Love shopping but hate the crowds? The answer may be Near‘s virtual Oxford Street. They’re taking the world’s largest and best loved shopping areas and recreating them in the virtual world, Second Life-style with a focus on shopping. Reports are that big names including M&S and Liberty have signed up to display their shop windows in NearLondon, as they do in their bricks and mortar stores. Users can then go directly through to the product or shop online from this virtual Oxford Street, to view more details and buy.
I found that only some stores, e.g. Accessorize, had their various branches identified through NearLondon’s location search. This is a little disappointing given that lots of chains have more than one shop in the Oxford Street area and you may prefer one over another. I looked up M&S (reportedly part of NearLondon) and the search came up with just one result. This didn’t give me specific address details (other than Oxford St.), so at first glance it was unclear whether I was going to the M&S flagship store near Marble Arch or their other branch, the Pantheon, also on Oxford Street. Additionally, many shop windows appear blacked out with just the Near logo displayed. Presumably these shops haven’t signed up with Nearworld yet; but as a user, my experience is somewhat diminished by this.
Once more shops take part, this could be useful for inspiration, when you have an occasion to buy for but need a bit of help getting started, or when you’re simply checking out which look’s in this season. I haven’t tried it myself but NearLondon also lets you go shopping with your friends virtually, which could work if you’re all in different places.
Personally, I’d miss the delights of walking down Oxford Street in person such as unexpectedly bumping into an old friend or the delectable smell of Belgian waffles by Bond Street tube. But should I ever leave London (and perhaps this is their target audience, tourists who love London shopping), I’d more likely go for a nostalgic trip down Oxford Street virtually.
Are you a NearLondon user? Are you tempted to give up the stress of London shopping? Let us know your thoughts.