IAt the London branch of TK Maxx on Kensington High Street, there are only two men on the menswear floor. It comes just days after Prince Harry revealed in his memoir Spare that he shopped for “everyday casual wear” at the designer discount chain. Similar to Harry’s “system,” which he explains in his book, the two “work up one rack and down the other” before standing in front of a mirror and holding their sweaters and jeans to their bodies instead of using changing rooms. Maybe the royal is up to something?
Before moving to California and sporting more polished looks with luxury brands like suits from Celine and Brioni, Harry took a more all-out approach to fashion. “Nice and comfortable,” he sums up in his book.
The designer discount giant offers shopping at its most basic level. He describes his shops as “no frills”. Clothing is simply divided into categories such as tops.
The retailer manages to keep its prices low, up to 60% below the suggested retail price, by buying current and past season inventory from manufacturers who overproduced and department stores who overbought.
Items and brands vary from store to store. But in the menswear department at the Kensington High Street store, Harry’s local branch, there are rails and rails of Ben Sherman plaid shirts (£27.99), Tommy Hilfiger jeans (£49.99) and polo shirts from Gant (£39.99). Harry’s ill-fitting shirts and baggy jeans circa 2013 suddenly make sense. There’s even a whole line of his favorite woven belts.
The staff will confirm that they are out of stock and never know what items are coming in. Instead, they receive a weekly delivery on Sunday (some stores receive daily) of stock, which they place directly from the truck on the shop floor.
All shelving is on wheels so managers can adjust the store layout to accommodate an ever-changing inventory.
Harry says he was shopping 15 minutes before closing time. Staff say the only time the shop is really busy is during the Christmas period, which they describe as “madness”. It’s more likely that Harry took the Supermarket Sweep approach, reducing the amount of time spent going through an endless amount of clothing with pieces crammed on top of each other.
Harry also claims that he “especially loved their once-a-year sale,” a quote that went viral with many questioning whether he really understood how the discount store worked.
A TK Maxx spokesperson said: “While we’re delighted that Prince Harry is a big fan, we thought we should explain that we don’t actually sell. Instead, we offer great value, style and savings all year round.”
In its defence, there is a clearance area near the men’s changing rooms on Kensington High Street with yellow price stickers offering even greater discounts. Think the £18 Ben Sherman Cable Shirt and the £24.99 Folk Cargo Pants. Very on brand for the late princes era.
Staff at the store confirmed that they had never actually seen Harry or any other members of the royal family. However, “The Love Island crew” are regulars and are thrilled to tell me they spotted musician Stormzy a few weeks ago.
The first UK TK Maxx to originate from the US, where it is known as TJ rather than TK, opened in Bristol in 1994. There are now 352 standalone stores, almost half of which are located in retail parks, representing a new way of shopping design pieces.
The UK’s sixth-biggest fashion group reported turnover of £2.1bn in September, compared with £1.3bn in 2021.
The chain has gained somewhat of a cult following over the years, particularly among the fashion crowd, and Harry’s comments will no doubt spark further interest.
Stylist Joseph Parker runs the Instagram account tkfashun, where he highlights the best weekly finds at the Oxford Street branch. Meanwhile, insiders say the Ealing store in west London is the best for Vivienne Westwood, while the Fort Shopping Park branch in Manchester always has plenty of Marc Jacobs.