Page last updated at 10:14 GMT, Wednesday, 7 October 2009 11:14 UK

Conference shops prove Tory hit

By Brian Wheeler
Political reporter, BBC News, Conservative Party conference

They may be preaching austerity from the conference platform, but behind the scenes Conservatives are enjoying a bit of a spending spree.

Harvey Nichols champagne
Harvey Nichols champagne is selling well

Retailers at the conference shopping mall are reporting a very healthy trade as party members stock up on everything from £50 silk shirts from Austin Reed and made-to-measure suits to £5.50 tins of Uncle Joe's Mint Balls from Tesco.

For the first time at a party conference, the Tories have set up a shopping mall for MPs and party members to indulge in a little retail therapy between fringe meetings and speeches.

There is a branch of Marks and Spencer and a Harvey Nichols, complete with a cocktail bar - the Mojitos are proving very popular apparently - as are the bottles of wine and champagne, at £45 a pop.

There is also a jewellery store, with £60 silver Tory logo cuff links and brooches.

Clothes retailers are also enjoying a bit of a bonanza.

"It is twice what we would expect from a normal shop on a weekday. It is much higher footfall," said a member of staff at the Crombie stand, where coats are retailing at between £200 and £400.

Christmas baubles

The best selling item on the stand are £45 mother of pearl cufflinks, but there has also been a lot of interest in the company's trademark overcoats, and they are running a competition to win a £675 Crombie King coat, as worn by King George VI.

Jem Ball
Tory Party Christmas baubles are flying off the shelves

The out-of-town sector is not missing out - there is also a Carpetright stand, although few people have been spotted leaving the Manchester conference centre with an Axminster tucked under their arm.

And smaller retailers are also getting in on the act.

Christmas novelty suppliers Premier Decorations are doing good business in Conservative Party baubles - four for £10 - although the one signed by David Cameron is not for sale, as the firm's boss has his eye on it.

Enterprising party members are also getting the baubles signed by party big beasts to raffle off at party events.

And Soreta Riley, who is selling her own paintings at up to £1,800 a time, says she has had a lot of interest from the Tory faithful, particularly in a large blue abstract work entitled Ibiza she brought along especially for the occasion.

Although one potential customer was a little wary of parting with his cash.

"He said he would come back at the end of the week, as his wife would kill him if he spent that much money," she told BBC News. Perhaps the spirit of austerity is not dead after all.

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