessions on the first floor.

Having said that, House of Fraser had a healthy selection of bags in and among the shoe collections on their lower ground floor.  So if heading to Oxford Street be prepared to survey two floors in both stores to ensure you have viewed most of the bags.

Alice Temperley handbags at John Lewis
Alice Temperley bags at John Lewis on 1st Floor

If you want a more exact number of bags, let’s take it from the stores’ websites, both of which are important to these retailers as both feature in the top 10 of Retail Week’s 30 top multi-channel retailers. John Lewis features over 1830, however, House of Fraser comes out top with over 3700 bags.

I know, I can hear someone say what about quality not quantity.  So what is the measure of quality? Is it price?  Is it choice?  How about we let the handbag brands be the deciding factor.

Brands to choose from

Here I have taken the number of handbag brands featured in the handbag departments.  They vary less than expected; John Lewis has 15 and House of Fraser features 22. However, House of Fraser is much more spacious and easier to navigate.

Both stores have brands that are exclusive to them.  John Lewis features Kin, And/or, Modern Rarity and Etui.  At House of Fraser find Therapy, Maison de Nimes, Label Lab, Linea and Issa.

Designers to choose from

This is where House of Fraser beats John Lewis to the finish line.   Interestingly both stores feature some of the same designers; expect to see DKNY, Fiorelli, Ted Baker, Mulberry, Longchamp and Radley in both.

If you are a fan of Fiorelli, Radley and Longchamp head to John Lewis as the ranges are wider.  For DKNY, Ted Baker, Ralph Lauren and Mulberry, you will find more choice at House of Fraser.

Some of the differences are:

John Lewis has Dune, Coach, Fossil and Orla Kiely.

House of Fraser has Armani, Aspinal of London, Biba, Boss, Calvin Klein, Coccinelle, Furla, Guess, Lulu Guinness,



Best deals

All I can say is both these department stores are well know for offering great value.  John Lewis is known for its Black Friday promotion (diary date, this year 24 November) and House of Fraser has the Big Brand sale, when you are guaranteed a saving on the designer names.  My top tip: think of the trends this season and think of the aesthetic of your wardrobe.  And then decide where to head when the sales are on.


Any surprises

I’m not sure what House of Fraser is planning but I did notice some developments in the handbag area.  What is to come is still under wraps!

House of Fraser handbag department
What’s coming to House of Fraser’s handbag department

To sum up, House of Fraser has the quantity, the brands and more in the way of bag designers.  However, if John Lewis continues to grow this department and its exclusive brands, it may mean that your handbag shopping trip will feature both stores.

So tell me, which is your favourite?  John Lewis or House of Fraser?  Tell me in the comments below.

Happy shopping!


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