Yesterday (Sunday afternoon) we visited Cotswold outdoors at their new South Cerney store near Cirencester. The reasons were twofold - first to check out this chain of stores that seemed to be the nearest equivalent to REI in the UK. second to buy a backpack for April as well as other items.
We're pleased to report that Cotswold scores well on 1) the quality of brands they carry, 2) the staff's knowledge of their subject and 3) an overall positive shopping experience. Compared to REI there isn't the range of gear and in particular those small items that can be just as important as a tent or backpack. Also there were too few staff to assist the many shoppers. But once we got service it was very good!
April settled on a Lowe Alpine backpack with excellent capacity and size adjustments. We could have bought it for roughly the same price at REI.
But other prices seemed way out of line and much higher. A Garmin eTrex Vista GPS unit, which sells for $300 plus sales tax at REI was listed at over £400 ($720 at the current rate of exchange). That's quite a difference!