Monday, 18 May 2009

Love it or hate it ? - Lakeland

I have long had a love-hate relationship with Lakeland (or as I still somehow want to call it, Lakeland Plastics). My kitchen drawers are replete with Lakeland gadgetry, the shelves of my home office are regimented by their plastic files and they have also begun to advance upon my garden.

Lakeland, founded in Windermere in the 1960s and now run by the founder's three sons, has mastered the art of the "I have to have that" factor in kitchen wizardry. Their colourful catalogue arrives complete with a chatty letter from Wendy, the Customer Ambassador, who has taken on the epistolary duties of Michelle the Marketing Director who sadly passed away a couple of years ago. When the catalogue lands on the doormat it is hard not to grab it and curl up on the sofa to test one's self control. Do I really need that bag to keep my potatoes fresh? Yes I know I keep meaning to take up baking, but if I splash out on a collection of non-stick bakeware will it languish untouched in the kitchen cupboard along with so many other symbols of my good intentions?

There is a lot to love about Lakeland - but also a lot to feel uneasy about. As well as providing some brilliant solutions to everyday problems, they are also creating needs that are so non-esssential as to be bordering on eccentricity. I often try to imagine the Lakeland "heavy user". She (for it is surely a she) must have the largest kitchen on the planet, with expansive worksurfaces to carry and display such must-have items as the Flexicado: "for getting the most out of an avocado", a collection of "ice cream sandwich moulds", a plastic banana guard, a plastic "avocado saver" (evidently very demanding of gadgetry are these avocados!), and my personal favoutite, the Tea Tool for squeezing your tea bags. There are bowls designed specially for storing berries, 3 in 1 pineapple slicers, strawberry hullers, herb mincing machines, corn strippers and lettuce shears (what's wrong with a pair of hands?). These types of gadgets are so specialist, that by the time you needed to use them you'd have forgotten you even had them.

So as a make and mender, I'm in two minds about Lakeland. They sell all the essentials to encourage a more creative and sustainable way of living, from making jam to growing spuds, but they also seem to be indulging our worst tendencies towards consumerism. What do you think?

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