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Secret Shopper: Norwich's historic Jarrold department store

Sophie Smith
01 January 1970

Through the reigns of nine monarchs, two world wars and the changing world of retail, Jarrold has operated as a family run business since 1770. Since 1823, the brand has been located at the heart of Norwich city centre. Today, Jarrold offers customers a range of menswear, womenswear, homeware and beauty products. In addition to its department store, Jarrold owns a few other outlets in Norwich, as well as shops in Wymondham and Cromer.

For our latest Secret Shopper, headed to Norwich's historic Jarrold to see how this standalone department store is enticing customers and keeping the business alive today as one of the few remaining independently run department stores in the UK.


Jarrold is located opposite Norwich's popular outdoor market, an area often bustling with people. The store is also a short distance from the city's Chantry Place and Castle Quarter indoor shopping centres. While Chantry Place will entice shoppers with its contemporary interior and vast range of shops and restaurants, Jarrold's outdoor location is still complimented by other brands in the area including Primark and The Body Shop.

Jarrold, Norwich

Windows & Entrance

Jarrold's long history is visible through the store's exterior. In fact, Jarrold hasn't moved from its current location on London Street since 1840, where the business gradually expanded its square footage until 2004. The main entrance has a particularly historical appearance, with stone columns and branded flags flying from the top of the building.

However, not all of the building is as extravagant as the main entrance. That's where the store benefits from seasonal window displays, showcasing its current SS22 collections. The windows were filled with bright Spring colours, which drew attention away from the fairly dull exterior above.

Adding a more modern aspect to the building, MAC Cosmetics and Jo Malone are housed around the side with their own dedicated entrances into the store. The large windows offer a preview into the modern interiors of both concessions, which was quite enticing.

Jarrold, Norwich

The Store-fit & Displays

As I entered the store, I was greeted by Jarrold's beauty hall. While it wasn't huge, the beauty space housed a good selection of premium beauty brands with an equally good selection of products. This area was engaging and well presented, with beauty counters for each brand adding a contemporary and more luxury feel to the space.

Menswear was located on the ground floor with beauty, while womenswear was on the first floor. The displays were typical for a department store, with brands dotted around the space with their dedicated areas. I particularly enjoyed the store's local marketplace space on the ground floor. While it was not all fashion or beauty products, it seemed a nice way to support small businesses and show some love to the area Jarrold calls home.

The Service & Try-on experience

It wasn’t long before I was approached by a sales assistant while browsing the NARS makeup counter. After explaining what I was looking for, the beauty rep immediately recommended a product that best matched my preferences. The employee seemed knowledgeable and after learning more about the product, I was offered a shade match. I sat down in the chair, while she selected a couple of different samples. At the end I wasn’t quite ready to purchase the product, so was offered a small sample pot to take home and try. This was really helpful, as I didn’t have to commit there and then to a quite expensive foundation. However, she was helpful enough that if I did decide to purchase it, I would likely return to buy it there.

The Product Range

Jarrold features a range of typical womenswear brands, those you would commonly find in a traditional high street department store. Located on the second floor, the brands include Reiss, Hobbs, Whistles, Phase Eight and LK Bennett. As a younger shopper, I felt the fashion wasn't really aimed at me. However, I know that this would likely be the same at other department stores such as M&S, John Lewis or even the former Debenhams stores. Menswear was slightly more diverse, with a broader range of brands including Truss, All Saints, Tommy Hilfiger and Charles Clinkard.

The store's beauty offering was more universal and therefore, where I spent most of my time. While the store lacked more affordable brands, this made Jarrold's slightly more upmarket demographic quite apparent. Brands including Clinique, Dior, YSL, Chanel, NARS and Charlotte Tilbury all offered a nice selection of cosmetics. Slightly away from the makeup brands, was skincare and fragrance, with a nail bar and Sana Brow Studio lash and brow bar making nice additions too.

Jarrold is mostly what you would expect from a typical British high street department store. With the closure of all Debenhams stores in 2021 and even House of Fraser struggling over the past two years, you could wonder how this independent store has faired during the pandemic. Still standing today, Jarrold is clearly doing something right. Perhaps, Jarrold's sentimental value makes it a favourite for some of Norwich's locals. Alternatively, it offers visitors a different department store that they cannot experience elsewhere in the UK. Either way, the store benefits from its modern aspects to meet the desires of today's shopper, balanced with nods to its history - which forms an important part of the brand's identity.

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