The wheelie bag rides again as ‘nanna glamour’ takes hold | Shopping

You might associate shopping trolleys with older people toiling to get home with their groceries.

But now they are being embraced by shoppers of all ages thanks to a fashion makeover that chimes with the current vogue for “nanna glamour”.

High street retailers say they have seen a surge in demand for the practical “wheelie bag”, with consumers regarding them as an alternative to lugging supermarket bags and even driving to the shops.

The department store John Lewis said that over the past six months shopping trolley sales had risen by nearly 80% on 2023, with the high level of interest prompting it to increase the number of styles it stocked.

Fashion experts said shoppers were embracing “nanna glamour” because it combined “high fashion with comfort and convenience for a modern, eccentric look”.

“Take the rise in loafers, for example; much more comfortable than a heel, but they can offer a really high-end finish to an outfit,” explained Beth Pettet, John Lewis’s head of fashion.

Loafers: another side to the ‘modern, eccentric’ look. Photograph: Streetstyleshooters/Getty Images

“Likewise, shopping trolley bags are a godsend for lugging heavy items. In recent years these were something of a faux pas, but the wheelie wonders are having a resurgence.”

Early trolley adopters reported ridicule and hostility from friends and family, who were appalled by the trolleys and refused to be seen in public with them. However, they were offered some vindication at least when Chanel and Louis Vuitton launched luxury designer versions.

Today’s more open-minded attitude to pulling a shopping trolley comes at a time when “old lady” style is a major fashion trend; crochet tops, silk scarves, loafers and brooches are among the styles being sought after by younger women.

While it is a stretch to call the wheelie shopper an “It” bag, they have come a long way from the bulky tartan shoppers seen trundling down high streets decades ago.

Like the reinvention of the pram as a “travel system”, the latest versions are clever pieces of engineering that combine lightweight, waterproof materials with stylish design. There are space-saving folding versions and, in a godsend for people who live in top-floor flats, six-wheeled “stair climber” designs that take the strain.

Some come in limited edition fabrics and can be customised, with the purchaser able to choose the bag, frame and wheel colour. However, these fancier versions can run to several hundred pounds whereas you can buy a smart entry-level model in Argos or Ikea for about £25.

Shopping experts said that these days the demand was coming from young professionals living in cities who didn’t own cars and wanted to do the weekly shop in one go. They were also increasingly designed and advertised with men in mind: the “Basket” made by the popular Spanish brand Rolser has off-road wheels and holds 58 litres. Its ads feature a beanie-hatted hipster in shorts riding a skateboard, as opposed to a mobility scooter.

“People have been asking for brighter colours and younger designs,” said Jackie Clover, the managing director and founder of the upmarket British brand Sholley. She said sales were ahead of last year, with demand particularly strong for brilliant colours, such as its “moc-croc” pink and green bags. “There is a younger market and they want bright designs.”

Clover said people’s attitudes to trolleys had been altered by lifestyle changes during the pandemic. “Covid prompted people to try something different for various reasons, including walking more, and it hasn’t changed [back],” she said.

John Lewis sells two Rolser trolleys, both of which are currently sold out, perhaps because the reviews on its website are so enthusiastic: “Had a stigma about buying one until I saw this,” said one buyer, while another swooned that it was “very lightweight and glides along nicely”. Another said it “gives me the confidence to walk to the shops instead of using my car and paying to park”.

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