A crisp and clear October evening. Stepping out beneath a sky draped like an ink-dipped blanket across the heavens, studded with glimmers of glinting stars, with swirls of leaves in pale and molten hues all around and the dim glow and misty gaze of an amber demi-lune above. It is a Tuesday night and I am on my way into town, to the newest Birmingham branch of Neal’s Yard Remedies, which has recently opened within the new Grand Central complex in the city centre. I was very kindly invited along by the staff on the other side of the Twitter page to attend a blogger event tonight with the aim of introducing the city to the store: I did my fair share of social media snooping beforehand, but knowing about the event, one way or another I had to go.
Neal’s Yard Remedies is a brand that is very familiar to me and close to my heart. Having made numerous trips to the flagship Covent Garden store as a teenager and young adult, its new presence in my home city is a very evocative and personal one. I find it an incredibly positive thing, for residents of Birmingham and those passing through it on a journey now being able to have the opportunity to experience it in such a direct way, as the store lies in reach within the new Grand Central shopping centre, in a unit that once belonged to the old Pallasades. I have not been here for a while, but from the little time I have already spent in the new branch, it is apparent that the ethos and integrity rooted in the brand have not changed and it feels as free and accessible as it ever did.
For those who are not familiar, Neal’s Yard Remedies is a health and beauty brand whose integral focus is natural, fairtrade and organic body care made from ethically-sourced ingredients. Nearly thirty-four years on from its conception, I am pleased to know that the approach to holistic healthcare and veritable apothecary aura have been retained with unwavering dignity and, continue to be articulated in the value of the products. As far as health and beauty brands go, Neal’s Yard expresses what I consider to be a complete approach to overall health as the products cater to both inner and outer well-being, which is a quality that I find lacking in a lot of other similar retailers, as it is seldom considered a relevant or pertinent thing. This constitutional harmony is channelled in the new store itself, as it carries within it a truly well-balanced feel, a tangible vibe of inner and outer calm, decorated with elegance in keeping with the nature of its products and the world from which they derive. The air is clean, as is the aesthetic, fragrant with the light and familiar scents of distinctly Neal’s Yard infusions, recognisable and reassuring in a manner that makes you want to smell like them all the time, a true herbal symphony and remedial in every way. It really is an atmosphere condusive to calm, which, for a small store in the middle of a commuters’ common and whirlwind of commerce at the heart of Birmingham’s burgeoning retail centre, is truly a confident assertion.
I milled around for quite some time, taking photographs and sipping on the cooling matcha and mint mocktail that I was given by Sunayah, whom I thank for her lively correspondences leading up to the event. I had a look at the products in place, probably doing a few laps of the store while doing so, eyeing and sensing my way around. I tried on a dot of the Garden Mint & Bergamot Hand Lotion, enriched with those essential oils that I love and an aroma so entrancing that my husband kept sniffing my wrists on the way home- I would say steady on, but I was glued to my hands also, so it was very much a joint affair. Gliding my way across the stands, I enjoyed a spritz of the heady Frankincense Eau De Parfum which, to anyone who knows me well, is a real dream of a scent. It came through slightly more masculine than its initial note, but that may be how it wears on my skin- I didn’t adore it any less, however, and placed it into the mental list I have of ‘things to get’ when I can afford. Money-permitting, I would buy most things in the store as there are few infusions, I believe, that wouldn’t be of benefit to me in some way; knowing that everything in Neal’s Yard is organic and naturally-based takes the scare out of it for me, eliciting the feelings of openness and freedom that I spoke about at the beginning of this post.
My impressions of the new branch so far are ones of resounding jubilation at its arrival that, I have no doubt, will linger as it adheres itself to our city. I had been in on one occasion prior to this for a completely separate reason and, based on my experiences to date with both the brand and the new store, I remain a repeat offender, so to speak. Thank you so much to Neal’s Yard Remedies for holding the event and to all those who organised it, and thank you to Jessica for the little chat at the end- it really helped to tie the occasion together.